The Jasper Eagles win and lose games on their ability to control and run the football.
Fortunately for third-year head coach David Pitts, Jasper returns two 1,000-yard running backs in seniors Levi Hale and Mason Hatfield. Hale rushed for 1,111 yards and 10 touchdowns on 146 carries while Hatfield added in 1,018 yards and 12 touchdowns on 133 carries.
“Our offensive line seems to be our big turnover every year and them (Hale and Hatfield) knowing where to cut and where the hole is supposed to be (helps),” Pitts said. “A lot of times they will give direction to the offensive line.”
The offensive line will be keyed by seniors Aden Sissick, Tate Maneval and Chris Baker.
Junior Jayce Talbot and senior Caleb Brown are competing for the starting quarterback spot.
Defensively, the Eagles will have to replace tackle and sacks leader Logan Winchester who graduated.
“He (Winchester) played from whistle to whistle. He was complete energy and high intensity,” Pitts said. “He was a leader on the field as an example and verbally, and sometimes he would help guys get lined up right. We are going to need somebody to step up in that role this year.”
The linebacking corps will be led by Brown and Hale. Brown pulled down 76 tackles last season. Hale will drop back from defensive end to linebacker after securing 41 tackles last year. Jake Giurbino will also slot in at linebacker.
The defensive line will be led by Chris Barker who is coming off of a 73-tackle season.
“Chris is a beast,” Pitts said. “He is so strong and is a 250-pound kid that can run.”
Issac Wingert, Tegan Spurgeon, Bob Hartgrave, Sal Loyola and Hatfield will comprise the secondary.
“Last year it (the secondary) was our weakest point, but this year I think it may be our strongest point,” Pitts said.
Jasper joins a new conference this season in the WEMO since the SRVC dissolved after last school year.
“It is refreshing that the WEMO reached out to us and invited us. We went through the whole process and they accepted us with wide open arms,” Pitts said. “We are very pleased to go someplace that wants us. The Spring Valley (Conference) was very competitive from top to bottom and I think the WEMO is going to be the same. It has always been a very competitive league and expect it to continue.”
Jasper opens the season on Aug. 24 at home against new conference rival Drexel.