Coal Grove boys weathered storm
COAL GROVE, Ohio -- Coal Grove High School football got off to a 1-3 start in 2012, yet coach Dave Lucas saw no reason to panic.
The three teams who beat the Hornets have a combined record of 18-2. Wheelersburg is 6-1, Lucasville Valley is 6-0 and Bishop Ready (Columbus) is 6-1.
"We played right with them," said Lucas, aware the Bishop Ready contest is the only one that turned lopsided. "We intended to play good football teams. That makes you better, improves your intensity."
The ambitious non-conference schedule more than prepared Coal Grove, 3-3 overall and 2-0 in its defense of the Ohio Valley Conference title. The Hornets beat Rock Hill (62-7) in their league opener to end a three-game losing streak and followed up with a 53-14 triumph over River Valley.
Coal Grove's next test is Friday night at Fairland. It's Senior Night for the Dragons (3-4 overall, 1-1 OVC).
"We never lost focus," Lucas said. "You see the film where mistakes cost us the game. If we didn't make them, we win.
"We're working to fix those mistakes. We're getting there."
Coal Grove's chief threats are quarterback Alex Bare and running backs Kyle Estep, Brandon Hogsten and Isaiah Gunther. In the win over Rock Hill, Gunther rushed for 105 yards and two scores, Estep ran for 62 yards, Bare 55 and a TD and Hogsten had two rushing touchdowns. All got pulled for backups early in the second half.
While Lucas does have his stalwarts, he's had several players pick up their play as the season's progressed. Lucas cited linebacker Tanner Murphy and nose tackle/offensive lineman Austin Pleasants (6-foot-5, 280 pounds). Both are sophomores. Conor Markins continues to impress at wide receiver. He had a 42-yard TD reception against Wheelersburg.
"You're always glad to see players progress, especially the young kids," Lucas said.
Fairland is coming off a 26-19 loss to Chesapeake. The Dragons held a 19-7 lead midway through the third period, but the Panthers rallied on TD runs of 63 and 43 yards by Jacob Collins and a 41-yard interception return by Brandon Clagg for the go-ahead score with 5:27 to play.
Fairland's operates from a spread set and likes to mix run and pass. Chance Short tossed two TD passes against Chesapeake, one to Nathan Campbell and one to Kyle Sowards. The Dragons are dangerous on special teams as Tyree Ceasar had a 70-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Ceasar, Campbell and Sowards are the chief running threats.
Short completed 15 of 23 for 140 yards against Chesapeake. He had two picked off. Campbell caught five passes, Sowards and Cody Midkiff four each.
"They've been hard to read, but I knew they'd be quick," said Lucas, a Fairland assistant from 1971-76 under Jim Mayo. "They've got some speed, but we've seen that.
"It's like any other game, no big plays, no turnovers."