Barnesville looks to build on strong finish
BARNESVILLE — Momentum is a big factor in determining who wins and who losses in athletic competition.
After going 3-7 in Blake Allen’s first year as head coach, Barnesville struggled to a 2-5 record after seven weeks in his second season. However, the Shamrocks caught fire and breezed to victories in their final three contests to reach the .500 mark. He is hoping that momentum, even though it was nine months ago, will be a springboard into this season.
“We’re pretty excited about this year. We finished the season strong last year. We had a tough middle stretch of the season, but we ended on a three-game win streak,” he said. “We won the last three games pretty convincingly, so I think we had some good momentum going into the off-season.”
Barnesville started last season 2-1 with triumphs over Newcomerstown (36-6) and Buckeye Trail (16-14) sandwiched around a setback to Meadowbrook (26-7). Four consecutive reversals to Shenandoah (12-0), River View (14-13), Steubenville Catholic (28-20) and Fort Frye (42-20) followed before the Shamrocks recorded lop-sided wins over Monroe Central (47-7), Caldwell (37-0) and Union Local (30-0).
“Going from 3-7 to 5-5 last season was a huge step for us,” Allen explained. “We graduated a huge class the year before I took over. We knew we were going to take our lumps, and we did. We were competitive last year and had a chance to win most of the five we lost. This year we’re stressing that we have to play a full four quarters. We need to be consistent because we had too many mental lapses that just killed us last year.
“We’re experienced and old enough now, if we can play four consistent quarters, I think we have a chance to win a lot of games. If we don’t, teams around here are good enough to take advantage of that.”
Barnesville has 42 kids out this year.
“We’ve got a lot of guys back … a lot of experience, but the guys we did loose were our ‘key guys.’ Between Tate (Dowler) and Cade (Hannahs) that was about 85-95 percent of our offensive yardage,” he acknowledged. “We also lost a couple of good linemen, but, overall, we had a lot of good experience returning. There are a few key guys we will have to replace.”
Allen was right. Dowler passed for 1,122 yards and eight touchdowns on 87-157 and ran for 420 stripes and eight more scores. Cade Hannahs had 345 infantry yards and reached the end zone five times while also completing 182 yards worth of passes. The duo combined for 2,069 of their team’s 2,645 total yards and scored 22 of its 33 touchdowns.
With the loss of those two leaders, along with fellow seniors Brylan Clouse, Zack Meade, Harley Raines, Brandon Bunfill, Remmy Boyd, Isaiah White and Drake Porco, Allen will be counting a lot on his senior group to provide much-needed leadership.
“We have eight seniors. It’s a good group. I think all but one of them have now played multiple years and they’re all going to be starting and playing a lot this season,” he noted. “We expect a lot of them. We have high expectations here at Barnesville. They need to lead us and have done a great job of that so far in camp. They know the system inside and out, so we’re expecting some big things from our seniors.
The Shamrocks offensive schemes haven’t changed from years past.
“We’ll do a lot of I-formation and pro-style stuff, but we’ve also got some athletes that we can throw in a wrinkle or two with to get them into space,” Allen admitted. “We like our backs. We’ve got a pretty solid foundation up front. Hopefully, we’ll be able to run the ball.”
It all starts at quarterback where junior Ayden Hannahs (5-10, 187) will begin his first season as the Shamrocks field general. He saw spot duty last season when he completed 4 of 6 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.
“Ayden Hannahs is our No. 1 for sure. He has started since he was a freshman at wide receiver. He was a great receiver for us,” Allen said. He was our backup quarterback last year and got some valuable experience at the end of the year when our starter got hurt. He had a good off-season and has a very high football IQ. He’s a very good athlete so we’re excited to see what he can do.”
He caught a team-leading 16 passes for 308 yards and a TD last year.
Sophomore Chase Connor (5-11, 150) and freshman C.J. Hannahs (5-7, 122) are the backups.
“Chase has a really good arm. He can make all the throws,” Allen said. “He’s still kind of learning the system and learning how to read the defenses. C.J. is a smart football player. He is Caide’s younger brother. He’s a hard worker and a good athlete.”
Allen is happy with the running backs where seniors Caden Lake (5-10, 237), Owen Oliver (5-8, 168) and Alex Meade (6-3, 180) will get the bulk of the carries. Lake, the fullback, ran for 230 yards and three TDs last season, while Oliver has been around and Meade is an athlete.
“They both know the system. They’ve been in it for three years now,” Allen said of Lake and Oliver. “We know they both will run the ball hard every time they touch it.
“Alex is a big, tough kid that is hard to bring down,” Allen added. “He’ll get a lot of carries, too.”
Meade played tight end and wide receiver and landed 15 passes for 238 yards and a trio of scores.
Also expected to see playing time are sophomore fullback Connor Jones (5-9, 160) and freshman Hayden McCrate (5-10, 177).
“Hayden is probably the fastest kid on the team,” the head coach allowed.
Others include sophomore Austin Mayhugh (5-5, 152) and freshman Bryce Hall (5-4, 130).
Wide receiver is another position Allen thinks is pretty deep.
Seniors Uryan Meade (5-10, 184) and Ryan Lucas (6-0, 171); and junior Gage Hannahs will be the primary targets.
Meade caught five passes for 40 yards last season before a knee injury ended his campaign.
“Uryan has great hands … best on the team,” Allen noted. He runs great patterns and catches the ball well. We like getting the ball to Gage. He has good speed and is shifty. We want to get him the ball in space. Ryan, who will play some tight end as well, is also quick. We want to get him the ball in space because he can be very dangerous in the open field.”
Junior Cameron Woods (6-0, 157) is in the mix, as are sophomores Owyn Wise (5-11, 156) and Spencer Bliss (5-9, 140); and junior A.J. Detling (5-7, 134).
“We’ve got 2-3 kids that we feel good about and we’ve got 3-4 others that we can throw out there and feel comfortable with.”
Also striving for playing time are junior Isaac Thompson (5-9, 141) and freshmen Kellen Dornon (5-2, 110) and Bryce Castle (5-7, 136).
In addition to Lucas at tight end, junior Jacob Boulet (5-9, 168) will see quality time.
“He’s done a great job for us so far in camp,” Allen said. He’s another very hard worker.”
Senior Austin Holskey (5-11, 140), sophomore Ethan Spangenburg (5-11, 201) and freshman Robby Nixon (5-6, 137) are also battling for playing time.
Four of the five offensive linemen return for another season.
“We’re hoping our line is going to be one of our strengths,” Allen stressed. “We’ve got a lot of experience returning with, actually, four starters back.”
Junior Justin Jackson (5-11, 237) will anchor the group at center.
“He has started since his freshman year,” Allen said of Jackson.
Senior Trey Warner (5-10, 191) and sophomore Gavin Carpenter (5-8, 250) are the guards. Warner is a three-year vet.
Junior Luke Schultz (5-11, 194) and senior Justis Weiss (6-2, 195) will man the tackle slots. Both are returning starters, as well.
“Gavin is really the new face, but he has picked up the offense quickly,” Allen added. “We expect those guys to know what they are doing.
“Our size is decent. Justin and Gavin are the big kids, but while Trey, Luke and Justis aren’t the biggest, but they all have good speed and quickness,” the coach continued. “They take good first steps. Trey is a sprinter on the track team.”
Providing depth and size will be juniors Tal Johnson (6-1, 243), Ethan Pack (6-1, 329) and Jacob Starr (6-0, 158), as well as sophomore Jadyn Lucas (6-0, 332).
“They are all juniors and sophomores,” Allen said. “There is a lot of size there.”
Other trenchmen are junior Connor Johnson (5-8, 160); sophomores Bobby-Ray Wilson (5-2, 188), Orion Smith (5-11, 162) and Avery Clouse (6-0, 224); and freshmen Jordon Smith (5-9, 127), Hunter Phillips (5-2, 143), Kayden Morris (5-7, 170), Quinten Leasure (5-11, 337) and Dominic Dugan (5-7, 237).
Barnesville has employed a 4-3 defensive alignment over the past few years, but according to Allen, the Shamrocks will be more of a 4-4 squad this season.
“It fits our personnel better,” he said. “Replacing (defensive tackles) Zack Meade and Isaiah White will be a challenge, but Gavin and Jadyn are working hard in there, as are Ethan and Luke.”
Leasure is also listed as a down tackle.
The ends will be a rotation between Lucas, Jackson and Weiss.
“They have all started there before,” Allen added.
Johnson and Starr are also competing for playing time at end, as is Orion Smith.
Also expected to see time along the line are Jackson, Johnson, Jordon Smith, Wilson, Clouse, Johnson and Dugan.
The linebackers, according to Allen, will be the strength of the stop troops, especially on the inside.
“Our middle ‘backers are the strength of our defense. We expect them to lead the charge.”
Alex Meade and Oliver will hold down the two middle spots.
Meade charted 106 tackles a year ago, which included 66 solo stops, 35 assists and five tackles for lost yardage. He also had a team-best seven quarterback sacks, forced a fumble and picked off two passes.
“Alex is an outstanding football player. He had more than 100 tackles last year,” Allen noted. “He has a nose for the ball. We are expecting big things from him. Owen had a really good season last year.”
Oliver charted 75 total tackles a year ago. He had 35 solo stops, 37 assists and a trio behind the line of scrimmage. He recorded three sacks and recovered a trio of fumbles.
On the outside are Woods, a three-year starter, and Boulet. Woods made 41 tackles last season, with 37 being by himself. He defended 10 passes and picked off one.
“Cameron likes contact. He will step up and hit you. Jacob is another kid that will hit you.”
Holskey and Warner are also in the mix, as are Lake, Spangenburg, Hall, Mayhugh, Jones, McCrate, Nixon, Phillips and Morris.
The secondary is also a veteran group, led by Ayden Hannahs at safety. He made 25 solo tackles, defended 13 passes and intercepted two.
“He is the quarterback of our defense, as well as our offense,” Allen said.
Gage Hannahs will be at one corner.
“He has really stepped up his game this season,” Allen said of Gage Hannahs.
Battling at the other corner are Connor, Detling, Thompson, Bliss and Wise.
Also listed as defensive backs are Uryan Meade, C.J. Hannahs, Dornon and Castle.
Ayden Hannahs and Carpenter will handle the placekicking and kickoff duties. Ayden Hannahs and Gage Hannahs are the punters.
“All the guys that did it last year are back,” Allen said of his specialists. “That takes some pressure off of the coaching staff during camp having kids back at those spots.”
Four new teams highlight the schedule as Buckeye Local replaces Newcomerstown in the season-opener on Thursday night at Shamrock Stadium. River takes the place of River View in Week 5, while Warren Local and Toronto replace Steubenville Catholic and Caldwell in weeks 7 and 9.
“There’s a couple of those teams that Barnesville has never played, so we’re going to see some teams we’re not familiar with” Allen admitted. “We’ve scrimmaged both Buckeye Local and River in the past, but never played them in the regular season. I know we’ve never played Warren or Toronto.
“Our traditional rivals are still there,” he said of Meadowbrook, Buckeye Trail, Shenandoah, Fort Frye, Monroe Central and Union Local. “But those four new teams are going to be new challenges for us.”
One of those challenges will be presented on Thursday when the Panthers bring a 42-game losing streak to western Belmont County. Allen said he and his staff are well aware of that.
“Absolutely, I know for a fact that this is a new start for them,” Allen said. “A fresh start. They are 0-0 just like us and everyone else. They are going to be hungry for a win so we had better come ready to play. I know they will bring everything they have. We have to be ready for it.”
The coaching staff remains the same as last year with the exception of Brady Treherne who is attending college.
“Consistency on the staff is a big plus for us because we are at the point now that the kids know the system and the coaches know the system,” Allen stressed. “There’s not much turnover. We’re excited about that.”
Barnesville has bumped up to Division 5 this season after playing a level below last fall.
“That really doesn’t matter until the playoffs,” he admitted. “We just take it one game at a time. We’re focused on who is next on our schedule.”