FRANKLIN FURNACE — Indeed, the Green Bobcats —judging by their 20-man roster —are just that in terms of experience.
The Bobcats —which sport just four seniors and four juniors — field seven freshmen for the 2020 season, as former South Point head coach and Symmes Valley assistant Chad Coffman takes the program’s reigns.
Coffman — who was hired in late May amid the coronavirus situation — takes over for six-year head coach Ted Newsome, who resigned in the spring and after guiding Green to its first winning season and state playoff appearance since 1990 two years ago.
Once Ohio high school football programs could begin practice following the Memorial Day holiday, Coffman got to meet his Bobcats by small-group settings —something unique in an already unusual season.
“We’re building relationships and a foundation of hard work and toughness,” Coffman said. “I took the Green job in part because these are tough and har-working kids in a community that loves football.”
Coffman said the program experienced a positive confirmed coronavirus case in late July, leading to a mandatory two-week shutdown of workouts —and unfortunately a dip in numbers from 25 down to 20.
The club resumed practice after Aug. 1 with the official Ohio High School Athletic Association start date, as the coach explained during the Bobcats’ media day that “we’re after it again and it feels more like normal.”
But while the Bobcats are indeed youthful at most positions, there are still some veterans for this run-oriented group — in a run-heavy league (Southern Ohio Conference Division I) with the likes of Northwest, defending division champion Symmes Valley, East and Notre Dame.
“We’ll still fit that SOC-I mold of running the football,” said Coffman.
The top returnees are seniors Lonnie Smith (6-3, 210) at running back and Ethan Huffman (6-1, 160) at wide receiver, as Huffman was an all-Southeast District Division VII first-teamer last season — while Smith accrued the same accolades two years ago.
Smith suffered a knee injury last season, after rushing for nearly 1,000 yards as a junior.
“Lonnie has a lot of experience. I thought Lonnie looked really good last season before he hurt that knee in a non-football thing, and I didn’t feel he was close to 100-percent again. He has looked really healthy so far this year, and I am excited to see what 100-percent of Lonnie Smith looks like,” said Coffman.
Another senior, D.J. Barker (5-8, 175), spells Smith for added depth in the backfield — and is back at outside linebacker.
Other runners include freshmen Derek Salyers (5-10, 145) and Nathaniel Brannigan (5-10, 165) and sophomore Landan Lodwick (5-6, 150), as Lodwick transferred in from East.
At quarterback, sophomore Collin Corey (5-11, 145) is a transfer back to Green from Mississippi —and takes over for the graduated Trevor Darnell.
Along with Huffman, junior Kaleb LaFollette (6-0, 155) fills in at wideout as Austin Ray (5-10, 155) is at tight end.
Ethan Hayslip (6-0, 265, jr.) has started for three years and anchors the offensive line, as Coffman considers him “a really good SOC lineman”, who has experience playing both center and guard — and will play at tackle.
“Ethan has to be one of those top-tier guys. He’s athletic, he’s physical, he’s strong,” said the coach. “He’s a versatility piece that we need with our depth. It’s nice to have a guy who can play all three spots.”
Tyler Blanton (6-1, 210, so.) is the center and Chais Lavender (5-8, 225, so.) and Lethan Poe the guards (6-1, 165) — as freshman Cole Maynard (5-9, 180) and sophomores Daylan Mollett (6-4, 220) and Braxton Conschafsky (5-7, 180) are vying for the other tackle spot.
The fourth senior, Ricky Nash (5-10, 280), was expected to fill in opposite Hayslip, but the Bobcats are likely to be without him due to injury.
Indeed, the Bobcats’ depth will be tested —as ironman football already rules their roost.
The same linemen will play both ways, as Coffman projects running anywhere from four-to-six man defensive fronts — with an extra man in the box to defend the run.
“We’ll be in similar looks. It’s a league where you want to get that extra guy in the box if you can,” he said.
Likewise with the running backs, the Bobcats are defensively heavy on linebackers, given the offenses they face in the SOC I.
Green opens its season at home on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. against non-league Fairfield Christian.
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