Morris returns to the sideline to lead Frontier
By Mike Morrison
For The Times Leader
NEW MATAMORAS – -After a 12-year hiatus, veteran head coach Russ Morris returns for his 13th season as head coach of a very young Frontier Cougar squad in 2018.
Frontier will be looking to rebound from a pair of 1-9 seasons with a roster of 24 kids that includes just two seniors.
Morris has been quite pleased with the effort put forth by his team leading into the season.
“I was real pleased with our weight-room turnout back in the winter and the kids have worked really hard thru the spring and summer,” said Morris, who owns a 61-61 career record as Frontier head coach. “The kids have come out and are trying to do everything that we ask them to do. We’ve got a lot of work to do but the kids are starting to understand that if you are going to be successful, you’ve got to pay the price and that price is hard work.”
Junior Lane Snyder (5-9, 170) will open the season as quarterback for the Cougars after seeing quite a bit of action last season behind center.
“We are putting in a new offense and Lane has done a good job of grasping that,” said Morris of Snyder, who will be backed up by freshman J.D. Schmidt. “To run this offense it takes a lot of discipline and both Lane and J.D. have both done a real good job of that .”
The Cougar running game figures to be led by a combination of backs including junior fullback Eli Fickiesen (5-10, 220) and tailback Josh Lewis (5-6, 180).
“Eli’s a pounder and a pretty hard-nosed runner and Josh is a very good athlete and a very good runner,” said Morris. “We are trying to get our backs to understand that what you do without the football is what will make this offense successful and I think the kids are starting to buy into that.”
Sophomore Noah Barnhart (5-10, 185) will likely get the nod at the wing back position while junior Kaylb McQueary (5-7, 140) and freshman Andrew Lang (6-0, 170) and Tanner Bills (5-7, 125) will all see time in the Cougar backfield.
Junior tight end Logan Brookover (6-2, 205) and split end Matt Lang (6-0, 165) will likely be the top receiving targets for the Cougar passing game while juniors Briar West (5-9, 155) and Devon Knowlton (5-10, 170) and sophomores Breckin Hoff (5-11, 165) and Kevin Ross (5-8, 135) all are capable receivers.
The Cougars figure to start one senior, one junior and three sophomores on the offensive line but Morris sees a lot of promise in the group.
“We are definitely going to have some young guys up front but I really believe they are a group that with Coach Todd Bradford working with them can become a very good group of offensive lineman,” said Morris. “It’s going to be a process.”
Junior Jaycob Seevers (5-8, 220) figures to anchor the starting line at center with senior Ashton Rush (6-1, 260) and sophomore Andrew Shapley (6-0, 225) starting at guard and sophomores Wyatt Oliver (5-10, 275) and Braden McLeish (5-11, 210) at the tackles.
Senior Cody Pickens (6-0, 190) sophomores Gaige Bowersock (6-0, 205), Tanner Smith (5-10, 220), and Dakota Warner (5-9, 265) and freshman Gaven Allen (5-4, 145) will all see playing time in the trenches as well.
Defensively Frontier will likely go with Fickiesen on one end flanked by either McLeish, Bowersock, Pickens or Shapley at the other end.
Rush will get the start at one of the tackle spots while the Cougars will likely rotate Smith, Oliver, Seevers and Warner at the other.
Lewis and Barnhart will likely see most of the action at inside linebacker with support from Smith and Andrew Lang while Brookover leads an outside linebacker group that also consists of Snyder, Allen, Knowlton and Hoff.
McQueary and Matt Lang provide the Cougars with some experience and athleticism at the cornerback positions while Schmidt, Bills and West all should see action in the secondary.
After three tough seasons in a row, Morris knows that it may take a bit of time to get things back to where the Cougars want them to be but has no doubt this group is heading in the right direction.
“They are very coachable kids and they are trying to do everything that we ask them to do,” said Morris, whose team will get a tough test right off the bat when they travel to Shenandoah to open the season. “We will get there eventually if we keep working hard and keep this mindset.”