Eaton High School football Brandon George
The Eaton Eagle football team will be tested early.
In head coach Ron Neanen’s mind, there’s not a much better way to get an inexperienced team prepared for the year.
A visit from Greenville opens Neanen’s 27th season Friday as the Eagles celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jack Harbaugh’s 5-4-1 season and the origin of the name “Fighting Eagles.”
“I think we have some enthusiasm, some energy. We have quite a few key players,” Neanen said. “I think we can capitalize on that enthusiasm.”
Friday also opens junior Austin Hartzler’s varsity career as a quarterback.
Hartzler replaces graduated Billy Ritter and his 1,006 passing yards.
Sophomore Lew Bowser is the only other returning player who attempted a pass last year. He went 2-for-4.
“Right now I think he throws a pretty nice ball, a pretty catchable ball,” Neanen said of Hartzler. “He has a decently strong arm. I think he’s seeing the field right now; he’s learning the offense as we go.”
Zavier Spears returns after leading Eaton’s receivers with 24 catches for 256 yards and four touchdowns. Logan Beare made 13 catches for 131 yards.
SWBL Southwestern Division first-teamer Damon Willard returns in the backfield after rushing for 1,405 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“They have a good work ethic,” Neanen said. “We had a good spring, good summer. Our schedule is a tough one, especially up front. The first four, five games are all against tough opponents. The first half of our season, we have to be prepared. We like some of the things we’ve done on offense, but our guys have been able to compete, show some quickness defensively.”
Neanen said he also expects senior Beare and junior Shelby Ward to see time as receivers.
Brandon George, Shane Hammock, Garret Eiler and Cole Howard look to provide protection on the offensive line.
Eiler, Howard, Seth Reynolds, Beare and Ward are expected on the defensive line as Neanen said he expects more two-way players than usual.
The Eagles lost 18 to graduation, while Beare, Kain Crosman, Eiler, George, Hammock, Howard, Reynolds, Spears and Matt Sullender are seniors this year.
“Overall, we’re a pretty inexperienced team,” Neanen said. “I think we have nine seniors; we don’t have a lot of guys that played significant roles last year. We graduated some, and we have some new players that this is their first time playing under the lights on Friday night.
” … They have to get used to Friday night game speed. The way our schedule is, we don’t have time to ease into it. They have to be ready to go right away.”
The Eagles have trips Sept. 5 to St. Henry, Sept. 12 to Talawanda , Oct. 3 to Lemon Monroe, Oct. 10 to Oakwood and Oct. 31 to Valley View.
Home games include visits from Franklin on Sept. 19, Bellbrook on Sept. 26, Brookville on Oct. 17 and Carlisle on Oct. 24.
Eaton went 7-3 last year and 3-3 in SWBL Southwestern Division play.
“I think the team to beat is Franklin. They’ve been the three-time champion,” Neanen said of the conference picture. “You have to start with them; they’re going to be right up there even. … Then I think the rest of them, we’re all battling for being able to overtake Franklin.”
Eaton Eagles at a Glance
• Head coach: Ron Neanen, 187-78 in 27th season
• Assistants: Brad Davis, Bob Ebright, Scott Burnett, Todd Perry, Brandon Robinson, Chad Lee, Don Houser, Jeremy Fudge, Austin Fudge, Cody Byrd
• Key losses: Michel McKelvin, Aldin Leaker, George Parkinson, Keenan Wilson
• Key returnees: Damon Willard, Logan Beare, Garret Eiler, Seth Reynolds
• Friday: Greenville
• Sept. 5: at St. Henry
• Sept. 12: at Talawanda
• Sept. 19: Franklin*
• Sept. 26: Bellbrook*
• Oct. 3: at Lemon Monroe*
• Oct. 10: at Oakwood*
• Oct. 17: Brookville*
• Oct. 24: Carlisle
• Oct. 31: at Valley View*
* — SWBL Southwestern Division game
Logan Beare 5-8, 160, WR/S
Kain Crosman 5-9, 150, WR/S
Garrett Eiler 6-2, 190, TE/DE
Brandon George 6-2, 240, OL/DL
Shane Hammock 6-0, 285, OL/DL
Cole Howard 6-3, 240, OL/DL
Seth Reynolds 6-2, 150, WR/S
Zavier Spears 5-9, 160, WR/DB
Matt Sullender 6-0, 180, K
Zach Blaylock 5-11, 245, OL/DL
Josh Bulach 6-1, 220, OL/DL
Tyrell David 5-9, 150, WR/DB
Jake Christman 6-0, 160, WR/S
Brian Conard 5-6, 150 WR/S
Jared Dunn 5-8, 270, OL/DL
Austin Hartzler 6-0, 165, QB/DB
Drew Moore 6-1, 175, TE/DE
Jonah Rohr 5-11, 140, WR/DB
Darius Spears 5-9, 205, RB/LB
Tyrell Thompson 6-0, 140, WR/DB
Matt Todd 5-10, 195, OL/LB
Shelby Ward 5-9, 160, WR/S
Damon Willard 5-7, 180, RB/S
Lew Bowser 5-8, 165, QB/DB
Trace Couch 6-4, 185, TE/DE
Brett Fewell 5-11, 225, OL/DL
Jake Ford 5-8, 185, OL/DL
Trey Gregory 5-11, 160, WR/S
Dylan Hauser 5-8, 140, WR/DB
Brandon Haynes 5-10, 180, OL/DL
Zach Henry 5-10, 185, OL/LB
Jacob Hubbard 5-9, 180, RB/DB
Jacob Jenkins 6-2, 240, OL/DL
Kevin Melling 5-11, 215, RB/LB
Donnie Nicodemus 6-1, 190, TE/DE
Braydon Shanefelt 5-7, 140, WR/S
Jack Walters 5-8, 165, WR/DB
Vaughn Welcome 5-7, 170, OL/LB
Ghye Wilson 5-7, 150, WR/DB
Alex Almeyda-Roe 5-4, 150, WR/S
Zach Box 5-9, 150, RB/S
Caleb Collins 5-8, 150, RB/S
Andre David 5-4, 110, WR/DB
Jordan Lewis 5-7, 145, QB/S
Breven Perry 5-6, 180, OL/DL
Steven Perry 5-4, 130, WR/DB
Spencer Reynolds 5-8, 170, OL/DL
Tyler Schmidt 5-3, 130, WR/DB
Chase Smith 5-10, 160, TE/LB
Aaron Tolliver 5-11, 160, RB/LB
Michael Watkins 6-0, 140, WR/DB
Kaleb Wilson 5-7, 180, OL/DL
Logan Wysocki 5-10, 215, OL/DL
7-3, 3-3 SWBL (3rd place)
at Greenville 40-13, W
St. Henry 32-22, W
Talawanda 34-9, W
at Brookville 21-18, L
Oakwood 33-14, W
Monroe 28-14, W
at Bellbrook 17-14, W
at Franklin 52-27, L
Valley View 24-7, L
at Preble Shawnee 35-12, W