STRATTANVILLE — Once again, the Clarion-Limestone Lions football team is facing a numbers crunch as only 18 players are on the roster.
However, head coach Davey Eggleton feels that since the Lions are entering into a new league with C-L playing exclusively against Class 1A schools — with the exception of its season finale against rival Clarion Area — that the Lions if they can remain healthy can compete within the new league.
“I’m excited about the new league and I think it will actually benefit a team like ours,” said Eggleton, entering his sixth season with a 21-29 mark. “We won’t be playing against teams that have rosters of 40-50 kids. No matter how good or bad a team with those numbers is, it still is an advantage to them because they can constantly bring in fresh bodies where we have the same kids playing both sides of the ball plus special teams. Now we’ll be facing teams with similar smaller numbers like ours.”
Although the Lions lost several key players from year’s 6-5 run, Eggleton feels that he still has a strong group returning to help the Lions in their quest to make a return trip to the playoffs this season.
The new quarterback for the Lions will be senior Colby Himes, who played a receiver position last season.
“There are a lot of things that Colby brings in as quarterback,” said Eggleton. “Obviously, we don’t expect him to replace Brenden (Makray) in the sense that he put up such incredible passing numbers last year. Colby is a perfectionist and wants to get things done right. He’s a really coachable kid and that is always a plus as a coach.”
The Lions are returning all but one player from their offensive line along with a pair of experienced running backs.
Seniors Matt Coleman, Justin Goodman and Jim Gunning return along with juniors Ben Smith and Mitch Knepp who was the team’s tight end last season are back to anchor the line of scrimmage.
“I feel our offensive and defensive lines are going to be the strength of our team,” said Eggleton. “They are all experienced and they’ve been working really hard adding weight and muscle. They’ve also all been improving on their footwork so I feel that should make our running game tough to stop.”
Senior Ayden Wiles (554 yards on 67 carries, 10 TDs) and junior Austin Newcomb (427 yards on 49 carries, 7 TDs) are both back while senior Trenton Keighley (137 yards on 21 carries). David Wiles another senior who saw limited action last season also returns, but he will most likely be moved to a wide receiver position.
“Austin and Ayden will move around quite a bit from the backfield to wideout spots,” said Eggleton. “Tim Burchwell, a junior, has had a great camp so far and will see time at wide receiver. Jason Ganoe a sophomore is a guy we’ll be looking for some things out of him. Although we’ll have different personnel at wide receiver, we’ll still try and do things the same in establishing the run which will then set up the pass.”
“I think our running game should be really solid especially with all that experience back on the line,” continued Eggleton. “Drew Beichner, who plays basketball and baseball, will play at the tight end position. “He has really good hands and is a guy with decent size to help block on the line.”
But the small numbers is a concern to Eggleton, especially when it comes to practicing.
“We have to be creative in the way we practice because we simply can’t go 11-on-11,” said Eggleton. “We have to line up 11 on 7 and we have to design our game plan in sections. We never get a full picture of how things will look on game day.”
As far as the Lions outlook for the new season Eggleton said, “I feel if we can stay healthy that we can be a really good football team.”
Seniors: Matt Coleman, Justin Goodman, Jim Gunning, Colby Himes, Trenton Keighley, Ayden Wiles, David Wiles, Drew Beichner.
Juniors: Mitch Knepp, Austin Newcomb, Ben Smith, Tim Burchwell, Jordan Pezzuti.
Sophomores: Clayton Theiss, Jason Ganoe, Kyle Brottora, Keidon Smith, Mason Senard.