Todd Fox used the politically correct clich, but then his optimism overwhelmed him.
The fourth-year Calvert coach has the Senecas thinking big this year. He didn't seem to want to say how big, at least at first.
"Ultimately, we're gonna go one game at a time, but we have high expectations this season," he said.
So far, so good. Nothing out of the ordinary with that sound byte.
"We want to compete at every level for championships, not only in our league, but we want to compete in the playoffs, and for a state championship," Fox said.
|2012: 6-4 (5-2 MAL).|
|Head coach: Todd Fox.|
|Assistant coaches: Mike Hart; Pat Herron; Brian Long; Alex Lucius; Aaron Smith; Adam Smith; Ryan Szablewski; Dan Traxler.|
|Aug. 30||at McComb|
|Sept. 7||ST. PAUL|
|Sept. 27||at Seneca East|
|Oct. 11||at North Baltimore|
|Oct. 19||at St. Joe|
|Nov. 1||at Hopewell-Loudon|
The Senecas are coming off back-to-back playoff appearances, and have a boatload of starters returning. But it's not just experience. It's quality experience, and the Calvert mentor knows it.
So why hide it?
"We know we have an expectation and a purpose to do some special things," he said. "It's a special team, and it's been evidenced from December of last year to now. The leadership, the work ethic, it's just special. We use the slogan 'we do everything with a purpose.' And they've done that from day one, and (the players and staff) work with a purpose every day."
When you talk about Calvert's veteran players, you have to start on the offensive line. That's because the team returns all five of its starters there, and has a sixth player who gained valuable playing time in '12.
"So we feel we have six starters returning, and then we have a junior that's stepped up in Jesse Gase, so we feel very confident in our O-line," Fox said. "Last year we came into the season with two starters coming back, and they developed. This year we have six guys that have at least 12 games experience in front of them, and some of them have started for three years, so we're pretty excited about what those guys can do. We're doing things now that are in the next level of our playbook that we couldn't do before, already in the preseason. So we're excited [about] what they can do."
Matt Ianntuono is back at center, with Cameron Felter returning at right guard. Marcus Somers, a three-year starter, is at left guard. Austin Perry will be the left tackle while Aaron Engelhart is at right tackle.
Marcus King is the squad's sixth man.
"He's talented enough that on most lines, I think he'd be starting, but we're very fortunate with the returning chemistry and the five guys we have," Fox said.
Fox said he also feels fortunate with his starting quarterback, Tyler Long. The junior is coming off a brilliant season in which he rushed for 896 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. He also threw for 995 yards and six scores.
"Tyler's a special player. Last year was his first time at quarterback since the junior high days," Fox said.
And this year, Fox said he expects Long to be a more prolific passer.
"Obviously last year you looked at him, and it's kind of by design of their coach, me [that he ran so much]," Fox said. "I like to run the ball. But he has developed his passing game, his passing abilities throughout the year. He's got a great receiving core, a sound receiving core, they've got some timing down, so we expect big things out of him, both ways."
Fox said Drew Ritzler and Peyton Deats will be the backups.
As for those receivers, Fox listed three right away: Dan Reineke, Mike Smith and Donavon Stith.
"All three of the guys are very good in the open field," Fox said. "And then we have Devin Stith, he's a tight end-slash-split out receiver on the opposite side. All these receivers are so good in the open field that we feel confident. They've been working together. And then you've got Drew Ritzler again, who will be the multi-back that will be at the receiver, and Austin Prenzlin. We just feel good that these guys have some great open field speed. We may not have that blazer, seam guy that's going to outrun everybody, but their ability to find those openings are great."
Of course, any Fox team usually has a strong backfield. The Senecas lost Dan Kwiat and his 776 yards on the ground to graduation, but the coach likes what he has there.
"We lost Dan Kwiat, and that's a big loss," Fox said. "But Austin Ball had an early injury last season, and really never got in the groove, maybe a couple games here and there, and then of course Dan took it over. But Austin Ball, from his sophomore year, I think had 14 touchdowns. So we feel confident that he's a different back than Dan was; he has a little bit quicker vision and he's a little bit quicker."
And Fox said they have depth there.
"We also have some young guys. Adam Recker will be the next guy in; a sophomore. He's a Dan Kwiat build, but faster," Fox said. "Bailey Hickman's come along a long way, and Tanner Smith has come a long way. So we feel we have a stable of backs who can continue our running game style and our type of ballgame."
Fox said Devin Stith and Mitch Depinet will play at tight end.
On defense, the Senecas will make a few tweaks, mainly due to the graduation of Kwiat, the team's star linebacker.
"It's very similar. The difference, obviously is Dan Kwiat was our big middle linebacker, so because of that, we're going to adjust to a 4-2-5 look," Fox said. "In that we have two quick, powerful middle linebackers to combine making one big Dan. But beyond that, if anything we're just so much faster than we've been in the past."
At the linebacker spots, Depinet (the squad's leading tackler) and Recker will man the inside.
"So those two guys are very good inside, and both of them were that Mike-type backer, but they were just not 200 pounds like Dan was."
Fox said that duo will be aided by the strength the Senecas have up front.
"What's very fortunate is that, in front of them is All-Ohio Marcus Somers, returning starter Matt Ianntuono, returning guard Austin Perry. So when you have returning starters in front of you, it feels pretty good, in that we can change our scheme and be OK," Fox said.
And there's more depth on the line.
"Devin Stith is playing a little defensive end, but again, we have a lot of guys that, for the first time in three years, we're able to say, we've got a second d-line to come in, give them a rest that's... not too many steps down from our first D-line," Fox said. "Noah Francis, a guy I didn't mention on offense, is a kid that's going to be able to play, and Jesse Gase will do some stuff on our defensive line."
In the secondary, Calvert returns more experience.
"We looked at our personnel, and we knew the kind of guys we had. We knew we had to have Tyler Long and Austin Ball both on our defense," Fox said. "So to accommodate that, we put those two guys as our outside safeties, so they'll be rolling up to our outside linebackers position. Tyler being his third year starting, Austin being close to his third year starting, so we feel good there. Our middle free safety will be our only kid who never started and that's Drew Ritzler, but he's come along. Great football mind. Then our two corners return, Donavon Stith and Dan Reineke. We just feel good about what those guys do. It still leaves us our utility defensive back, Mike Smith.
In special teams, Smith is back to kick and punt, carrying on a family tradition. His brother, Stephen, was an all-state kicker for Calvert before moving on to Heidelberg.
"(Mike) has a personal goal to be better than his brother," Fox said. "He's not that far off."
Fox said Reineke, Donavon Stith and Ball will act as the team's kick and punt returners.