FT. MITCHELL – There’s only one goal for the Beechwood High School football team.
The Tigers haven’t won a state championship since 2008, but have a deep, experienced team coming back as they chase their 12th overall title this fall. Beechwood is coming off an 8-5 season last year in which it lost in the third round of the playoffs.
“We have built tremendous strength and size this offseason on both sides of the ball, but none of that will matter if we don’t have the mental toughness needed to carry us through each week,” head coach Noel Rash said. “We must develop a tough and nasty approach to each practice and every Friday night. This team has to master the grind especially in the trenches.”
Rash has an 85-27 record at Beechwood as he enters his ninth season.
Beechwood returns nine starters on offense and eight on defense. Quarterback Kyle Fieger returns for his junior season after a solid campaign where he threw for 2,285 yards and 28 touchdowns.
“He will make another jump this year,” Rash said. “I think the thing that we didn’t see from Kyle last year is that his release is faster and his arm is stronger. He’s just another year older and more physically mature. He’s much more relaxed and he knows what’s going to be called before the play is run into the huddle. All of those things are going to contribute to him playing at a higher level.”
Senior Joe Studer and junior Ethan Stringer return at running back, and are both explosive talents. Senior Jeremy Burns, junior Brett Slusher and senior tight end Jonathan Stokes return as key targets.
The line is anchored by senior Jake Etler, senior Chase Bright and junior Brayden Combs. They are all between 6-foot-3 and 6-5, and average 240 pounds.
Stokes and Combs anchor the defensive line with senior tackle Riley McKown. McKown is 252 pounds. Senior Ryan Finck and juniors Brett Slusher and Ryan Bankemper are returning starters at linebacker, with Slusher playing outside. Studer and Burns anchor the secondary.
Among other returners adding depth and experience are linemen Jackson Mahorney, Kyle Taylor, Justin Overstreet and Braden Hermes; running back/safety Casey Erdman; linebacker Jack Talley; tight end/defensive end Logan Bright; and receivers/defensive backs Clay McHugh, Cameron Way and Jacob Cottingham. Mario German is the likely starter at kicker. Talley was a starter who missed last season to injury.
“The young pups are now experienced pups,” Rash said. “Our current junior class has a lot of guys that got to play as freshman. We’re very experienced. We’re going to put a lot of seniors on the field and a lot of juniors who have been playing for three years who are like seniors, so we feel like experience in on our side.”
Beechwood has several tough tests out of the gate, playing Mt. Healthy Aug. 30 at the University of Cincinnati’s Sheakley Field practice complex, then going to Dixie Heights Sept. 5.
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Aug. 30: Mt. Healthy, 8 p.m. at UC
Sept. 5: at Dixie Heights
Sept. 12: at Holy Cross
Sept. 26: vs. Holmes, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 4: at Cov Cath, 1 p.m.
Oct. 10: vs. Bellevue
Oct. 17: at Dayton
Oct. 24: at Ludlow, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 31: at NewCath
All games 7 p.m. unless noteed