The Big Red Vikings have long been one of the smallest schools in north central Ohio.
Nestled on the edge of Richland County, the Plymouth-Shiloh school district is the epitome of pleasant, small-town Americana. But don’t mistake this inviting community for softness, at least not in the football program.
Mark Genders and his players are having none of that talk.
The Big Red mentor welcomes back 12 lettermen to the squad, and expectations are not small.
“St. Paul will return most of their 21012 team, and many (players) who started last season,” Genders said. “They will be favored.
“The rest of the league gets better every year and we expect to be in the thick of the race as we have been the last two seasons.”
Indeed, a year ago Plymouth turned in a 5-5 slate, with a strong 4-3 mark in the Firelands Conference.
A dozen starters return from that group, including all but one skill player.
Offensively, Plymouth averaged 26.2 points a year ago. Junior quarterback Hunter Bailey returns for his second year as a starter. In 2012, the 5-foot-10, 150-pounder was a second-team All-Firelands Conference selection. He’ll have a talented, experience cast around him, too.
Senior running back Austin Durbin (5-11, 185) has earned a couple of letters and was an honorable-mention all-league pick last season. Junior Chance Butcher (5-8, 170) will also return to the backfield, while junior Devin Ramey (5-10, 165) figures to get the call at fullback.
Genders noted that junior wideout Tyrell Edmiston (6-3, 210) is already getting attention from college scouts.
Up front, the Big Red will rely on upperclassmen, including returning starters at both tackle posts. Senior Luke Houser (6-1, 225) mans the left tackle spot, while junior Brandon Smith (6-3, 200) is slotted at right tackle.
According to Genders, junior Teddy Arnold (5-10, 220) came on late last season, started the final few games and figures to anchor the line at center. Seniors Alex Picklesimer (5-8, 200) and Jordan Downs (5-10, 205) are penciled into the guard spots.
A number of youngsters are transitioning from skill positions to the offensive line. How quickly those individuals master their new duties could be a barometer to the season.
Defensively, Plymouth allowed 24.1 points per outing a year ago. The coaching staff likes the quickness on display so far, but a handful of players need seasoning.
Among the new contributors will be sophomore defensive tackle Thomas Bradford (6-2, 220). Senior defensive end Shadd Collins (5-9, 180) is a returning letterwinner and will provide some stability up front.
Sophomore linebacker Grant Weltlin (6-1, 195) has shown promise, too, and could be heard from on both sides of the ball. In the secondary, sophomore Remington Smedley (6-2, 175) and junior Cal Redden (5-10, 150) are rookie starters who will look to senior John Gillum (6-2, 160) as the elder statesman of the group.
The coaches expect seniors Gillum, Durbin, Houser, Downs, Picklesimer, Collins, Brandon Pridemore, and Dale Laser to lead the way in the locker room and on the field.
“Our goal is to win the league title and gain our first-ever berth in the state playoffs,” Genders said.