Since losing 13-7 to Crest Ridge in the playoffs last season, the Sacred Heart Gremlins got to work to prepare for the 2014 season.
“The line has been together since the week after our last game last year,” said junior lineman Jake Mothersbaugh. “We’ve been lifting and I’m sure the skill guys have gotten together too.”
The 2013 Gremlins went 2-1 in Kaysinger Conference play and 7-3 overall. It was good for second place behind Cole Camp.
“My goal pretty much is to get that conference title,” said senior quarterback and linebacker Chase Lyles. “That’s what I’ve been looking for. We can finally do it now that we have enough teams in the conference.”
With Lincoln High School playing a full 11-man varsity schedule this season, the conference has five teams and will crown a champion.
“It’s a big thing for us,” said coach Ben Lyles. “It’s time to turn that next corner to not just be competitive, but win.”
But the Gremlins will have to achieve that goal with nearly half their roster being freshmen. SHS lost seven seniors from a year ago.
“We’ve got to get a hold of them because our whole team is freshman,” said senior receiver and cornerback Ben Smeltzer. “They’ll be better once they grow up. They are working on it.”
One of many changes that will occur for the Gremlins this season is at the center position. Clint Spangler graduated, which opens the door for sophomore Britton Mergen.
Fellow sophomore Ty Wissman is also expected to take a starting spot as a lineman, but he started a number of games last season as a freshman. Mothersbaugh will provide experience as well at the line of scrimmage.
“Pretty young,” Chase said about the offensive line. “But most of them have played football their whole lives, which is good because I think they are going to come in with a lot of experience.”
With running back Michael Hohne gone, coach Lyles said they’ll have a “running back by committee” this season, depending on who stands out or matchups better against the defense.
Coach Lyles said he feels confident in the offense with young, athletic skill players, but showed some concern with the defense.
“We probably got hit the hardest defensively,” coach Lyles said. “We lost both defensive ends. At the same time, the secondary does bring back a couple of key players like Ben (Smeltzer) and you’ve got some guys like Chase on that side and some new talent like Charlie Wendt that are athletic and can make plays.”
An obstical the Gremlins will face this season is the schedule, which includes two home games and seven road games. Chase has a positive outlook on the limited home schedule.
“I think playing at home puts a lot more pressure on these younger guys and anybody really,” he said. “I think it will take a lot of pressure off playing on the road.”