For the Scotland County football program, 2019 will be a new start. After bidding farewell to eight key graduates, Coach Troy Carper will have some big shoes to fill in the latest version of the Tigers.
“We talked about those eight seniors on day number one at practice,” said Carper. “We have to move on and continue to build off the foundation they helped make for us.”
That groundwork featured an 8-3 record and included a seven game win streak and a win over then #1 ranked Westran before an untimely exit in the district semifinals courtesy of a loss to South Shelby.
Carper will have to replace three all-state performers in Will Fromm, Mason Kliethermes and Matthew Woods and only has three seniors on his current 25-man roster.
Fromm, the team’s starting signal caller the past two years, will leave the biggest void. He threw for 1,882 yards and 23 touchdowns and also rushed for 688 yards and 11 more scores.
“Obviously that is a lot of offense to replace,” said Carper. Hayden Long has some big shoes to fill, but he is excited about the opportunity. He is only a sophomore, so we’ll try to keep things as simple as possible early on for him.”
Long saw action in several games last year as a freshman, when he carried the ball 32 times for 221 yards and a TD. He only attempted 15 passes.
“Offensively we will be utilizing some downhill run schemes mixing in some of the RPOs (run-pass options) from last year,” said Carper, who will be taking over the reins of the offense after the departure of coordinator Kyle Ellison.
Coach Rod Sears will assumed the defensive play calling with newcomer Logan Duty handling the special teams.
While Hayden Long has a key role to fill for 2019, Carper said his offensive line likely will be the key to 2019. The coaches will have to find five new starters to man the trenches, after Luke Triplett, Grant McRobert, Mason Kliethermes and Conner Harrison graduated. The lone holdover, center Branton Burrus, will be moving into the backfield.
“We have some new faces this year that will be asked to step up and play on Fridays,” said Carper. “We recruited the hallways pretty hard and had a move in that will all be beneficial pieces to our puzzle.”
Burrus will take over at fullback for Jayden Payne, who led the Tigers with 930 yards and 14 rushing TDs.
Carper said that move should facilitate the ground attack that will be a key to SCR-I’s immediate success. The senior will team up with junior Kaden Anders and sophomore Alex Long to give the team an athletic backfield. Anders ran for 285 yards and six TDs as a sophomore while Alex Long had 136 yards and three scores on 23 carries as a freshman.
“We need to develop our line and establish our run game,” said Carper. “That will help us open up our pass game. We will look to use the entire field and spread teams out to help open those lanes up.”
When Hayden Long looks to air it out, he will have Anders and senior Parker Triplett as lead targets after the departure of all-state receiver Matthew Woods who amassed 753 yards and 11 scores. Anders actually led the team with 32 receptions a year ago, going for 621 yards and 5 TDs. Triplett had 13 catches for 156 yards and two TDs. Senior Lathe Bair will add another big target for Long.
Burrus returns to anchor the defense from his middle linebacker position where he recorded a team-best 95 tackles a season ago.
New defensive coordinator Rod Sears will have to replace Payne and Mason Kliethermes who combined for nearly 150 stops, as well as Fromm who made 72 tackles from his safety position.
The team will also have to replace Luke Triplett and Grant McRobert on the defensive line, but Carper said he has been impressed with the work of Eli Kigar, Kadon Chabert and Preston Sanchez.
“Those are all names we expect to be making a lot of plays for us along the defensive line,” said Carper. They have been looking really good early on. Xavier Lucas, Owen Triplett and Trayon Buckallew all have shown some promise to help in the defensive back field.”
Sanchez is a player Carper said should be able to help the young team on both side of the ball.
“He has really stepped up and made a difference on both sides of the ball,” said Carper. “We expect to mix and match our lineups until we find the perfect fit. I honestly believe we have some kids on the practice team right now that will develop the necessary skills to be starting come week eight or nine.”
The Tigers will kick off the 2019 season at home versus Marceline on August 30th. Fayette will come to Memphis the following Friday followed by Paris before SCR-I finally hits the road in week #4 at Schuyler County.