Ready: Silver Knights need new leaders to step forward
The Ready football team will lose 14 players to graduation after taking what coach Joel Cutler believes was a big step forward in the second year of his second tenure.
What the Silver Knights will miss the most from their senior class is what the players provided from a mental standpoint.
Seniors Darius Parham (QB), Tyrese Hudson (RB/WR) and Cole Matthews (LB) were among the biggest vocal leaders for a team that improved from 5-5 in 2019 to 6-3 — with a playoff win — this season.
“We had a great group of seniors and took some great steps in year two in handling adversity the way we wanted them to,” Cutler said. “It comes down to having a great group of seniors. They were a pretty talented bunch. We lose some great leadership and that will be the biggest thing that needs to be worked on. As much talent as these seniors had, their togetherness and leadership skills were extremely impressive. … They were fun to be around.”
Ready dropped its opener to Liberty Union 7-6 on Aug. 28 but lost only one other regular-season game, an 18-15 decision Sept. 18 at Harvest Prep.
After winning their final three of the regular season and receiving the No. 6 seed for the Division V, Region 19 playoffs, the Knights beat 11th-seeded McDermott Northwest 52-3 on Oct. 17 in a second-round game after a first-round bye.
In a 31-21 regional quarterfinal loss Oct. 24 at third-seeded Wheelersburg, Ready got to within 24-21 midway through the final quarter.
Parham, who rushed for 80 yards and threw for 99 yards and one touchdown against Wheelersburg, finished 58-for-98 passing for 659 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 463 yards and seven scores on 83 carries.
Hudson carried 103 times for 662 yards and five touchdowns, and senior wide receiver P.J. Daniels had 25 receptions for 263 yards.
Other graduation losses on offense include linemen Cael Dent and Jacob Baum.
Matthews had 77 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, six pass breakups and 1.5 sacks.
Other key seniors on defense included JeJuan McGowan (DL, 23.5 tackles, 7 tackles for loss), Jacob Metz (LB, 44.5 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 1 interception), Daniels (LB), Aiden Aiello (DB), Andy Schulze (DB) and Hudson (DB).
“We had great leadership this season coming from a great senior class and they did a great job of working with coach Cutler to make sure we were going to get the job done,” sophomore running back Brian Fitzsimmons said. “We knew we had the talent to be a great team. We just needed to get after it in the weight room and come together as a team to win games.
“We have a great returning group for next year, but we had a big senior class this year so there’s going to be quite a few spots to fill. I think we’ll be able to make some moves and find the right guys for the right spots.”
Fitzsimmons should be the top returnee on offense after rushing for 655 yards and 13 touchdowns on 128 carries.
Sophomore Kaleb Schaffer is the top candidate to take over at quarterback after serving as Parham’s backup.
Sophomore Logan Dimel and junior Devon Malone should be the top returnees on the offensive line, with Malone and sophomore Jared Koboi returning on the defensive line.
Malone finished with 31 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss.
Juniors J'Sun Gardner (DB), Zac McAndrew (LB) and Conor Moore (LB) and sophomore Sage Tilley (DB) are others eligible to return on defense.
Junior Evan O’Connell (K/P) went 8-for-10 on field-goal attempts and averaged 36.4 yards on 25 punts.
Ready went 4-2 against teams in the MSL-Ohio Division, a league in which it continues to be considered an auxiliary member.
Cutler hopes the program makes a more definitive decision about its league status over the coming months.
“We started with doing Zoom meetings and then everybody was in the stay-at-home order, so when you could see the kids in person that was actually a blessing in itself,” Cutler said. “We’ll return quite a few guys on the line of scrimmage that I’m excited about. Devon Malone had a good season as a junior at left tackle and nose guard and is a good, big, strong, powerful kid. Jared Koboi has got a ton of mobility and has a huge upside to him.
"Brian Fitzsimmons had a great season this year and, as a sophomore, he’s only going to become faster and stronger. Logan Dimel has started over a dozen football games for us on the offensive line and we return several guys in our secondary. Kaleb Schaffer played a lot on defense as an outside linebacker and he’s (6-foot-4, 190 pounds) so he’s a big young man and was our (junior varsity) quarterback. The lights won’t be too bright for him and he knows our system.”
•Record: 6-3 overall
•Seniors lost: Aiden Aiello, Jalen Bailey, Jacob Baum, Alex Contosta, P.J. Daniels, Cael Dent, Tyrese Hudson, Cole Matthews, JeJuan McGowan, Jacob Metz, Darius Parham, Jacob Roof, Andy Schulze and Elias Wahl
•Key returnees: Logan Dimel, Brian Fitzsimmons, J’Sun Gardner, Jared Koboi, Devon Malone, Evan O’Connell, Kaleb Schaffer and Sage Tilley
•Postseason: Defeated McDermott Northwest 52-3; lost to Wheelersburg 31-21 in Division V, Region 19 quarterfinal