PORTSMOUTH — After an 0-10 2019 season plagued by injury and misfortune, the Titans are healthy, young, have previously unseen depth, and are led by a senior class which has been playing varsity football its entire high school careers.
After being thrown into playing situations from day one in a Titans’ uniform, this year’s Notre Dame team has its chance to right the ship — where in previous seasons it may have went slightly off course.
“We’re excited about this senior bunch we’ve got,” Notre Dame head coach Bob Ashley said. “They were thrown in the fire early in their career, had to play when they were young. They’ve been through a lot. I’ve got to hand it to them — their attitude has been fantastic, they’ve worked hard for us especially with all this indecisiveness.”
Notre Dame’s roster total entering the season is 31, its highest in Ashley’s recent memory, thanks in large part to considerably large freshman and sophomore classes.
In total, the Titans’ roster features eight freshmen, 11 sophomores, five juniors and seven seniors.
That added depth not only means Notre Dame will have more bodies come game time, but also allows it to go full-go, 11-on-11 in practice — a luxury some smaller schools in the state doesn’t have.
“With the added depth, we’ve got a lot more quality reps in practice than we’ve ever had,” Ashley said. “That means a lot when you can simulate some things and put 22 kids out there in one practice.”
Leading Notre Dame’s wing-T rushing attack will be two-year starting running back Logan Emnett.
During his sophomore season in 2018, Emnett rushed for 1,000 yards and helped the Titans finish with a 3-7 record.
The senior finished with 675 yards on the ground for Notre Dame last year, and looks to be another vital piece for the Titans on both sides of the ball.
“Can’t say enough about Logan Emnett,” Ashley said. “He’s a heck of a competitor, tough kid. Had almost 100 tackles last year and led us in total offense. He gives you everything he’s got on both sides of the ball.”
Returning to the quarterback position for the Titans will be senior Caleb Nichols.
Nichols returned for ND’s season-finale loss to East a year ago after missing the team’s first nine games following an off-season surgery.
After managing the Titans’ offense during his freshman and sophomore seasons, Nichols will be back under center expanding his team’s offense with his legs and arm and distributing to the team’s backfield.
“Nichols was thrown into the starting role as a freshman,” Ashley said. “He’s had quite a few quality game experiences. Last year, he unfortunately hurt his elbow in baseball. Did manage to get him back for the last game last year. He’s a heck of a leader, expecting some big things out of him this year.”
Jake McGuire, another senior who has been through the ringer for the Titans in his first three seasons, will be playing at split end after playing quarterback in Nichols’ place during the first nine games a year ago.
“Jake McGuire stepped in last year at quarterback after we found out Caleb wouldn’t be able to play,” Ashley said. “We plan on using his speed on the outside as a split end this year, maybe try to get him involved in the screen game.”
Austin Vaughters, another senior back, and Dylan Seison, a sophomore back, look to be featured in the Titans’ rushing and screen attack.
Seison’s speed showcased itself throughout his freshman year, and Ashley contends the sophomore is poised for an even bigger second year.
“Where he was last year to now, daylight to dark,” Ashley said of Seison. “And he was pretty good last year.”
Three seniors who will anchor Notre Dame’s offensive line include Ethan Kammer, Jake Cole and Chris Schmidt.
Ashley said he expects the Titans to run behind Kammer most from his guard position, using Cole and Reagan Lester at guard with Schmidt and junior Jarren Edgington at the tackle spots.
Sophomore lineman Omari Harmon will assume Schmidt’s center position as the senior Schmidt is set to graduate this spring.
Dominic Sparks will start at quick-tackle on defense alongside Kammer, who finished last year with 39 tackles.
Notre Dame will open its 2020 season by traveling to county foe Portsmouth West in week one, followed by its regularly-scheduled SOC I schedule in weeks two through six.
All teams are eligible for the 2020 OHSAA playoffs if they choose to compete, the OHSAA Board of Directors voted early in August.
“These guys, they’ve been through it,” Ashley said. “But they’ve bounced back. It feels like this is the healthiest we’ve been at this point in the season, expecting big things from these guys.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved