In the wake of Clinton-Massie’s third state football championship, is a Falcons squad bereft of experienced ball-handlers.
Hit hard by a 25-player graduating class this past spring, head coach Dan McSurley would be excused if he chalked this season up as a lost caused.
But he’s not.
In fact, McSurley is looking forward to making another deep tournament run.
“This year is the best group of linemen we’ve every had … and I’m not just saying that,” said McSurley, who in 25 seasons as the Massie head coach has s 250-64 record. “We have a strong nucleus of offensive and defensive linemen.”
Asked if he’d rather have experienced ball-handlers and an inexperienced line, or the other way around, McSurley was quick to provide his answer.
“This way,” said McSurley, a former high school and college lineman. “There’s a lot of humility on this team. Our ‘dudes’ are up front. You’d like to have experience everywhere, but it’s real nice to have it up front.”
Owen Trick, Joey Kocher, Isaiah McCoy, Adam Frisch, Tyler Tolson and Brighton Rodman are in the trenches on offense, helping to pave the way as Keegan Lamb takes over the quarterback duties from long-time signal-caller Kody Zantene.
The defensive line will be made up of Brandon Updike, Elijah Groh, Leyton Bell, Brodie Green. Updike came off the bench in the state championship game last year and helped the Massie defense put the clamps on Youngstown Ursuline.
“We now have a core of seniors that realize they have to step up and lead this younger group of skilled kids,” said McSurley. “When it comes to leadership, their football IQ is pretty high.”
McSurley said there is talent joining Lamb in the offensive backfield but “we have to keep guys available. We’re not deep in the skilled areas. We can run the ball. We can move the ball. We have the talent to score. We just have a young team and can they sustain that through 16 games? That’s a challenge but it’s like that for everybody. It’s hard to do in Division IV.”
While some would take a look at the Massie schedule and point directly to the Sept 30 game with SBAAC arch-rival Western Brown, McSurley isn’t going there.
“We have a brutal schedule,” he said, but that’s been the norm for this program. McSurley and company rarely shy away from a marque matchup.
“We know we’re going to get everybody’s best effort every game. Period,” he said. “We expect a lot of big-time battles. That bullseye (on your back) makes you stronger, makes you a better football team for the playoffs.”