Coming into his fifth year with the Union City High School football team, coach Keith Maloy is met with high expectations.
The Indians are coming off their most successful season since finishing 9-3 in 1998, and they were six points away from winning their first Tri-Eastern Conference title since 1973.
The Indians return a core of experienced athletes making them among the favorites in the TEC this season and they also received votes in the Indiana High School Preseason Football Top 10 poll for Class A.
“It’s a new thing here, this is my fifth season and we’ve never been in that situation since I’ve been here,” Maloy said of the high expectations. “It’s rare for us to be in the position that we’re in and we hope to repeat the success from last year.”
That success included a 9-2 finish, 6-1 in the TEC. Their only league loss came to conference champion Centerville by just six points.
The Indians did lose key players in all-state selection Gary Williams and defensive specialist Tevin Thomas, but return plenty of experience in seven defensive starters and eight offensive starters.
Grant Shoemaker leads the returning seniors and is expected to lead the offense at quarterback. He set school records as as a junior when he completed 120 of 228 passes for 1,891 yards and had 24 touchdowns.
“He’s one year older, more mature, he’s worked pretty hard,” Maloy said.
Other returning seniors are fullback Duran Bocanegra — who carried for 760 yards and five touchdowns on offense, while adding 54 tackles and two sacks on defense — and James Antonoglou, who made 31 receptions for 628 yards and scored nine touchdowns while adding 73 tackles, nine interceptions and three sacks defensively.
Tre Burton, Mason Wine, Aaron Burk and Alex Henry are also returning offensive starters, while Kyle Anguiano and Brandon Journay are expected to add to the defense. Justin Riser (lineman), Scott Walters (lineman), Edgar Terriquez (receiver), Mike Root (lineman) and Nathan Smith (lineman) could also see time on the field.
The Indians led the TEC with 379 points scored last year and had the second fewest points allowed with 191. Centerville allowed just 154.
The Indians open the season with a TEC match at home against Tri on Friday. They battle Mississinawa Valley of Union City, Ohio in Week 2 and play host to Randolph County foe Monroe Central in their other non-conference match on Sept. 7.
“The kids have focused on getting better all off-season,” Maloy said. “… We have some good play makers, we’ve got some kids that can catch the football — we have to make sure they’re not satisfied, that they want more.”