NEW RICHMOND – Just like the past two seasons of New Richmond High School football, the Lions are in a familiar situation.
If they can avoid some bumps in the road, Josh Stratton’s team is in line for the playoffs. Recent computer rankings have them in the hunt, with noted expert Steve Shuck projecting them among the eight qualifiers in Division III, Region 10.
Though it’s difficult to tell his team not to look ahead, that’s exactly the message Stratton sends the Lions every day.
“We tell our kids we have to focus on us and not worry about anything else,” Stratton said. “We need to improve each week and be better this week than we were last week.”
New Richmond has not played in the postseason since a 2009 loss to Circleville Logan Elm. They got over one hump Oct. 9 with a 49-28 defeat of Western Brown. It was their first victory over the Broncos since 2011.
Senior running back Michael Williamson had 166 yards on the ground and two touchdowns and senior quarterback Austin Torrens had 141 and a pair of scores.
“It’s everything you’ve ever wanted as a senior,” Torrens said. “It’s what you want to walk into; it’s what you’ve worked for. If we win out we have the opportunity to hold a playoff here. It would be great for this community to hold a playoff game in New Richmond.”
Whether or not Torrens can play in the playoffs is to be determined. He suffered an ankle injury in the win over the Broncos Oct. 9. Fortunately, freshman Josh Anderson stepped in successfully in the 36-7 rout of Goshen Oct. 16.
It’s difficult for the enthusiastic Lions not to dream. They began the dream with a campout near the stadium the night before practice was officially allowed to begin in Ohio.
At midnight, they hit the field. After a brief workout, they went back to their tents and got after it again in the morning. They refer to one another as “brothers,” though just a few of the Lions are related.
Torrens said his brother Williamson helps him read coverages and makes his job easier. Williamson also deflects credit for his successful 2015 numbers.
“That’s easy, O-line all the way!” Williamson said. “I can’t thank anybody but those guys up front doing pretty much all of the work for me.”
With 372 running yards against Western Brown and 95 passing, the Lions strategy is straightforward.
“We hit them in the mouth,” Williamson said. “We’re going to run it down your throats no matter what. We used to run the option, but we moved to a spread team. That doesn’t change what we’re going to initially do; that’s hit you in the mouth and run the ball.”
New Richmond’s two early losses came against Indian Hill and Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy. Both are bigger schools having good seasons. Though Stratton didn’t gain the computer points, the experience for the Lions may pay off in the long run.
Defensively, it has. The Lions’ “Dark Side” – what they call the defense – has delivered.
“We’ve gotten better since the CHCA game,” Stratton said. “The coaching staff has done a nice job making some changes. Not personnel, just things we’re focusing on. Each week we’re getting better at tackling.”
New Richmond next tackles at Walton-Verona and at Norwood to get to November.