A good way to begin a new high school football season is with 32 returning letterwinners from last year’s team that posted a 10-3 record, returns a pair of 1,000-yard rushers and captured the program’s 20th sectional title.
That is the situation fifth-year head coach Mike Campbell of the Jimtown Jimmies enjoys as he prepares his team to open the 2012 season on Friday, Aug. 17 when the NorthWood Panthers make the trip north on Ind. 19 to Knepp Field on the Jimtown campus in Baugo Township.
“We don’t have a lot of depth. About seven or eight players are going to be playing both ways,” the coach said. “We are really not as deep in the offensive and defensive lines as usual.”
Highlighting the returnees are a pair of standout running backs in 5-11 (170) senior Devan Emerson and 5-11 (185) classmate Tanner Adams. Emerson rambled for 1,530 yards and Adams 1,277 as the Jimmies piled up 3.922 rushing yards as a team.
“Emerson looks good. He looks very fast,” Campbell said. “He had a problem with cramps last year and the coaching staff has done a good job focusing on conditioning.
“Adams has done a great job for us.”
The leading backup is 5-8 (165) junior Casey Adams.
Five-eleven (155) senior Shawn Garriott and 6-0 (185) classmate Brody Olson are competing for time at quarterback.
“Both of them are going to see time,” Campbell said. “Neither one has really blown the other out of the water in camp. Garriott brings a lot to the position and has spent plenty of time in the off-season studying film. Olson is a winner. His skills may be rough at times, but we can employ some running with him. When he’s not at quarterback he may be seeing time at wing back or flanker. In our big games last season with NorthWood and Concord he was not off the field very much.”
Leading candidates at receiver are 6-3 (175) senior Carter Gill, 5-11 (174) senior Evan Oblinger, 5-9 (150) junior Luke Crocker and 5-8 (160) sophomore Nic Olson.
“Gill gives us good speed at tight end,” Campbell said. “We hope we can use him to keep opposing defenses from boxing us in. Oblinger is a great route runner. His routes are crisp and sharp.”
Three starters — 5-9 (185) senior Mason Brown, 6-3 (280) senior William Johnson and 5-9 (190) junior Cody Spurgeon — return in the offensive line. Others seeking playing time are 5-8 (165) senior John Hurtt, 5-8 (220) senior Micah Rogers and 5-9 (220) junior Keion Johnson.
“One of the biggest things we have to do on offense is run the ball effectively,” Campbell said. “We have also been working on some play-action passes. Our running backs our pretty good, but we can’t let teams load up the box on us.”
Leaders in the defensive line are the same ones in the offensive plus Emerson as a rush end.
“We need to be consistent in the defensive line,” Campbell said.
The linebackers are led by Tanner Adams, Casey Adams and 6-0 (180) senior Elmer Graves. Top players in the secondary are Gill, Brody Olson (three-year starter) and 6-0 (155) sophomore Marquis Schieber.
“Keys for us on defense are putting pressure on people and not giving up big plays,” the coach said. “We can’t sit back in a base defense and let a team pick up apart or let a team run the ball down our throats.”
Five-ten (145) junior kicker Trey Zufan booted 39 of 48 PATs a year ago.
Aug. 17 — NorthWood H
Aug. 24 — John Glen H
Aug. 31 — Laville T
Sept. 7 — Knox H
Sept. 14 — New Prairie T
Sept. 21 — Concord H
Sept. 28 — Culver Comm. T
Oct. 5 — Bremen T
Oct. 12 — Triton H
Oct. 1 9 — 3A Sectional begins