By Yaneek Smith (byline)
Sports editor (bycredit)
In each of the last two seasons, the Port Clinton Redskins have fallen just short of finishing with a winning record.
In 2010, the Redskins, sitting at 5-3, lost their final two games and, last season, after storming out of the gate with a 5-2 record, fell in their final three contests. But more than that, they'd like to compete for a playoff spot. (Port Clinton fell just 2.05 points short of qualifying for the postseason last year.)
Toby Hammond, now in his ninth year at the helm coaching the Redskins, has rebuilt a program that averaged 1-2 wins per season before he arrived. Hammond knows a thing or two about winning, having taken St. Mary Central Catholic to the Div. V State Championship Game in 1990.
The team returns 15 starters, eight on offense and seven on defense.
With running backs Diante Laurel and Jacob Carrisales and wide receiver Steve Wingo gone, the Redskins will have to replace their share of offensive production. Fortunately, their offensive line, which includes five seniors returns all five starters from last season. The unit of Ben Petersen, Chris Overfield, Nick Leone, Robert Beck and Cory Colston features five three-year starters and makes for a strong foundation.
“We're banking on our experience on the offensive line (helping us this season),” said Hammond.
Also returning is quarterback Addison Rospert, a stellar athlete who can make things happen by throwing and running the ball. Collin Yurista and Keegan will both see time at running back with Cody Smith serving as the fullback. Brock Moore, Justin Holmes and Chris Stokes are the three primary receivers and Trey Gluth will start at tight end.
On the defensive side of the ball, Colston and Tristen Mallory will play both end positions and Smith, Gluth, Beck, Michael Kirkpatrick and Zach Wheeler will rotate in on the interior part of the line.
Lowe, Overfield and Alex Bastian will start at linebacker and the secondary is comprised of Stokes, Moore, Rospert and Chris Weaver.
Hammond notes that the defense, which might be the fastest he's had during his time in Port Clinton, must keep improving from week-to-week and get solid contributions from some of its sophomores and juniors who have seen little varsity action in the past. Depth is also an issue with the team, especially on defense.
After hosting Woodmore to open the season, the Redskins go on the road for four consecutive games. If they're able to get through that portion of the schedule with three wins, they'll be in good shape heading into the second half of the season. It's possible that six wins could get Port Clinton into the playoffs this season.
The second game of the season has the Redskins traveling Delphos to take on the St. John's Blue Jays, a Div. VI powerhouse program that has won six state titles in the last 15 years. How Port Clinton performs against St. John's could set the tone for the rest of their season.
Hammond is looking forward to the challenge.
“It's really gonna help us down the road,” Hammond said of playing the Blue Jays. “If you're going to be a good football team, you've got to beat good teams.”
If there was ever going to be a year when the Redskins could get over the hump and finish with 6-7 wins and compete for a playoff spot, now is the time.
When asked about his team potentially finishing with a winning record, Hammond summed it up bluntly.
“If we don't do it now, I don't know when we will.”