The memories of 2012 are probably still fresh in the minds of Columbian faithful. A 10-0 regular season and Northern Ohio League title don't get forgotten easily.
But for Brian Colatruglio, those memories are just that. The 2013 Tornadoes are a new group looking to make their own mark.
"What I enjoy the most about high school football is that every season is a completely new experience," he said. "New group of kids, new group of leaders. We got some new coaches. Everything we did last year, the last three years, is all great. We're pleased to win the NOL and go 10-0, but this is a completely different group. They got their own personalities, their own strengths and weaknesses."
Colatruglio doesn't like using the word "defend" when talking about the NOL. He prefers to look at is as his team trying to win the NOL title, rather defending last year's title.
"(Alabama coach) Nick Saban says all the time 'you don't defend anything.' This is a new year," Colatruglio said. "We're going to try to win the NOL. We're going to try to make the playoffs. We're not defending anything."
That being said, winning the league title a year ago does put a target on the backs of this year's squad. But Colatruglio said that just comes with being a part of one of northwest Ohio's top programs.
|2012: 11-1, 5-0 Northern Ohio League.|
|Head coach: Brian Colatruglio.|
|Assistant coaches: Brent Berrier, Jim Dempster, Paul Dunn, Cody Myers, Jason Bish, Nate Colatruglio, Brad Snyder.|
|Sept. 13||at Anthony Wayne|
|Sept. 20||at Norwalk|
|Sept. 27||at Sandusky|
|Oct. 11||at Willard|
|Oct. 25||at Marion Harding|
"It comes with being a part of Tiffin Columbian football," he said. "We're always going to have a target on our back in our league. The tradition that's been established here the past 20 years is pretty strong. That's part of the responsibility of being part of this team."
Columbian brings back a good amount of experience, especially on the line. But, there are several holes in the skill positions that need filled. Jack Jacoby, who has been a fixture in the Columbian backfield the past two years graduated, as did Mike Rohrbach, last year's starting quarterback.
Rohrbach's duties will be turned over to sophomore Stone Simmons who Colatruglio says is the same sort of drop-back passer. He even compared Simmons to a former quarterback of his at Hopewell-Loudon who was with Colatruglio in two state finals appearances.
"He's a young guy but he's got a big arm," Colatruglio said. "He's more like Mike, and at this age he reminds me a lot of Tyler Brown that I had at Hopewell. He's the tall, strong-armed pocket quarterback. I think we're going to look a little bit different than what we've probably looked the last couple years."
Ryan Lynch, the team's second-leading rusher from a season ago, moves up to become the primary ball carrier. Spencer Franklin and Jace Hurt also will get carries and Tyler Gillig will be the fullback, giving Columbian a good set of backs.
"We got some real quality depth at running back," Colatruglio said. "Ryan's going to be our workhorse for sure, but we got some other guys. Spencer Franklin is going to be a nice change of pace. He's a little bit smaller, a really quick kid, got great feet. He will give us a little different look in the backfield."
Wide receiver is an area where the cupboard was left pretty bare.
"We don't have a starting receiver that caught a ball in a varsity game last year," Colatruglio admitted. "We have two senior starters at split end - they just haven't played - in Nate Hoyda and Jeffrey Crawford. But they're solid. They waited their turn; they sat behind two two-year starters. They're ready to go."
Derek Dryfuse will start at right end while sophomore Cody Kimmet and freshman Russ Yeast will be the slot receivers. Colatruglio admitted it isn't often a freshman gets such a prominent role at Columbian, but he feels Yeast can handle the job.
"That will be the first freshman that I've started, but he's earned it. He can be a special player," Colatruglio said. "[A freshman starting] hasn't happened since I've been here. I know coach Gilbert had a few, but it's a pretty short list. He's earned it. He's ready to play at that level."
The offensive line in anchored by Isiah Moore, who Colatruglio says is "probably the best football player I've ever coached."
The senior has already received offers from Toledo and Kent State and Colatruglio says more are likely to come in.
"He's just a big time football player," Colatruglio said. "It's not very often a player can dominate a game of football from the offensive line position, but he's somebody who can. There's no secret, we're going to run left a lot."
Moore is joined on the line by Austin Thallman at left guard, Nevin Lantz at center, Ian O'Donnell at right guard and Frazier Daniel at right tackle.
"It's the strength of our team," Colatruglio said of the line. "As good as we were the last two years, this group is bigger and stronger and more athletic than those two groups that we've had. This could be the best offensive line that we've had here, and that's saying something 'cause we've been pretty good, but these five guys are extremely talented. We're going to be fun to watch."
Colatruglio says there will be more rotation of bodies on the defensive end of the ball. Dryfuse and Chase Keller will start as defensive ends with Zach Young also seeing a lot of time. Reed Vaughn and three-year starter Codey Chance will anchor the line as tackles.
At inside linebacker, Colatruglio has what he says are four solid seniors who can all be effective in Lynch, Gillig, Hurt and Andy Schwartz.
Jacob Dickman and Ross Pauly will start at outside linebackers with Issac Theis and Roman Williams rotating in.
Crawford, Trevor O'Conner and Josh Briggs will man the corners and Hoyda returns as the starting free safety.
Columbian will have to get through the first three weeks of the season without senior Donovan Walker, who will sit out due to disciplinary issues. But once on the field, Walker will bring another dynamic to the Tornado offense.
"He's one of our most talented players," Colatruglio said. "Offensive we're going to put him in a position to get the ball in his hands."
The early schedule, though, will be a good measuring stick to see where this Tornado team stacks up. Clyde is back as the week 1 opponent, but Mansfield and Fostoria are off the schedule, replaced by Maumee and Anthony Wayne.
"Our non-league schedule, this is the best we've had 1-2-3," Columbian said. "With Clyde, Maumee and Anthony Wayne, we gotta be ready to go. Those are three good football teams. Some really good programs that play in good leagues. We're going to have to be ready to go from the start."