Morgan Cotter is looking forward to his second season as football coach at Marysville High School, and believes his team is ready to reap the benefits of its hard work during the offseason.
"I can't wait to get going," said Cotter, whose team finished 3-7 overall a year ago after an 0-3 start. "I'm real excited about the prospect. The first year is a transition. You want to be nails, you want to be right where you want to be. It just didn't happen last year. We have done a lot of good things. Our kids have worked their tails off since January to put us in a good position right now."
Marysville will open at home against Hilliard Bradley on Friday, Aug. 30, and senior Matt Mulholland (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) is expected to replace 2013 graduate Kyle Hites at quarterback in the Monarchs' spread offense.
Hites was first-team all-OCC-Central Division after completing 111 of 190 passes for 1,289 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions and rushing for 965 yards and nine touchdowns on 188 carries.
Also back is senior fullback Austin Pfarr (6-0, 220), who rushed for 305 yards and three touchdowns on 55 carries and had seven catches for 122 yards.
"I would like to win the OCC and get into the playoffs," said Pfarr, who was honorable mention all-league. "I don't like to lose obviously, so win every single game. That's definitely the main goal."
Senior Billy Kidd (5-9, 165) and junior Aron Mowery (5-9, 175) will see time at tailback.
"It will be really nice instead of trying to get one kid 25 touches, we have three kids who are going to get 10 to 12," Cotter said.
The wide receivers should be led by senior Jimmy Applegate (6-1, 180), who had 26 catches for 263 yards and one touchdown. He will be joined by seniors Alec Draughon (6-2, 175), Logan Roston (6-1, 175) and Nick Mazza (5-11, 180).
Also back is senior tight end Noah Arbogast (6-1, 235), who had 13 catches for 211 yards.
Mazza will kick and punt, and Mulholland also could see some punting duties.
Three senior starters return on the offensive line in center Ryan Evans (6-2, 220), guard Stephen Pittroff (6-2, 275) and tackle Jason Jones (6-1, 215).
Other key linemen should be senior Blaze Young (6-2, 295), junior Dalton Stallings (6-2, 220) and sophomores Lucas Gallegos (6-0, 205) and Hunter Harding (6-2, 235).
Cotter said that the base defense will adjust slightly, as the Monarchs move from a 4-3 to 4-2-5.
Cotter expects senior Darius Walker (6-4, 275) at tackle and Pfarr at linebacker to lead the defense.
"A lot of people have come back and are ready to play," Walker said. "We kind of stepped it up this year. We tried to get some guys from the basketball team or maybe guys who haven't played in a few years."
The line will also include senior Logan Keeran (6-0, 235), and juniors Kyler Cline (6-2, 190) and Keano Smith (6-4, 205).
Other linebackers are senior Sam Tse (5-7, 150) and juniors Gage Auxter (5-10, 160), Austin Costlow (5-10, 180), Seth Kidd (5-9, 190) and Jesse Ramirez (5-9, 170).
The secondary should feature Billy Kidd and senior Kenny Kinder (5-10, 180) at cornerback, and Draughon, Mazza, junior Alex Sepeda (5-10, 160) and sophomores Pierce Scott (6-1, 180) and Tyler Stiers (5-9, 180) at safety
Another key loss to graduation was running back Kody Davisson, who rushed for 541 yards and six touchdowns on 107 carries and had a team-high 34 catches for 441 yards with five touchdowns. He was special mention all-league.
"We had some good seniors last year, but we have some young kids who are stepping up and doing a great job," Cotter said. "Our seniors have really taken control and are leading them in the direction that we want to go. It's been good."
Following realignment by the OHSAA in June that added a seventh division to the football postseason, Marysville will be in Division I, Region 1, which also includes Cleveland St. Ignatius, Lakewood St. Edward, Mentor, Olentangy Liberty, Toledo Whitmer and Westerville Central. Whitmer lost to Cincinnati Moeller 20-12 in the Division I state title game a year ago.
"We want to be that type of program, so there's no reason to back off anybody," Cotter said. "Are we at that type of program yet? No, but we definitely want to get to that point where instead of, 'We have to go play St. Ignatius,' it's 'I really don't want to drive to Marysville.'"
Division I now consists of schools with 608 or more boys, and it will be divided into Northern and Southern regions. From each of these two regions, 16 teams will qualify for the postseason.
The traditional format -- in which the top eight teams in each region advance to the playoffs -- will remain in place in Divisions II through VII.
Cotter expects a tight race in the OCC-Central, with Hilliard Davidson and Dublin Coffman among the favorites again. Davidson and Coffman shared the league title at 6-1 when Upper Arlington upset the previously unbeaten Shamrocks 23-14 in the final week of the regular season.
"It's going to be the same suspects again this year," Cotter said. "Davidson is going to be there right there at the top. Upper Arlington brought a bunch of kids back. They'll be solid. Coffman always comes around, and the one that is the sleeper this year is Central Crossing. (Coach Chris Harr) has nice athletes. There isn't anybody you can fall asleep on in our league."