Clinton-Massie football coach Dan McSurley had no trouble revisiting the 2014 season-ending 35-7 loss to Kettering Alter in the Div. IV Region 14 championship game.
“Kettering Alter had us up front,” McSurley said matter-of-factly. “The year before, we were more experienced and we had them. Last year, we kinda switched and that’s really what cost us a regional championship.”
As the 2015 season begins to unfold, McSurley looks no further than his road-graders up front and smiles because he believes this year’s Falcons are closer to 2013 than 2014.
“I think as long as we stay injury-free, that offensive line molds and stays together, we’ll be fine,” he said.
And then McSurley will let experience take over.
“The thing about these guys, these seniors have won two state championships,” said McSurley, entering his 20th year at Clinton-Massie. “They know the level they have to play at. They have experience. They’ve seen the Mooneys, they’ve seen the Kentons. They’ve seen all these big-time programs and have been able to step up against them. They have the knowledge whereas a lot of teams don’t have any idea of the level you have to be at.”
And that allows McSurley and the other coaches on the staff to push the players to their maximum ability.
“It helps me as far as coaching hard,” said McSurley. “I can coach as hard as I can possibly coach and I’m not going to hurt anybody’s feelings. This is like … it’s on. They know it. They want to be coached hard. This is probably the most intense I’ve been in 30 years with a group of kids because if I’m not like that, they’re going to know it and say ‘What’s wrong with coach? He doesn’t want what I want?’ So that’s where I have to be, constantly drive, drive, drive.”
To a certain extent, that has taken its toll on McSurley.
“It takes a lot of energy … I’m trying, it’s just go, go, go. It’s a grind,” he said.
Having players like Davey Tunon, Hunter Fentress and Jake Garrison back in the fold make the grind a bit more tolerable.
Tunon was an All-Ohio running back with Fentress beginning his third year as the starting quarterback. Garrison, an All-Ohio center, is the anchor of the offensive line and will now make the move to the defensive side of the ball.
“We moved him to defensive end and just because of his presence, his athleticism, we feel he’s going to be hard to run at,” said McSurley. “You can’t keep a kid like him off the field. In fact, he’s probably in the best physical condition of anyone on the team. If there’s anybody who can go two ways, at 290 pounds … he’s not going to get tired. We can move him out, if we go unbalanced on offense, and bring in a kid named Cody Messer at center and put Jake out there as a second tackle.”
McSurley said tight end/H-back Trey Uetrecht has been nicked up. Brad Hunt, a fullback replacing Jared Halley in the lineup, runs “very, very aggressive. He’s gonna wear you out running out of the (wish)bone.”
McSurley said when Fentress isn’t handing the ball off — which will be most of the time — he’ll have “three of the best receivers we’ve had since I’ve been at Massie.” Those receivers are Tommy Williams, Bryce Boyd and Luke Richardson, McSurley said.
“All three are dynamic receiving threats,” the coach stated.
McSurley said Max Keely is a player to keep an eye on in 2015.
“He’s a senior who’s been out here getting beat on for three years now and it’s his turn to step up as a senior,” McSurley said.
Led by kicker Chris Demler, the special teams will again be an area the Falcons can use to overwhelm opponents.
“We feel like we can really take advantage of kick return and kickoff team,” said McSurley. “Our kickoff team is as good as we were last year. I think our punt return and kickoff return teams are pretty solid.”
McSurley said when everybody is healthy, the Falcons will suit up 65 players in grades 9-12.
With some tough scrimmages to wrap-up the preseason against Div. II Glen Este, Div. II Sidney, Div. III Tecumseh and then Div. II Canal Winchester, McSurley said staying healthy now will be a key as the 2015 season kicks off.
“The next two weeks is going to be a meat grinder,” he said. “We have to come out of these next two weeks unscathed. Then Blanchester (season opener) is important, then we have Steubenville. That’s on everybody’s mind. It’s one of those experiences … they say it’s one of the greatest high school experiences you can go through as far as atmosphere. I’ve never experienced anything like that. Once we get into the league, we take it week to week.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports.