Sacred Heart football battled low numbers and the ability to put four good quarters together last season and it led to a 1-9 record.
The one win was by 42 points over Slater, but four of the losses came by 18 points or less.
“It just felt like every game we were that close and if we would have done this one thing and then the next game was the same way,” said receiver Charlie Wendt. “I think if we all would have just buckled down harder and worked harder than the other teams we would have got them. It felt like we lost our steam towards the end.”
But its a new year with changes being made, including the switch to 8-man football.
“It gives us more depth at about every position,” said coach Ben Lyles. “That’s something we haven’t had the last few years here. It creates more competition in practice and you’ve kind of seen that already. Kids kind of get after it more.”
The lineman position instantly became more competitive with the switch with only three spots being available on both sides of the ball.
Jake Smothers, Jake Mothersbaugh, Britten Mergen, Ty Wissman and David Moreno will be among the top linemen for the Gremlins.
The player they will be protecting in the passing game will be Trent Lyles, who takes over for his brother Chase. Trent played some quarterback last season, but was mainly used as a receiver. Although Trent hasn’t been the main starter at QB in high school, he’s been playing the position since before junior high.
“He’s played a lot of quarterback and that’s the thing to remember,” coach Lyles said. “He’s not a first-year starter. He’s been a quarterback his whole life. He just kind of had to take the back seat last year for his brother.”
The Gremlins have the option to use Trent’s athletic ability and move him to receiver when needed. Coach Lyles said freshman Easton Webb or senior receiver Cal Racy could take the snap during those plays.
“He’ll move from receiver to QB and maybe play some receiver some still this season,” coach Lyles said. “I think we’ve got a lot of athletes and we’ve got a lot of kids that can move around.”
Coach Lyles said he expects a lot out of the guys Trent will be throwing to. Wendt, Racy, Kyle Kennon and Tristen Smith are in the receivers mix.
“They are going to do some pretty special things on the outside edge,” coach Lyles said. “Charlie is a four-year guy and Cal is a four-year guy, so I expect a lot out of those two.”
With the switch to 8-man, the receivers will have more one-on-one matchups with cornerbacks. Wendt said he’s excited about the changes at the receiver spot.
“We’re learning our plays,” he said. “I’m pretty excited about our plays. We’ve got a lot of new stuff and it’s fun to switch up our playbook. “… For me it’s always fun to get new routes. We get to air it out a little bit. More one-on-one competition for me.”
Nick Cashman and Rae Quan Williams enter the season as the top candidates to take over the backfield. The Gremlins lose Keyaire Marshall to graduation at that spot. When he wasn’t the guy, Sacred Heart turned to a variety of players to hand the ball off to last season.
Trent got some carries, along with Racy and even Moreno.
“Obviously we didn’t have a running back last year, it was kind of by committee,” coach Lyles said. “So we’ve got some young guys, Nick Cashman and Rae Quan Williams that will take on that load. Those two young guys are going to be pretty tremendous. Nick, Rae Quan, they are going to be great backs.”
The Gremlins have 17 players to start the season, but they are thinking big.
“Our big goal is St. Louis,” Racy said. “We want state and feel like we can do it.”
The Gremlins will be in a district with Northwest, Norborne, Chilhowee and Southwest (Livingston County).
“I’d like to get to St. Louis,” Mothersbaugh said. “It’s going to be a hard fight though.”
Jason Strickland can be reached at 660-530-0147 or on Twitter @J_Strick_Sports.