Yoder takes over for Bruney at Ferry
By KIM NORTH
Times Leader Sports Writer
MARTINS FERRY — Chas Yoder played football at Martins Ferry where he was an all-stater and Eastern District Defensive Player of the Year for the Purple-and-White following the 2004 season. After a stellar career at Mount Union and serveral years as an assistant coach at his alma mater, he is now the head coach.
Yoder takes over for long-time Martins Ferry head coach Dave Bruney who retired in May. He was 275-134 as the Purple’s leader for 40 seasons.
“It’s exciting, but also a little different. Coach Dave is still around to give me help or any advice that I may need. He’s helped me out with ordering equipment and getting things organized,” Yoder said. “There’s a lot more to being a head coach than people realize, but I’m learning and he’s been a great help. A lot of the stuff we’re going to, Coach Dave did. I’ve learned a ton from him.”
Another head coach Yoder credits is current Mount Union head coach Vince Kehres.
“I also learned a lot from him. He was my (position) coach. I want to take what I learned from both of them and incorporate it into what we’re doing now.”
Yoder, who was also a state champion wrestler and served as the Purple Riders head mat coach for the past several seasons, will get his first taste of what it’s like to be a head football coach Thursday when Martins Ferry makes the short junket north on Ohio 7 to meet Buckeye 8 rival Buckeye Local at World War II Memorial Stadium in Yorkville.
One luxury Yoder, who will serve as the defensive coordinator, has is that most of his varsity staff returns. It includes Anthony Reasbeck (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks, defensive backs); Taylor Yoder (linebackers, offensive tackle); Chad Ware (linebackers, running backs); Greg Kumpse (offensive line, defensive tackles)); Nick Stankovich (offensive line, defensive end); John Bennett (receivers/defensive backs); and Gregg Bahen (tight ends, defensive ends).
“All of those return from last season. A lot of us played together in high school. We’re all good buddies and hang out together,” Yoder said. “Coach Bennett coached when I was here, so we all know each other. Coach Kumpse is only in his second year, but he was my roommate in college. We all know each other and know what each other has to do. They are a great bunch of assistant coaches.”
Making life that much easier is the fact that Yoder has either taught or coached everyone on the 42-player roster.
“That makes the transition a whole lot easier. I’ve been around this bunch of kids from teaching them in school to coaching them in football and wrestling. I know them and they know me. I know what to expect from them and they know what to expect from me. Great group of kids. They want to learn. They work hard,” he noted.
Lost to graduation were all-stater Dalton Hoover, who is wrestling at Wheeling Jesuit, Jacob Johnson, Hunter Bodkin, Shaun Jeter, Cory Bennett, Demetrius Dokes, RayQuan Prayear, Jason Husvar and Keith Wilson.
Hoover, who initially committed to Northern Illinois University for wrestling before changing his mind, was a two-way standout. On defense, he was a tackling machine from his inside linebacker spot. He recorded a team-best 157 stops while earning first-team all-state Division V as a linebacker. He was also the Eastern District Player of the Year. He also had two interceptions, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and sacked the quarterback once. On offense, Hoover rushed for 1,530 yards and 21 touchdowns on 243 carries, which was an average of 6.4 yards per carry. He also caught a dozen passes for 136 stripes and one touchdown, which was a game-winner at Indian Creek.
Johnson missed the entire season with a broken arm.
Hoover, Bodkin, Bennett and Dokes played in the OVAC Rudy Mumley All-Star Game last month as Ohio ended a two-year losing streak with a 21-14 triumph.
Of the 42 players on the Purple roster, 17 are returning lettermen which will also help out.
Yoder will employ the same Pro-I offense that the Purple Riders have ran for decades. However, the ball might be in the air more this season than it has been in the past.
Back for his third year under center is junior Jake Probst (6-1, 190). He will be backed up by sophomore Logan Smith (6-5, 185) and freshman David Skvarka (5-7, 165).
“We expect Jake to lead the offense,” Yoder stressed. “Jake has improved from his freshman year to his sophomore year and we are looking for a lot of big things from him this season. I think he is expecting big things from himself. The sky is the limit for him. He’s a great athlete and good leader.”
Probst 73 of 157 passes for 1,027 yards and three touchdowns last fall. He was picked off six times. He also ran the ball 43 times for 197 yards and a pair of scores. As a freshman, Probst passed for 495 stripes and two TDs on 32-of-78. He threw seven picks.
Five of those returnees are across the front line in senior tackles Shane Krob (6-0, 265) and DeAndre Pugh (6-5, 310); junior guard Donte Lewis (6-1, 240); senior center Ian Terrell (5-11, 200); and senior tight end Drake Dobson (6-0, 200).
“Ian will start at center, but he is being pushed for playing time by sophomore Noah Duck (5-8, 185),” Yoder said. “Shane and DeAndre both started last season. They are both big boys. Donte saw some time a year ago and Drake will be a very good blocker for us at tight end.”
Yoder said sophomore Evan Carpenter (6-2, 195) and junior Gage Kwiatkowski (6-1, 230) are battling for playing time at guard.
“There are three of them fighting for two starting spots,” Yoder noted.
Other lineman candidates are junior Jervon Thompson (5-10, 285), sophomores Cody Smith (5-7, 285), Logan Williams (5-10, 230), Preston Thaman (5-7, 230), Ryan Meeker (5-7, 250) and freshmen Josh Dagon (5-7, 205), Jesse Nagel (5-9, 185), Peyton Hores (5-10, 200), Prester Weaver (5-8, 185), Zak Dobson (5-11, 195) and Zeke Bruney (5-9, 235).
“We’ve got some big boys in there, but we don’t have much depth,” Yoder admitted.
In the mix at tight end are senior Donovan Shrodes (5-11, 190) and junior Richard McFarland (6-2, 185).
“We’re pretty solid at tight end with those guys,” Yoder said of Drake Dobson, Shrodes and McFarland. “You might even see us line up with two tight ends at times.”
Dobson had a trio of catches for 43 yards, while Shrodes snagged one for 24.
The new head coach has a plethora of wideouts to choose from. They include returnees Logan Smith, junior Dasyn Hores (6-0, 165), seniors Mason Goddard (5-7, 155, Sr.) and Trent Rice (6-1, 185), junior Cody Olson (6-0, 160) and sophomore Alex Bennett (5-7, 125).
“We’ve got some good depth with the receivers. They’ve got some good speed and good hands,” Yoder mentioned.
Hores leads the group of returnees with nine receptions for 215 yards and three touchdowns a year ago. Mason Goddard latched on to three for 25.
Other possible wide receivers are senior Troy Wise (5-5, 135), junior Sabin Ward (5-7, 155), sophomore Cole Sztary (5-7, 165) and freshmen Coltin Larkins (6-1, 175) and J.T. Hill (6-1, 150).
“He’s only a sophomore, but Cole Sztary has showed a lot of good promise,” Yoder said.
Yoder also has a handful of running backs that he won’t be afraid to give the ball to. They are seniors Nate Boxley (5-9, 225) and Logan DiLoretta (5-8, 185), junior Caleb Olson (6-0, 185) and sophomore Trevor Hanson (6-0, 165).
“All four of those kids are going to play a lot. Nate played toward the end of the season and had a long TD run called back in the playoff game,” Yoder recalled. “Two of those guys are returning defensive starters, so we’ve got some experience.”
Caleb Olson is the top running back returning. He ran for 236 yards and scored four touchdowns on 39 carries. Most of his yardage came against Harrison Central when he rushed for 153 stripes and two scores on a dozen carries. Boxley, who didn’t become eligible until the second half of last season, ran for 345 yards and two TDs on just 39 stripes. His long touchdown run that was called back in a playoff game at Portsmouth West last season would’ve given the visitors a lead late in the first half.
Other candidates to tote the leather are freshmen Frank Smith (5-10, 190), Kolton Goddard (5-7, 125) and Tyler Donaher (5-7, 135).
“It’s hard to say this early how far our offense is,” Yoder noted. “We’ll have to wait and see how everything plays out through our two scrimmages and into week 1. “We’ve had a great first couple of weeks of practice.
“Play-wise we’re further ahead than we have been in the past. The kids are picking it up really quick. I think that is do to them all playing some last year, maybe not as a starter, but they played. That definitely helps.”
Martins Ferry scrimmaged against Meadowbrook and Shadyside.
Defensively, the Purple Riders have switched from their usual 4-4 to a 4-3 alignment under Yoder.
“We had run the same defense for 20-plus years. We’ve switched it up this year and the kids are picking it up quickly. It’s a big change but I couldn’t be any happier with the way the kids have responded to it.”
Yoder thinks this group of linebackers will rival last seasons.
“We’ve got a solid group. Drake Dobson is a returning starter that had an excellent season last year even though he never played inside until the opener,” Yoder added. “He was an outside linebacker and also advanced to the Division III state wrestling tournament after winning sectional and district titles. He’s going to be a good player in the middle for us.”
Dobson was the second leading tackler last fall.
Caleb Olson and Hanson are both returning starters on the outside, while DiLoretta will also see time there, as will Terrell.
“Caleb and Trevor both saw extended time last season and played well,” Yoder continued. “We are looking for both of them to step up a little more this season.”
Krob and Pugh will anchor the defensive front from their tackle slots, with Kwiatkowski rotating in there.
Other possible tackles are Thompson, Cody Smith, Logan Williams, Thaman, Meeker, Dagon, Peyton Hores and Bruney.
“Once again, we’ve got big bodies in there, but not much depth,” Yoder said. “We have to stay healthy, especially on our lines.”
Lining up at the terminal spots will be anyone of four players. In the mix are Boxley, Carpenter, Lewis and McFarland, who was also a state qualifier in wrestling, and Duck and Zak Dobson.
“Our ends are pretty physical and athletic,” Yoder added. “They should be a pretty strong group.”
The secondary Dasyn Hores, Mason Goddard and Cody Olson battling for the two cornerback slots, while Rice is the strong safety and Logan Smith the free safety. Yoder said Probst will also see action at free safety, as well as linebacker. Bennett and Sztary are also in the hunt for playing time.
Rice had a trio of interceptions last season, while Probst recorded two.
“We’ve got some speed and some really good hands in the secondary,” Yoder noted. “This could be a strong spot for us.”
Others slated for backup duty in the secondary are Shrodes, Wise, Ward, Larkins, Skvarka, Frank Smith, Hill, Nagel, Kolton Goddard, Weaver and Donaher.
“Everyone on defense has some playing experience,” Yoder said. “We’ve shuffled some players around to different positions.”
Special teams could prove to be a huge weapon for the Purple Riders behind the strong left leg of Cody Olson.
“Good kicker,” Yoder praised. “Funny thing about him is all he did was kick the last two years. He was the starting point guard in basketball. He’s an exceptional athlete. He’s going to play offense and defense at wide receiver and cornerback. Excellent field goal kicker and kickoff guy. We’ve been working with him on his punting, so at some point in the season he will probably take that over, as well.”
Yoder said he has no problem lining Olson up from way out.
“I’m comfortable with him from 40 yards. He’s a weapon and is only going to get better at it.”
Olson finished with 37 points a year ago on two field goals and 31 point-after touchdowns.
Probst will start as punter.
As for the schedule, the Purple Riders have just four home games while hitting the road for six contests. In addition to the opener at Buckeye Local, Martins Ferry will also play at newcomer Nelsonville-York (Aug. 31), St. Clairsville (Sept. 14), Harrison Central (Sept. 21), East Liverpool (Sept. 28) and Wheeling Central (Oct. 12). Home games are with Union Local (Sept. 7), Indian Creek (Oct. 5), Beaver Local (Oct. 19) and Bellaire (Oct. 26).
“That’s going to be a long trip. I don’t know much about them this year, but last year they made it to the state semifinals,” Yoder said. “Good tradition and well-coached. They also have a strong wrestling program. It will definitely be a strong test for us.”
As far as the Buckeye 8, “I think the conference will be solid pretty much across the board. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
As for his team, “We have good athletes. We’ve got kids that want to win. We’ve got a great tradition. I think we’ll be just fine.
I’m excited. The kids are excited.
“No predictions, but we will be an aggressive, physical football team. We’ll be in shape and ready to play.”
Martins Ferry is one of four schools in the Buckeye State to record 700 or more victories. The Purple Riders joined Massillon Washington (871), Canton McKinley (828) and Steubenville (806) in the elite club after defeating arch-rival Bellaire last season in what would turn out to be Bruney’s last victory as head of the Purple. Cleveland St. Ignatius (695), Warren G. Harding (692), Fostoria (691), Dover (688) and Cincinnati Wyoming (686) could all realistically reach the 700-win plateau this season.
The Purple Riders have advanced to the state playoffs on 14 occasions, all coming under Bruney’s watch. The first postseason contest came in 1998. Other playoff years are 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and last season. They are 8-14 overall with that first triumph being against Proctorville Fairland in 2003. They reached the Division IV state semifinals in 2004 and the regional finals four years later.