By LUKE CREASY
GLENHAYES - The 2018 season was a roller coaster ride for the Tolsia High School football team, who experienced extreme highs and lows on their way to an even 5-5 record. Tolsia was bested by an average of 25.8 points in its five losses but offset that number with 28.2 point margin of victory in their five wins.
This year, the Rebels' head coach Eric Crum is hoping that more experienced players will lead to more consistent results in the face of a challenging schedule.
"Last year we had a bunch of sophomores playing in skill positions without a lot of experience. We're coming back this year pretty junior-heavy with kids that know what they're doing in those positions, have a little meat on their bones and have grown up a ton," said Crum. "If we can stay healthy - we'll be okay."
Tolsia will have to cope with the loss of a versatile player in Peyton Watts, standout running back Devin Crum and now West Virginia State University lineman Brent Setser among other graduated seniors, but Crum said he's not worried about the group that's left.
"Skill wise, we're probably the best we have been in a long time. Let's put it this way, we've got more depth this year," Crum said. "Probably the best team speed we've had in a few years, too. Now we ain't got no burners, but everybody is quick."
Of the Rebels who are returning, signal caller Tanner Copley will likely split playing time under center with rising sophomore Jesse Muncy. Crum said he's confident both of them are versatile enough to split time at quarterback and wide receiver, where Muncy spent his time last year. After Watts graduated, Crum said Gavin Meadows could be in line for a big year for the Rebels. It will be his first full season for Tolsia after not playing until the midway point last season.
One player already drawing some attention after his on-field performance a year ago is lineman Stone Sartin, a rising senior expected to have a breakout year for the Rebels, as he leads the charge on both offense and defense.
"Stone should be a stud and have a big year," Crum said. "On both sides of the line we're a bit smaller than we normally are, but they're all athletic. To be honest with you though, I'd just as soon have a 180-pounder that can move on the line than a 300-pounder that can't."
Put all the elements together and - at least on paper - things are looking positive for the Rebels. Crum said the key to a successful season will be starting face despite a scheduling misfortune that leaves Tolsia on the road for the first three weeks of the season against Fairland, Clay County and Lincoln County.
"Our hopes are high. It'll be a pretty tough row to hoe right of the bat, especially starting the first three weeks on the road, but if we can hang tough our first four and at least come out with a couple (wins) then we could definitely have the playoffs on our radar," said Crum. "That's our goal. It is every year but some years just feel a little better than others - we've got a shot."
After the season opening road stretch, Tolsia then gets four home games and a bye week before hitting the road for the final two weeks of the regular season.