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home : local sports : local sports

8/22/2012 2:16:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Lawrenceville High School football preview
Indians are big, deep and ready to win
LAWRENCEVILLE - Lawrenceville High School's football team spent last year tying to learn how to win.

The result was a 4-5 effort that left first-year coach Greg Wood's team on the verge of just the fourth post-season appearance in school history.

While the Indians fell short, dropping their final game to Palestine, 30-24, they feel they're now ready to get over the hump.

"We have to instill in the kids that they have to go out every weekend and expect to win ballgames," said Wood, whose team will travel to Edwards County Friday evening to begin the season. "I still don't think we have that. That's a learning process we have to solve for this year. No matter who we're playing - Robinson, Marshall, whoever - we have to expect to win. That's a mentality we have to learn early in the season, then carry it all the way through."

The Indians lost Tanner Volkman, who rushed for a school-record 1,284 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, but return two others who approached 400 yards on the ground, and the better part of an offensive line that has become monstrous.

"There'll be more balance running the ball this year, because we have four or five young men who can shoulder the load," said Wood, who expects the Indians to run the ball about 70 percent of the time. "We can get any of them the ball and expect something positive out of it. I think we're even in better shape from a running standpoint than we were a year ago with Tanner."

One of the returnees is 5-11, 175-pound senior Cole Steffey, who has been converted to quarterback after rushing for 384 yards and three touchdowns last season. The reserve quarterback is sophomore John Barnes (5-11, 150).

Also back is Senior Evan Staggs (5-7, 150), who carried 87 times for 348 yards and four TDs. Promising sophomore Zach Shoulders (6-1, 180) will line up at the other running back spot, while senior Cole Hulen (5-8, 175) has bulked up and will run at fullback after rushing five times for 43 yards last season. In reserve, the Indians can turn to sophomore Wyatt Rinsch (5-9, 180) at running back and junior Austin Wanke (6-1, 180) at fullback.

Up front the Indians bring back a trio of seniors who are being counted upon to open the holes. Max Loeb (6-2, 270) will return to the center position, while Bert Maddle (6-2, 230) will play tackle and Brandon Vessels (6-1, 285) will play guard. Others in the running for a starting spot on the line are juniors John Thompson (6-0, 190) and Trent Jones (5-11, 175), and sophomore Logan Vincent (5-8, 275), a move-in from Vincennes.

Gage McIntosh, a 6-2, 170-pound senior who had five catches for 110 yards a year ago, and senior Jacob Potts (6-2, 185) are in the running to play tight end, and both will be on the field when LHS uses the wishbone formation.

Otherwise the team has a stable of receivers that includes seniors Thomas Grove (5-10, 155), Braxton Blagrave (6-0, 165), Cody Fiscus (6-1, 185) and Austin Dorney (6-3, 180), who is out for the first time.

"There are certain positions where we have a drop-off," Wood said. "But for the most part we can plug somebody in at almost every position and not lose a whole lot. That's a tremendous asset to have in a small program like this. It takes a heck of a lot of pressure off the coach."

The Indians figure to be strong up front on the defensive side, too.

Maddle, Vessels, Loeb and Thompson will see time in the interior line. However, Wood has confidence in Vincent, as well as seniors Garrat McCullough (6-1, 185) and Grant McDonald (5-10, 205), so the Indians will have an opportunity to spell the offensive starters.

"We have a multitude (of defensive linemen) and that's an awesome thing," the coach said. "We have some big boys to play those positions. Things have really fallen into place."

Potts and McIntosh are penciled in as defensive ends, with help from Thompson and sophomore Dalton Vories (5-11, 170).

Jones has been tabbed to play middle linebacker, with senior Tanner Fry (5-10, 185) and Wanke in the running at the other linebacker spot.

In the secondary, Staggs returns at corner and will be joined by Shoulders, with Grove - who missed nearly all of last season with a shoulder injury - and Hulen manning the safety spots.

"Last year I thought the secondary was our weakness, but I think we've really solidified that," Wood said. "Teams are going to have a tough time throwing the ball on us."

Shoulders is slated to do the kicking for the Indians. Fiscus will be the punter, and serve as the backup kicker.

In all there are 58 players in the LHS program, including 20 freshmen. Wood is working on a freshman schedule, and so far that includes four games, scheduled mostly for Saturdays.

The Tribe seeks its first winning season since the 2002, when it finished 7-3 under Jerry Phillips. LHS finished 5-5 under Mike White two years later.

"We expect a great year," he said. "We're extremely proud and happy with the way the kids have worked and the things they've accomplished in the off-season. I think it's put us in a pretty good position."

LHS schedule

A24 Edwards County, 7 p.m.

A31 OBLONG, 7 p.m.

S7 ROBINSON, 7 p.m.

S14 Newton, 7 p.m.

S21 Flora, 7 p.m.

S29 OLNEY, 2 p.m.

O5 Marshall, 7 p.m.

O12 Palestine, 7 p.m.

O19 RED HILL, 7 p.m..

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