UPPER SANDUSKY After an eight year drought, Upper Sandusky found itself back in the football playoffs last year.
While it was a short-lived trip, it was enough to inspire a team to put in the offseason effort that could allow the Rams to punch another postseason ticket.
"I think that what it meant was that we had a goal set and we reached a goal," Upper Sandusky coach Jake Moyer said. "That's important to do. Goal setting is an important thing in all of our lives. They set a goal of going to playoffs and they accomplished that. When you have a goal and have something to shoot for, it makes you want to earn it."
The goal to get back already is in the back of the players' minds.
"I thought we had a good offseason in the weight room. We had good participation and they worked hard this summer," Moyer said. "That in and of itself is not a guarantee. There are a lot of factors in getting to the playoffs. Some of it is luck but that gives you a foundation to work for."
While most would look at the weapons on the offense that Upper Sandusky returns, it's the offensive line that brings the most concern to the fifth-year coach.
|Upper Sandusky Rams|
|Head coach: Jake Moyer.|
|2012: 7-4 (5-2 NCC).|
|Assistant coaches: Isaac Anderson; Wyatt Garber; Zach Morral; Justin Richardson; Jason Beidelschies; Russell Hall; Dale Piecha; Chris Rodriguez; Blake England; Aaron Frazee; Brian Thomas.|
|Sept. 6||SENECA EAST|
|Sept. 13||at Mohawk|
|Sept. 20||at Crestline|
|Oct. 11||at Bucyrus|
|Oct. 18||BUCKEYE CENTRAL|
|Oct. 25||COL. CRAWFORD|
|Nov. 1||at Galion|
"Everyone sees the skill kids we return and no one remembers the inside kids we lost," Moyer said. "That's the heart and soul of the team and that's the engine under the hood that makes the car go fast."
Jevon Thiel will anchor the line at center and Walter Karg returns to left tackle. Collin Brown will man the left guard spot with Dylan Robertson handling the right. Alex Hampton should start at right tackle. Jacob Wages, Kaleb Hooper and Jalen Wigle also will rotate in at spots as well.
"If I can get seven or eight kids on the offensive line that know they are going to get some playing time, it helps the team," Moyer said. "If I say this is my starting five, what's my motivation for them to practice hard? I have the same attitude on the DL. Competition makes us better. I can keep them motivated by playing time. If you know you're going to get in, you're going to practice harder."
That crew has the job of blocking for one of the most electric quarterbacks in the area in Tylor Pritchard. He can't just hurt a team with his arm but with his legs as well.
"He's the hub of the offense. He is a multi-dimensional football player; he runs as well as he throws. He can make adjustments and changes on the field," said Moyer, adding that Pritchard will kick and punt as well. "We'll give him an audible to call if he sees a certain play is not going to go. Tylor has an understanding of the game beyond his age that I don't think a lot of quarterbacks have and that allows us to be very flexible with him. A lot of people don't realize his GPA is 3.9 and that factors into what we allow him to do."
At his disposal are a bevy of weapons, including two lightning quick backs in the backfield: Donald Barth and Will Adelsperger.
"They give us the dimension of speed," Moyer said. "They would make two great parts of a 4x100 relay. They're very competitive and both want to win badly."
Both seniors will split out a bit too, joining the likes of Seth Frey, Ross Dible and Alex Kenner as targets for Pritchard.
Defensively, the Rams will return to its 4-3 defense from last year, minus three of the four men up front: Ian Baker, Brad Hoy and Cameron Crawford.
"It's huge (to lose that) and we're finding that out a bit already," Moyer said. "The quality of kids that we lost is huge."
The eight who will see time on the offensive line figure into the defensive line scheme as well.
Pritchard will man the middle linebacker spot again, flanked by Adelsperger and Dermot Garza.
In the secondary, Barth, Frey, Kenner and Kolin Holloway figure into the mix.
That's the team that figures to challenge for the final go around in the North Central Conference.
"I really think Galion is going to be a very good football team. Wynford is going to be solid. Colonel Crawford beat us last year. There are 3-to-4 schools that figure into that," Moyer said. "Plus we play Carey in non-conference. They're going to be much improved from last year. We have our work cut out for us. We are not going to sashay though the conference and go 10-0. Anyone who thinks that should stick their head in a pencil sharpener. There are some really solid teams that we play in there."
Starting his 18thseason as a head football coach, Moyer knows what is required for success on Friday night.
"The first thing we have to do is establish who the leaders are and who's going to rally the kids," Moyer said. "So that's goal No. 1. Get our mind right and focus at the task at hand."
He also knows there's no Week 11 if the team doesn't focus on the weeks that come prior to that, starting with the opener.
"Carey is our No. 1 priority. They're a solid program and they've proven that over the course of decades," Moyer said. "From then on, it's a fight every week. When you hit the Wynfords, the Crawfords and Galions, you better have your feet underneath you and be ready to play."
He said getting back to the postseason starts with taking care of their own.
"As long as we focus on winning our games, the rest will take care of itself," Moyer said.