PORTSMOUTH — With the Notre Dame Titans, it’s always a numbers game.
Yet this football season, there’s also a fountain of youth which will be found along Sunrise Avenue — and at Spartan Stadium.
That’s because the Titans’ 26-man roster sports solely three seniors — as underclassmen-heavy Notre Dame aims to improve on its Southern Ohio Conference Division I standing, following a 3-4 coronavirus-impacted campaign of a year ago.
All seven of Notre Dame’s games from last season served as regular-season contests, as it did not play archrival East —with that matchup marked off in an abnormal fall for sure.
Two years ago, the Titans endured a winless season, but one in which the three seniors and several juniors learned many lessons from.
A year later, Notre Dame gained confidence from home victories over Green and Huntington —and at Fairfield Christian.
Now, it’s time for these young Titans — as only a half-dozen juniors don the roster — to pick up where they left off.
Of the 26, 17 are either sophomores (nine) or freshmen (eight).
That means that most of the Titans weren’t even born yet — when 16-year NDHS head coach Bob Ashley first took over the program.
“We have a lot of youth, but with our youth we think comes a lot of excitement,” said Ashley. “We can’t ask any more from them with their attitudes. They’ve been a great bunch to work with so far in fall camp, and I’m excited to see where they take us this season. These guys are ready to go and ready to learn and have done everything we’ve asked of them so far. The leadership these upperclassmen are showing is a tremendous improvement from over the years. It just seems like we’re heading in the right direction.”
The top two Titans as far as postseason honors are defensive end and tight end Carter Campbell (6-2, 180) and defensive back and running back Dylan Seison (6-0, 150) —both juniors.
Campbell — with 34 tackles, eight sacks, a pair of fumble recoveries and a forced fumble —captured first-team all-Southeast District Division VII accolades, while Seison secured Special Mention all-district honors with his secondary play.
The Titans’ two offensive standouts from a season ago graduated — as Logan Emnett (808 all-purpose yards and 11 touchdowns) and Caleb Nichols (751 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns) notched all-district and are now at Wittenberg University.
Emnett, in fact, was a first-team all-district running back.
“Those two were the majority of what we did offensively last year,” said Ashley. “We don’t have a lot of experience returning as far as guys with quality stats from last season.”
However, “that provides opportunities for other guys to step up and see what they are all about.”
Those new ballcarriers in Notre Dame’s run-oriented offense are likely to be Beau Hobbs, a six-foot two-inch and 200-pound senior, and Cody Metzler — a 6-3 and 210-pound sophomore who is a transfer from Valley.
“We’re a shotgun wing-T team. Our whole focus is to try and make teams defend eight gaps, and still be a vertical threat. Beau Hobbs will replace Logan Emnett at halfback for us, and Cody Metzler we are very high on at the wing spot to carry the ball or block on the edge with Carter Campbell,” said Ashley.
Wyatt Webb (5-11, 150, jr.) will be the Titans’ quarterback with a new pass offense, as both starting tackles return in senior Jarren Edgington (6-5, 303) and junior Dominic Sparks ( 6-7, 230).
Jake Edwards (6-2, 213, jr.) is the center with John Ball (6-1, 174, jr.) being the strong guard and Brock Shepherd (5-5, 146) at the opposite guard —as Seison returns at the slot receiver with senior Matt Boldman back at split end.
“The true test offensively for us this year will be how well these guys pick things up,” said Ashley. “We want to run the ball with Beau Hobbs, but we’re hoping to get the ball in Dylan Seison’s hands a little more, either through the air or on the ground. We’re strong on the edge on both sides.”
Defensively, Notre Dame features a 4-3 front with Campbell coming back at one end and Sparks at the other —with Edgington, Ball and Ilan Walker rotating at tackle.
The linebacking corps consists of sophomore middle Gavin Hart (5-11, 190), who will also carry the ball, and Metzler (strong side) and Hobbs (weak side) — with Seison and Nolan Heiland on the corners and Boldman (strong) and Webb (free) at the safeties.
Like many other Division VII clubs, the Titans —given their SOC I and non-league schedule — will be defending other run-first teams.
Notre Dame has six home games including five of the first six — with Grove City Christian (Aug. 20), Fairfield Christian (Aug. 27), Fayetteville (Sept. 10) and Zanesville Rosecrans (Sept. 18) all traveling to historic Spartan Stadium, sandwiched around a road show at Fisher Catholic at Lancaster’s Fulton Field.
The Titans then tangle with defending SOC I champion Northwest at home to end the September slate.
Despite the youth, Ashley expects his Titans to continue to improve —and of course with that youth and improvement comes continued excitement.
“We’re young, but we’re not lost. We come in every day trying to live in the moment and trust the process and just try to get better every day doing our jobs,” said the coach. “These guys have really bought into that.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved