Kenyon Commins didn’t need to be reminded that his Ross High School football team has its work cut out for it Friday night at Edgewood against the ground-chewing Cougars.
“That’s putting it lightly,” the Ross coach said. “I don’t think there’s any hiding that by any means.”
Kickoff for Ross (0-5 overall, 0-2 in the Southwest Ohio Conference) and Edgewood (4-1, 2-0) is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the second of four consecutive EHS home games after playing three straight on the road.
Scott Clemmons’ Cougars, the defending SWOC champions, go into the game leading the conference with averages of 295.4 rushing yards and 354.8 total yards per game. Defensively, Edgewood ranks among the SWOC’s top four in average total yards, rushing yards and passing yards allowed.
The Cougars are led defensively by 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior lineman C.J. Broughton and 6-4, 215-pound junior linebacker Evan Brown, who are tied for the SWOC lead with three sacks each, while 5-11, 180-pound senior defensive back D.J. Whiles leads the conference with three interceptions and is tied for the lead with two fumble recoveries.
Tanner Polisini, a 5-9, 180-pound junior offensive lineman and linebacker, also has two fumble recoveries.
“If you look at them, the first thing that jumps out at you is defensively, they’re really, really good,” Commins said. “They’re so well-coached. Coach Clemmons does a great job with his staff. They’re extremely disciplined, which is a problem for us, because our system here banks on people being undisciplined.”
Commins doesn’t find many differences in this season’s Cougars offense from previous years. Junior running back Wade Phillips, a 5-11, 170-pound junior, leads the SWOC with 734 rushing yards.
“It’s kind of the mold I hope to follow too,” said Commins, who’s in his first season at the Ross helm after four years as a Rams assistant. “One thing Coach Clemmons has done is put his system in place. They worry about themselves first, and that’s the best thing you can do. Defensively, they may be a little better than last year. They’re a little older.”
Ross is coming off perhaps its best game of the season, a 21-14 SWOC loss to Mt. Healthy. The Rams also have a 22-21 nonconference loss to Western Brown.
“I get asked all the time what’s going to be a successful season,” Commins said. “Everybody wants to draw conclusions in Week 5 or 6, and I don’t know how you do that. It’s a 10-game season. If you watched us in all five games and don’t think we’ve improved, I don’t know what you’re watching. A lot of it was moving guys around and getting them into spots where they could be most effective. We were still evaluating talent in the third week, and we had some injuries that made us move some other players.
“Athletically, Mt. Healthy outmanned us 1-for-1 all the way down the board. For us to have an opportunity to be in that game and have a shot at a field-goal attempt that was blocked … that would’ve made it 17-13. We were right there. Instead, it was 21-14.
“These kids are still learning how to win. They’ve got to learn how to get over that hump. Mt. Healthy was a bright spot. We had one turnover. That was a season low for us. We’re getting better week to week.”
Commins hopes that having almost the same starting lineup from one week to the next also will help the Rams’ cause. They will be missing 5-foot-9, 132-pound sophomore defensive back Tyler Uhl, who has a foot injury.
“That hurts us a little bit,” Commins said. “He’s a very talented sophomore who we expect will do big things for us. Twenty-one out of 22 (starters playing) will still be our best. That’s the first time all year.”
Clemmons is among those who’ve seen Ross improve weekly.
“That’s what we told the young men since Saturday film,” he said. “If you keep watching them from the beginning of the season, they keep getting better and better. They’ve been playing teams tough. We tell the kids if you underestimate them, they’ll come up and bite you.
“That team gets under center and plays ball-control offense. They chew up a lot of clock and a lot of yards.”
Edgewood is coming off a 28-17 SWOC win over Harrison and has a nonconference game against perennial playoff contender Columbus DeSales next week.
“I’ve really liked the boys’ attention to detail and coachability,” Clemmons said. “On offense, we have so many new kids, and they’ve been really good with their attention and coachability and their ability to take things we fix after each possession and do a great job with it.”