Ten of 11 defensive starters will be seniors for the Harrison Raiders.
In certain packages, everyone on the field will be a senior.
This is the first season those seniors have run the same defense as the year before.
It already looks like a well-oiled machine.
“We don’t have to learn new plays or a new scheme,” inside linebacker Dakota Manion said.
That, in itself, has been huge in retaining an environment that produced Harrison’s best season in almost two decades a year ago.
Head coach Terry Peebles and his staff return intact for a second year.
He’ll have a young, inexperienced offense that he has a lot of confidence in once the varsity newcomers get up to speed.
Facing the defense every day, however, can make it difficult to gauge how quickly things are progressing.
“Our defense almost feels bad for us at times because they are so on top of things,” Peebles said. “They’ve been through this, and things are coming easy. It is second nature to them, and it is not for the other side of the ball.”
One thing going in Harrison’s favor offensively is the return of senior quarterback J. Dan Sturgeon.
Sturgeon approaches opening week with a confidence he didn’t have a year ago and feeling as though he’s a much better leader, able to command a huddle of younger guys hanging on to his words.
“When you are thinking, you are stinking,” Sturgeon said. “Last year, it was all a new system. This year it’s a lot less thinking and a lot more doing.”
Led by a strong defense and veterans on offense, Harrison churned out seven victories last season and made a trip to the sectional championship game for the first time since 2008.
It was progress that fueled the desire for more success.
“There’s three ways we can have a better season,” senior linebacker Colin Zeh said. “Beat McCutcheon. Win a conference. Win a sectional championship.”
Coach: Terry Peebles (7-4 in second season)
2014: 7-4 (6-1 North Central Conference), lost to Westfield 45-24 in sectional championship
Players to watch: J. Dan Sturgeon, sr., QB (71-125, 909 yards, 7 TD, 6 INT, 134 rushing yards, 2 TD); Jonathon LaGuire, so., RB; Dawson Dahnke, so., RB; Kameron Crooks, jr., RB; Joseph Fraseur, jr., WR; Adam Sturgeon, jr., WR; Chris King, sr., WR; Evan Francis, sr., TE; Jack Mosely, so., OL; Garrett Breneman, sr., OL; Leighton Mennen, sr., OL; Sam Bartu, jr., OL; Jordyn Castillo, jr., OL; Chris Rosales, sr., DE; Mason Wilson, sr., DT; Jacob Miller, sr., DT (33 tackles); Cade Bishop, jr., LB/DE; Colin Zeh, sr., LB/DE (65 tackles, 7.5 sacks); Clay Weaver, sr., LB; Dakota Manion, sr., LB (87 tackles, 3.5 sacks); Donavan Puetz, sr., LB/S; Hayden Kuxhausen, sr., S; Carter Bridge, sr., S; Cole Cooper, sr., CB; Marcus Torres, sr., CB (36 tackles); Daniel Madren, sr., K (6-7 FG)
Outlook: A 38-game losing streak, which extended into Week 3 last season, seems like such a long time ago. The Raiders got their first taste of success last season, and it appears to have only built up an appetite for more. What better way to start the season than by facing the team that ended last year’s campaign when Harrison travels to Westfield Friday?
Quotable: “We are starving. It’s been a long time since Harrison has won a sectional or even had a chance at a sectional. I think we’ve got a good group to put us in position to win one.” — senior J. Dan Sturgeon on building off of last year’s success