Lions' defense counting on newcomers
Kevin Randolph had a team-high 38 receptions for 374 yards and three touchdowns last season as the Lions finished 7-3 overall. Buy This Photo
Whether it can offset what it lacks in experience with depth and athleticism is the biggest question facing the Gahanna Lincoln High School football team heading into the season.
There were about 90 players in grades 10 through 12 participating during the preseason, with another 50 freshman also out.
But what only a few of those players have -- particularly on defense -- is a history of playing on Friday nights.
Many on the roster, including junior and new starting quarterback Ronald Robinson, will be playing key roles for the first time when the Lions open Friday, Aug. 30, at Huber Heights Wayne.
"It's a work in progress," said coach John Snoad, who is 29-23 in five seasons. "We graduated 10 full-time starters on defense. Offensively, I like where we're at."
After 2012 graduate Tyler Grassman led Gahanna to the playoffs at quarterback two years ago, 2013 graduate Alec Tuohy completed 134 of 245 passes for 1,452 yards with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season.
Robinson (6-foot, 185 pounds) saw action in six games and attempted just five passes.
He did, however, participate in a camp in July that is run by Kenton native and former Wake Forest and University of Cincinnati quarterback Ben Mauk, who was Ohio's Mr. Football in 2002 and passed for more than 17,000 career yards during his prep career.
The Lions return seniors Kevin Randolph (5-11, 190) and Tank Davis (5-8, 155) at wide receiver. Last season, Randolph had a team-best 38 catches for 374 yards and three touchdowns and Davis added 35 receptions for 468 yards and two scores.
Junior Jordan Hall (5-10, 155) and seniors Jimmer Ryan (6-0, 175) and Drew Mitchell (5-5, 142) are other wide receivers.
Senior Boomer Lowe (6-1, 190) is the backup quarterback and should start at tight end.
Tuohy, who is playing baseball for the University of Buffalo, was the leading rusher with 359 yards and two touchdowns. Also gone from the backfield is 2013 graduate Geoffrey Helms (345 yards rushing, six touchdowns).
Junior Vasean Davis (5-6, 165) was the Lions' third-leading rusher last season with 163 yards and two touchdowns and should be among the top running backs.
Also in the backfield are junior Jamil Jones (5-5, 165) and senior Bryce Green (5-9, 170).
Returning on the offensive line are seniors Ben Foley (6-4, 240), Frog Fenton (6-3, 270) and Lane Lightle (6-1, 250). Senior Noah Adkinson (6-2, 210), juniors David Cooper (6-5, 267) and Carter Hall (5-11, 215) and sophomore Nick Vernon (6-4, 285) are others at the position.
Gahanna averaged 24.7 points while going 7-3 overall and 4-3 in the OCC-Ohio behind co-champions Pickerington North and Pickerington Central (6-1) and Reynoldsburg (5-2). The Lions dropped three of their last five games, including losses to Pickerington North (42-0) and Pickerington Central (28-23) to close the season.
Gahanna finished 11th in Division I, Region 3 and now will compete in Division I, Region 2 after the OHSAA's expansion to seven divisions.
"We're definitely a young team, but we're working hard and things are coming together quite well," Lowe said. "Winning the OCC is always one of our goals. We'd like to go 7-3 or 8-2 and make it into the playoffs."
Senior Emile Camm is the only returning starter on defense. The 5-9, 165-pounder blossomed into one of the area's top cornerbacks last season when he finished with seven interceptions. Camm also averaged 13.1 yards on punt returns and made special mention all-district.
Gahanna's defense gave up an average of 15.8 points while being led by 2013 graduates Granyl Smith (DL) and Mitchell Rowell (LB). Smith is grayshirting this fall at Akron and Rowell is playing for West Virginia State.
Classmates A.J. Butler (Marian University), Parker Cavendish (John Carroll), Helms (Heidelberg), Malon Smith (Bluffton), Mike Taggart (Tiffin) and Jeremy Walls (Hiram) also are playing collegiately.
Foley, Lightle, seniors Dakota Coates (5-11, 230) and Adam Davis (6-4, 190), junior Marq Williams (6-0, 235) and sophomore Jonathon Cooper (6-4, 190) all could see time on the defensive line in a 4-3 alignment.
Senior Victor Spencer (5-10, 195), juniors Blake Baker (5-11, 178), Grant Benninger (5-10, 178), Blake Broderick (6-0, 190) and Alex Myer (5-10, 180) and sophomore Derek Marcum (5-10, 205) are at linebacker.
Senior Tyshon Holden (5-10, 155) also is at cornerback, with senior Rodrik Callihan (5-10, 159) and sophomore Jake Chobany (5-9, 169) at safety. Seniors Tyler Goodwin (5-9, 170) and Amos Van Pelt (5-8, 155) and junior Collin Wrona (5-11, 165) are others in the secondary.
Senior Ethan Fernandes and sophomore Tanner Harding are at kicker and Ryan, Callahan and Harding all could punt. Randolph, Tank Davis and Camm are expected to return kicks and punts, with Baker and Lowe serving as long snappers.
"(Randolph and Tank Davis) are playmakers and we want them to be complete players," Snoad said. "If we can have a team of complete players, we're going to go places."