Seniors Kaleb Abera and Tay Jenkins and sophomores Gabe Caldwell and Zach Sims are part of a fraternity that has helped the Licking Heights High School football team find success this season.
They aren't starters and don't get much playing time in front of Friday night crowds. Their names might not be well known in the stands, but they are along the sideline. Their most productive work is done in practices on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
"Those four guys are among some of our hardest workers on the scout team and have taken a lot of pride in preparing us for our opponents," said coach Darren Waters, whose team played at Mansfield in the first round of the Division II, Region 5 playoffs Nov. 8. "Our scout team has been outstanding at simulating our opponents' offenses and defenses all season. The one week that really stands out is the preparation and looks they gave us before we played Granville (and won 27-26 in overtime Oct. 11)."
The scout team takes pride in its achievements any time something positive happens on Friday nights.
"It's our role on the team and it's what we can do to help the program shine," said Sims, who plays center and defensive end on the scout team. "We don't just try to emulate the other team, it's more than that. We watch film and try to pick up 'tells' to pass along. If (an opponent) has a wider spread on certain plays, if a receiver comes off the ball harder on a pass rout than a run block, those are the things we're looking for and we're trying to emulate."
For the younger players, it's also a way to get noticed by coaches. They line up against seniors and try not to take a beating. But for seniors like Abera and Jenkins, does not getting much time to shine on Friday nights cause resentment?
"Not at all," Abera said. "My favorite day of practice is Tuesday when I get to be a receiver on the scout team. It's really fun and it's helping them get better prepared, and when you see them succeed, you feel like you've accomplished something. It's almost like we're out there doing it, not them.
"As a senior, I also want to be a role model for the younger guys and show them how hard I'm working. As long as we're winning, it's a great feeling to help out any way you can. I love to mimic the team we're playing."
Jenkins, like Abera, has played on special teams for the varsity. He said the adrenaline rush from those limited plays carries over to Tuesdays when he also plays receiver for the scout team.
"When we're watching film, it's our job to pick out something special that we then have to take to practice on Tuesdays," Jenkins said. "If the receiver likes to get physical, I have to play physical on the scout team. I think it's pretty fun, and I know my teammates appreciate what we do. Every week, the coaches award a scout team Player of the Week. I know the starters respect what we do because they tell us after the game that it helped them."
A few times this season, the scout team's only job in consecutive weeks was preparing the starters. The young players get to play j.v. on Saturdays, but a few opponents did not have j.v. teams.
"I just want to contribute," said Caldwell, who plays quarterback for the scouts. "Granville was a great week. Our defense came out and knew what they were going to do because of us. Coach always says, 'There are no small roles on this team.' We believe it. It takes everyone to do their share all week, every week. If (the opponent's quarterback) stares down receivers or has antsy feet, or scrambles, those are the things I have to do to prepare our defense."
The Hornets defeated Johnstown 21-7 in their regular-season finale Nov. 1, and when Granville beat Licking Valley 30-23 that same night, the Hornets earned a share of the LCL-Big School Division championship. They finished 3-1 in the league, as did Granville and Licking Valley.
Licking Heights was 9-1 overall before playing Mansfield, which was 10-0. The Hornets finished fifth in Region 5 and Mansfield was fourth. The winner plays top-seeded New Albany or eighth-seeded Northland in a regional semifinal Friday, Nov. 15, at a site to be determined. New Albany was 9-1 and Northland was 7-2 before they played Nov. 8.
Against Johnstown, running back Ron Carruthers-Kimball ran for 97 yards and two touchdowns (10, 4) and quarterback Martell Davis threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to Adrian Myrthil.
The Hornets played without running back Kendall Bradley (93 carries, 822 yards, 8 touchdowns) and fullback John Neary (79 carries, 421 yards, 4 touchdowns), who sat out with injuries. Entering the playoffs, running back Robbie Moore had 99 carries for 848 yards and nine touchdowns and Carruthers-Kimball had 403 yards and seven touchdowns on 73 carries.