By Josh Hall
One thing is certain about the Strafford football team.
The Indians enter the 2017 season with some experience.
Strafford returns 10 starters on offense and 10 on defense after putting together a 3-6 regular season in 2016 before falling to Ava in the first round of the Class 2 District 3 tournament.
“I’m very positive about our season,” Indians coach Tim Hester said last week during a 7-on-7 session at Parkview.
While Strafford’s record was not something to brag about, the Indians were competitive in most of their games. Strafford had five losses that were decided by eight points or less. The Indians averaged 21.2 points per game and allowed 22.4.
Gone from 2017 is Danny Novakovich and Elijah Perkins. Novakovich ran for 427 yards on 90 carries and scored five touchdowns, while Perkins was second on the team with 81 tackles.
Other than those pieces, Strafford remains intact. But Hester was quick to point to something else about his group this season.
“The key is going to be our offensive line,” he said. “It’s going to be a very good o-line, probably our best line in three or four years. I believe our line is our strength this year. There’s seven linemen that we can rotate in there and I can trust them on their blocking schemes and stuff.”
Ryan Lofton (jr), Brett Razer (sr), Derick Holley, (jr), Chance Edens (so), Kyle Pierce (jr), Drew Lafollette (jr) and Michael Wollweber (sr) will all be in the mix on both sides of the line.
Hester’s hope is for that core to open some gaps for the Indians’ running game. At this point, Strafford isn’t sure who its main back will be.
“Right now there’s going to be some people fighting over [the running back position],” Hester said. “We’ve got about three running backs, and we’re just going to find the ones that are going to be there.”
Ethan Dewitt (sr), Jared Mcintosh (so), and Ian Bareis (so) are the likely candidates. Dewitt was the only player to get reps at the varsity level, rushing for 79 yards on 36 carries with two touchdowns.
While Strafford searches for its main running back, one position is a sure thing for the Indians.
In his first year playing quarterback at the varsity level, Kenson White was 91 of 185 for 1,190 yards with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. As a junior, White also led the team with 433 yards rushing on 129 carries with seven touchdowns.
“Him getting one year at the varsity level, and the speed of the game, and understanding the offense a little bit more, I think it should improve what he’s going to be doing this year,” Hester said.
White will have his favorite target back in Dillon Hester. The junior had 44 catches for 579 yards and six touchdowns. Defensively, he recorded 38 tackles while being named all-region honorable mention at defensive back, wide receiver and as a kick returner.
Defensively, the Indians will be led by linebackers Trayson Lawler (jr), Wyatt Maples (jr), and Andrew Woodring (sr). Lawson had a standout season as a sophomore with a team-leading 145 tackles.
“They’re hungry and they’ve been working hard,” Hester said.