Clear Fork fans will be buying game programs to match all the numbers with new faces in the starting lineup. They will also be rubbing their eyes, wondering if their peepers are playing tricks.
This will not be the style of football folks have become accustomed to in the valley — that includes the head coach.
“I’d rather line up and pound the ball down people’s throats, but trying to do that now would be like butting our heads against the wall,” said Dave Carroll, in his fifth year in charge. “I believe in adapting your offense to the talent you have. We have a running quarterback and we don’t really have a true tailback.”
Out is the I formation attack of the recent Jordan McCune era that produced two 1,000-yard backs and a 700-yard rusher in the same season. In is an option approach with junior quarterback Kadin Chrastina that may look a little like what the big boys are running in Columbus.
“We’ll do a lot of read stuff, similar to what Braxton Miller does (at Ohio State),” Carroll said. “The defense is going to have to account for my quarterback, which now gives us an 11-10 advantage.”
Chrastina played quarterback in junior high before moving to wingback last season. He was too valuable an athlete not to be on the field while biding his time behind last year’s starting quarterback, Ryan South.
Colts fans hope they see more of Chrastina this year. He broke his ankle in last year’s fourth game and was lost for the season.
Chrastina will operate out of the shotgun. The plan is to take advantage of the speed element, getting the ball in space to wingbacks Silas Finley (5-8, 150 sophomore) and Dustin Duffy (5-8, 160 junior), as well as wide receivers Ridge Winand (6-2, 180 senior) and Brad Studemonde (6-3, 170 sophomore).
Of course, Chrastina is always a threat to keep it himself.
“We’ve been waiting on this kid,” Carroll said. “His dad was a very good quarterback for Clear Fork and we’ve got this kid in the shotgun because he can run and throw. We’ll do a lot of things with motion out of slot formation.
“We have more speed and skill guys; nothing at the McCune level (McCune now stars at Ashland University), but guys who can run well and catch well.
“Our league (the Ohio Cardinal Conference) is darn tough and we’re the small guys always behind the 8-ball. But now we have a little more speed, that we haven’t had. Last year we had zero speed and couldn’t compete with anybody.”
The Colts were 3-7. The good news is because they are one of the smaller schools in the OCC, five wins will probably always have them in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Improved depth will boost Clear Fork’s postseason chances. There will be a lot more players only going one way than in the past.
Up front, the Colts will start four seniors — Andrew Echelberger (6-0, 275) at left guard, David Bushong (6-2, 215) at left guard, Corbin Matheny (6-8, 270) at right tackle and Drew McDonald (6-1, 210) at center. The right guard is junior Eric Jackson (6-4, 215).
The defense will be led by senior Jordan Ridenour (5-10, 195), a three-year starter at linebacker, and senior sidekick Philip Wilson (5-9, 190).
“You didn’t hear me mention their names on offense,” Carroll said. “Last year, they didn’t come off the field. If they are on offense this year, it’s because they snuck in.”
The ends will be Bushong and senior Brandon Luers (6-0, 195) and the tackles will be sophomore Colton Cochran (5-9, 275) and senior Andrew Echelberger (6-0, 275).
At nose guard in Clear Fork’s 5-2 alignment will be sophomore Zac Newlon (5-8, 165).
Winand, the free safety, will be the only senior in the back end, joined by Chrastina at strong safety and Finley at one corner. Junior Nate Tipul (6-0, 165) will be the other corner.
“We went on a major recruiting campaign (after last season),” Carroll said. “The numbers aren’t tremendous, but I think we got the best athletes in the school.”