MOUNT GILEAD – The 2014 Mount Gilead football season depends largely on a bevy of underclassmen.
However, one of the program’s four seniors will surely show the way.
Senior running back Joseph Elson was a first-team All Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference choice a year ago after collecting 858 yards on 130 carries and scoring 8 TDs. Elson averaged 6.6 yards per carry while the Indians compiled a 3-7 record, but a solid 3-3 mark in the tough, Blue Division.
“We had a good offseason in our strength and conditioning program,” second-year coach Jason Ross reported. “Numbers are up and the players are enthusiastic. (But) we must overcome our small number of seniors.”
Adding to the task is the loss of nine players to graduation, six of them earned postseason honors in 2013. Chief among those departures is third-team all-state choice Michael Bland and honorable mention pick Austin Strickland.
Yet leading the charge of top underclassmen are juniors Michael Mollohan and Deondre Cook. Both were second-team all-conference choices last autumn.
“Our young players must play above their age quickly,” Ross said. “We must find a solid combination on our offensive line.”
Defensively, Mount Gilead struggled to find any consistency a year ago. The Indians surrendered 37.5 points per game, including seven outings of more than 30 points. Ross knows it’s tough to win when the scoreboard is blinking that consistently on the other side of the field.
Strickland racked up five sacks a year ago, and replicating his pressure will be a chore.
“We must be much more aggressive on defense,” Ross said. “We want to continue to develop fundamentally and grow together as a team.”
Most prognostications have the Indians vying for a spot in the middle of the Blue Division standings this fall. Ross seemed to concur with that thinking.
“I would call Fredericktown and Highland the favorites based on what they return,” Ross said. “Centerburg obviously can’t be ruled out based on their undefeated season last year. Northmor is also a very well-coached team.”
Aug. 29 COLONEL CRAWFORD
Sept. 5 at Ridgemont
Sept. 12 NORTHRIDGE
Sept. 19 CARDINGTON
Sept. 26 at Fredericktown
Oct. 3 ELGIN
Oct. 10 at East Knox
Oct. 17 NORTHMOR
Oct. 24 at Centerburg
Oct. 31 at Highland
2013 Results (3-7, 3-4)
13 Colonel Crawford 30
18 ELGIN 52
0 EAST KNOX 27
27 RIDGEDALE 6
6 Highland 49
42 CARDINGTON 34
28 Northmor 20
26 CENTERBURG 65
18 Fredericktown 56
8 Allen East 36