First-year New Albany High School football coach Pat Samanich is a firm believer in Ohio State coach's Urban Meyer's mantra of "four to six seconds of relentless effort" leading to good things happening on any given play.
But Samanich doesn't just stress going fast. He mixes an infectious, high-octane attitude into everything he does -- including celebrating with his players.
During the Eagles' Aug. 12 afternoon practice, Samanich couldn't sprint into a pile of players fast enough when junior receiver Titus Williams made a one-handed touchdown catch by extending his right arm about three feet above his falling body.
"Every single play, if you can go four to six seconds of relentless effort, good things can happen -- even if you go the wrong way," said Samanich, previously the team's offensive coordinator who succeeded Mark Mueller last March. "If you don't know where you're going, if you just come off the ball and get into somebody, coaches will fix that. But nothing good happens if you go slow."
"Fast" was a recurring word among players as they prepared for their Friday, Aug. 30, opener at home against Reynoldsburg.
New Albany returns five starters on offense and six on defense from last year, when it went 11-3 overall and 7-0 in the OCC-Capital Division to win its fourth consecutive league championship. The Eagles' season ended with a 33-32 setback to Trotwood-Madison in a Division II state semifinal.
"This year, we're going a lot faster. We seem to be getting off the ball better," said senior Tanner Cline, who will take over at quarterback for 2013 graduate Darron Lee. "We're a lot faster and quicker. That's been a big emphasis."
Samanich, who has been friends with Mueller since the two played football together at Ashland University in the early 1990s, became New Albany's offensive coordinator when Mueller was promoted to head coach in 2005. With the exception of retired assistant Bob Cavin, the entire coaching staff remained to work under Samanich.
"We've had a great connection with (Samanich) since most of us ran track for him in middle school," said senior Tyrell Howard, who will play cornerback and receiver and also return kicks. "He brings a lot of energy and speed and gets us going. He likes to finish. That's our main word, 'finish.' Finish and get one day better."
The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Cline's primary weapons in New Albany's wing-T-based offense will be 5-9, 190-pound senior fullback Leslie Anokye (1,147 yards and 12 touchdowns on 149 carries), senior halfbacks Wyatt Johnston (5-9, 165) and Trey Quillin (6-2, 225) and senior receivers Ross Henze (6-2, 180), Trey Miller (5-10, 175), Joe Siegenthaler (5-11, 195) and Williams (5-10, 155).
Also expected to contribute are junior fullback Christo Semertsidis (6-1, 200) and junior halfback Jack Burgdoerfer (5-11, 180).
Siegenthaler, also a returning starter at free safety, had 19 catches for 484 yards and three touchdowns last year.
Returning senior offensive guards Jack Archer (6-0, 230) and Ryan Wilson (6-0, 230) anchor the line around senior center Mitchell Bruce (6-0, 235) and senior tackles Lucas Dove (6-1, 240) and Will Mooney (6-2, 220).
Quillin, who also was the Eagles' kicker most of last year, is one of two returning starters at defensive end with junior Jack Schroer (6-4, 250).
Other linemen include senior ends George Kalec (6-1, 200) and Trent Dressel (6-2, 220), and junior tackles Xzavier Brandon (5-11, 250) and Tyler Pearson (6-1, 230).
Returning starters at linebacker are seniors Victor Chamberlain (5-10, 205), Nick Clemons (6-1, 210) and Wilson. Candidates to join them include seniors Gabe Fruth (5-11, 235), Hayden Hatten (6-0, 195), Anthony Lugay (5-7, 180) and Cameron Rodney (5-8, 175) as well as Semertsidis.
Chamberlain had 64 tackles, four sacks and an interception a year ago.
Howard (5-9, 170) and Siegenthaler will be joined in the defensive backfield by Burgdoerfer, Miller, senior O.B. Oppong (5-11, 180), junior Jalen Ward (5-9, 160) and Williams.
Kicking candidates include sophomore Joey Rolwing (6-2, 170) and senior Alex Savikinas (5-8, 200).
The nonleague schedule mirrors last year, which helps keep the memories of an 0-2 start fresh. New Albany lost to Reynoldsburg 10-9 and Westerville Central 23-20 in overtime before a 56-22 rout of DeSales began an 11-game winning streak.
League play begins Sept. 20 at home against Olentangy Orange.
"If we'd have lost one more game, we probably wouldn't have had a shot at the playoffs," Cline said. "We have to remember that for this year. These first three games will be tough this year, for sure. Our goal right now is to go 1-0 every week."