The Carlisle High School football team has seen its share of explosive playmakers at the skill positions in recent years.
During a rebuilding process this season, the offensive and defensive lines are the foundation, and coach Mike Brown is confident with the experience up front, playmakers will emerge, especially on offense.
Carlisle is looking to build on a 7-3 finish last year (4-2 in the Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division) with a young squad as the season kicks off next week.
PREP FOOTBALL SEASON PREVIEWS
“Explosive plays happen because people are doing their jobs,” Brown said. “The last few years we had guys where you give them the ball and they find a way to break out and go the distance. This year, we are going to rely on everyone doing their jobs. We’ve got some experience back on our offensive line, but we have running backs and skills guys that if they get a crease, they will go. In our league being such a downhill, run-the-football type of league, if you’re going to have some experience, it’s got to be on the line. Our skill guys just have to step in and catch up.”
The offensive line is led by seniors Chandler Workman and Ernie Bray, junior Nathan Berger and sophomore Levy Woodson, who all started games last year either full time or as a spot starter when injuries occurred.
Carlisle will have a crew of newcomers working around them, though.
Among the most notable losses from 2017, the Indians graduated points leader D.J. Chambers, who rushed for a team-high 895 yards and 12 touchdowns and caught 16 passes for 280 yards and four touchdowns, as well as dual-threat quarterback Jake Moore (587 yards passing, 554 yards rushing and 12 total touchdowns) and running back Spencer Mays (443 yards and seven touchdowns rushing).
Senior Zach Jewell steps in at quarterback, and seniors Dane Flatter and Ryan Neal take over at running back after seeing limited carries last year.
“Zach Jewell is in his first year at quarterback, but he’s been such a good player in other positions and he’s been looking to play quarterback his entire career, so now he’s getting to do that,” Brown said. “He has a big arm and he’s smart with the football, so we are going to try to utilize that. He’s a good runner, too, and has a good body. We’re a ‘4 yards and a cloud of dust’ team, so he fits that mold being big and athletic, and we are not afraid to run it with him.”
PREP FOOTBALL PRESEASON POLLS
Brown said Flatter and Neal provide a nice 1-2 punch and were simply overshadowed by seniors last year. Both players will also be counted on to step up on defense — Flatter as a linebacker and Neal at strong safety — as the Indians look to build around the experience of the defensive line.
Workman, Bray and Berger all return up front defensively as well and provide leadership for a 4-3 defense that lacks experience in other areas. Free safety J.J. Roberts will be another key player on that side of the ball.
“We’re so young I think the words you hear most with our team is ‘to compete,’ ” Brown said. “We’ve got to learn what it feels like and the intensity it takes to be in competition and to compete with teammates for starting jobs and with other teams on Fridays and Saturdays.”
Despite Carlisle’s youth, Brown doesn’t have any lesser expectations for this season. The goal remains set on winning the league, and Brown is pleased with the progress he is seeing each day in practice.
The Indians last won the Buckeye Division in 2016.
“Our expectations are always high,” Brown said. “We’re so young, but from our first scrimmage to Game 1, we feel this team is going to evolve more and more every week than we have.”
Brown will be able to invest more time with the individuals players this season, as he has handed the reigns of the defense to Brian Woll. Woll, an experience high school and college coach, has stepped into the defensive coordinator spot that Brown served in addition to being head coach the last three years.
Most of the staff has been in place for three or four years now, and Brown hopes that helps new starters feel more comfortable in their increased roles.
“We’ve had a good core staff the last three or four years, so even though we don’t have a lot of experience on the field, we have a nice base just in having coaches that have been around these guys a few years now,” Brown said. “The players are comfortable in what we’re doing and it’s just a matter of putting it together when the games come around.”
Coach: Mike Brown, fourth season (21-11 at Carlisle, 33-12 in four years at Summit Country Day, 54-23 overall)
OHSAA designation: Division V, Region 20
Playoff history: 1-8 in 8 appearances (1980, 1984, 2001, 2004, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2016)
2017 record: 7-3 overall, 4-2 in the Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division (second, tied)
Schedule: Aug. 24 — at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, 7 p.m.; Aug. 31 — Springfield Kenton Ridge, 7 p.m.; Sept. 7 — at Oakwood, 7 p.m.; Sept. 14 — at Dixie, 7 p.m.; Sept. 21 — at Brookville, 7 p.m.; Sept. 28 — Northridge, 7 p.m.; Oct. 5 — at Madison, 7 p.m.; Oct. 12 — at Waynesville, 7 p.m.; Oct. 19 — Preble Shawnee, 7 p.m.; Oct. 26 — Milton-Union, 7 p.m.