By Justin Sampson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Lance Gosch has built consistency in his near-decade with Reeds Spring football. The Wolves have posted 44 wins over his five years as head coach, largely based on a steady, efficient running system and dependable coaching.
The Wolves started last season 4-0 in the new Big 8 East and went on to finish 7-4 with an exit in the district semifinals. Gosch and company are still looking for an elusive district championship, and they’ll have to get some underclassmen prepared if they want to contend this fall.
“We’re going to be young all over the place,” he said. “It’s going to come down to getting used to game speed. I think we’ll learn a lot. We have a lot of coaching to do and starters that won’t be in the same position as last year.”
The Wolves expect to have three offensive and four defensive starters back. The biggest hole is left by Big 8 East Defensive Player of the Year Ben Moler. The All-State linebacker racked up 146 tackles as a senior, more than double that of any teammate.
His ability to get the defense set was just as vital as anything he put on the stat sheet. Junior Colton Cramblett, who started next to Moler, will be tasked with picking up some of that production. He collected 52 tackles and a sack in last year.
Senior JT Bayliff will join him in the linebacking corps, while fellow senior Matt Allison will move from that unit to the secondary.
Nate Cerny, another senior, will also reprise his role at cornerback after missing all of his junior year due to injury.
Al Chavez and Tony Leal, both seniors as well, will be the primary figures on the defensive line. Leal is fresh off an All Big 8 East Second Team selection at defensive tackle, while Chavez is the top returning tackler with 59 as a sophomore. He also recovered two fumbles.
“You can’t hide on defense. Offenses nowadays will spread you out and put you in some tough spots,” said Gosch. “We’ll need the offense to run the ball, get first downs, and limit the touches that opposing offenses get.”
The Reeds Spring offense will be led by someone other than Blake Gronvold for the first time in four years. Senior Sean Gross will take over at quarterback after primarily running the ball in 2018.
Behind him will be Cody Hughes, the top returning playmaker. The senior carried the ball 102 for 670 yards and four touchdowns last fall.
Bayliff and Allison will also get touches out of the backfield. Bayliff has been a key piece of both the air and ground game, coming off a season with 546 total yards and seven scores. They are just two of a handful of players that will need to capitalize on the experience they received as underclassmen.
“(Bayliff and Allison) do a nice job of blocking on the edge,” said Gosch. “Last year, Allison was a sophomore and Bayliff was a junior, so we were able to just play them in spots and they could focus more on defense. This year, they’ll have to start on both sides of the ball.”
Senior Justin Lock will provide some consistency in the trenches as he returns to center, but there are still question marks as to who will flank him.
Despite some uncertainties, Gosch believes his run-heavy system will benefit players that will need to take on increased roles because of how much it shares the touches.
“If you look at our stats over the last few years, we’re pretty equal in spreading the ball out to our halfback, fullback, and quarterback. That’s been good for us and it’ll be the same this year. We don’t have to have one player carry the entire load. Each player only has to do their job.”