BEAVER — Scott Tomlison insists that his Eastern Eagles’ football program is no longer new, but instead is “established”.
The Eagles are entering their sixth varsity season, part of eight overall, so “those excuses are out the door”.
“We can’t say we are a new program. We are now an established program. For the first time ever, we’ve got 40 kids. Which is where we want to be,” said Eastern’s head coach.
But, of course, progression is all about taking the next step —and Tomlison said it’s time for the Eagles to not only compete, but capture their first-ever Southern Ohio Conference Division I championship.
The 40-man Eagle roster includes a 20-20 split of varsity and reserve players, as “when you get around 45 kids as a Division VII small school, that’s when you start winning.”
“We’re at 40 kids, and finally in the position we want to be in. We love our depth this year. Now it’s time for us to quit being .500 and start fighting for a conference championship and some playoff wins and take that next step,” said Tomlison. “We believe this year’s team is the one to do that.”
With the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s decision to automatically enter all 2020 teams in the state playoffs —should they so choose — Eastern will be making its first-ever postseason appearance.
So the next goal, after its non-league season-opener at McClain, is to run the SOC I table — in which Symmes Valley is the defending division champion while Northwest nearly has 70 players.
“Even before the season started, the coaching staff’s expectations when we looked at what we had returning this year, we expected to make the playoffs anyway,” said Tomlison. “And we expect to fight for the conference championship.”
As for whom the Eagles have returning off last season’s 4-6 squad, they sport seven seniors, six juniors and more than 25 combined freshmen and sophomores.
The top returnees are offensive lineman Kyle Beasley (6-0, 220, jr.) and defensive back/wide receiver Logan Clemmons (5-10, 175, sr.) —both which made first-team all-Southeast District in Division VII.
The all-purpose performer Clemmons rushed for over 1,000 yards, caught for over 900, and led the Eagles in tackles with 84 from his all-district defensive back spot.
“Logan has some colleges looking at him and talking to him. He has put on about 15 pounds of muscle and has been much better and stronger in the weight room,” said Tomlison. “He’ll be one of our main guys this year.”
The Eagles also return junior quarterback Wyatt Hines (5-10, 165) and senior running back/linebacker Dillion Mattox (5-9, 180), as Mattox made Special Mention all-district — despite missing the first five games with a broken foot suffered in the final preseason scrimmage.
Like Mattox, Hines had only half a season last year to showcase himself due to injury — and threw for an estimated 1,400 yards in Eastern’s spread-oriented offense.
“We are a spread, and run some zone read, but we can also run man-on-man and run it ‘right down your throat’ isolation and power stuff,” said Tomlison. “If you look at our stats, we are pretty much 50-50 and well-balanced. All of our receivers are returning too.”
Those receivers include Clemmons, fellow senior Bryce Myer (6-4, 180), junior Devon Conley (5-10, 155) and second-year senior Gage Denny (6-0, 165).
“If Wyatt stays healthy, he should put up some really good numbers at quarterback because he is surrounded by weapons with experience,” said Tomlison. “We have got them all over the place.”
Blocking for the likes of Clemmons, Mattox and Hines are — besides Beasley — four or five sophomores that started along the offensive and defensive lines as freshmen.
“They are all back and are much bigger and much stronger. They don’t look like freshmen anymore,” Tomlison said. “The good things are they have 10 games under their belts now and every daggone one of them has been putting in the work in the weight room.”
With Eastern being the only “true” spread offense in the run-heavy SOC I, the Eagles do need to stop the run — in order to improve their chances at a league championship.
Tomlison mentioned some sophomores as run-stoppers along the defensive line, including Malik Harris (6-2, 335), Jacob Johnson (6-2, 290) and K.J. Reinsmith (6-2, 255).
“Several sophomores with size and experience on our lines,” he said.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved