Braves new coach steps up pace
Noah Durst had a feeling last year that he would take over as the Olentangy High School football team's starting quarterback this season.
But Durst couldn't have known the difference between what he envisioned as a junior and the offense he will run as a senior.
Long known for a methodical offense that attempted to grind opponents into submission, the Braves are going to a no-huddle offense under first-year coach Mark Solis and hope to run as many as 20 more plays per game than their opponents.
"We're just going fast and getting lots of plays off," said the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Durst, who was Air Force recruit Andrew Horstman's backup. "Lots of quick pass plays, lots of reads. We have confidence that we can go deep. We have a lot of athletes and a solid offensive line."
Four senior starting offensive linemen return -- center Andy Simms (6-3, 275), left guard Curtis Conrad (5-11, 225), left tackle Case Troyer (6-3, 270) and right guard Quinton Gallion (6-1, 240) -- to help implement Solis' system as the Braves aim to reach the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2005 and 2006.
"A lot of what we'll do with this offense involves making (opponents) make some decisions and putting them in binds," said Solis, who replaced 24-year coach Ed Terwilliger on June 6. "We spent a lot of time studying programs that run versions of the pistol. We took everything we learned from those clinics and put it into this offense. I'm excited with what we're doing."
Solis was 7-13 the past two seasons at Lorain but is 101-50 overall through stints at Ashland Crestview (1999-2003), Elyria (2004-06) and Twinsburg (2007-10). He has coached his teams to the playoffs six times.
Olentangy, which went 10-2 last year and 6-1 in the OCC-Capital Division and lost to Hilliard Davidson 29-14 in a Division I, Region 3 semifinal, opens Friday, Aug. 30, at Canal Winchester. Non-league games follow against Olentangy Liberty on Sept. 6 and at Lexington on Sept. 13 before the Braves' league opener Sept. 20 at home against Big Walnut.
The Braves started 6-0 a year ago before losing at New Albany 33-14 in what amounted to the OCC-Capital championship game. Olentangy earned the third seed in Region 3 and edged visiting Dublin Scioto 21-17 in a first-round game before losing to Davidson at Upper Arlington.
The Braves have dropped to Division II, Region 5 as part of the new seven-division, playoff alignment that begins this year.
Solis said he watched video from last season, but didn't spend much time on analysis.
"I just watched the personnel," he said. "I didn't pay attention to scheme because it's about a system. Football is football. The big thing is the kids grasping the verbiage. It's almost like another language, taking kids who know English and trying to teach them Spanish."
Highlighting the offense will be senior running back Hayden Hunter (5-8, 175; 451 yards, 4 touchdowns in 2012), senior receivers Anthony Alloco (6-12, 165), Victor Elmurr (6-0, 185) and J.T. Grega (6-2, 185) and junior receiver Drew Batt (5-11, 175).
Simms reportedly has been offered by Akron, Buffalo, Pennsylvania, Toledo and Yale.
Rounding out the offensive line is senior right tackle Chase Carter (6-3, 255), a first-year starter. Sophomore Luke Campbell (6-3, 230) might see considerable playing time after Gallion sustained a foot injury in early August.
Returnees on defense include senior linebacker Tim Feasel (5-10, 175), senior defensive back Jonah Gutentag (6-4, 170) and sophomore defensive lineman Chris Crumb (6-1, 255).
Crumb will be flanked by junior defensive ends Nate Hall (6-1, 200) and Austin Kochheiser (6-4, 225) and senior lineman Andrew Wise (5-10, 235).
Other defensive starters were unclear in the preseason, but players on that side of the ball also were excited about Solis' new system. Olentangy plans to run a 4-4, a shift from the 3-5 Terwilliger employed.
"I really like the intensity," said senior linebacker Kevin Sherry (6-0, 235). "There's a lot of flying around. We have a whistle after every play and we have three seconds to fly to the ball. There are people everywhere. We have six or seven hats on the ball every time. It's nothing we're used to. Usually, it's one or two people making a tackle.
"We have some really fast and strong defensive linemen and that should help our linebackers. It's different because we have to play our responsibilities better."