BY CHAD DARE
CAYUGA, Ind. —
Success and expectations go hand-in-hand.
In 2011, the North Vermillion Falcons won their first sectional title in 18 seasons. And a year ago, they added a Wabash River Conference championship and an undefeated regular season to their second straight sectional title.
So, it’s very natural that the expectations for the 2013 Falcons are higher when talking with fans of the program this summer.
But, how do the players see things for this season?
“Our personal expectations are to get better every week and strive to do our best always,’’ said North Vermillion senior lineman Robby Davis, one of five returning starters on offense.
Lucas Clark, another returning senior lineman for the Falcons, admits the team wants to go farther again this year.
“You always want to build on your previous success and you always want to go farther in the tournament,’’ he said. “So, we would like to get past regionals this year and win another conference title.’’
North Vermillion and Fountain Central, who had its three-year conference title run ended last year, appear to be the favorites for this year’s league crown.
“We’re going to be held to a high expectation around the conference, and we know that we are going to get everyone’s best shot because we won it last year,’’ said North Vermillion quarterback Brayden Woodard, the 2012 Commercial-News Player of the Year after amassing more than 3,000 yards of total offense and contributing 49 touchdowns (30 rushing, 19 passing).
And while the Falcons return the offensive field general, they will need to find replacements for a couple of his lieutenants
Kody Zumwalt and Wade Harrison combined for 2,400 yards of total offense and 33 touchdowns a year ago.
“They are going to be hard to replace, but we hope that Jacob Earl and Braeden Hollowell are going to do great this season,’’ said Woodard. “They have worked hard in the offseason to get themselves ready.’’
North Vermillion coach Brian Crabtree admits that it’s just part of high school football.
“As hard as it is to place those guys, the potential is there for some kids to step in and be successful on their own,’’ he said.
While the names are going to be different this year, don’t expect a bunch of changes in the North Vermillion philosophy.
“Other than the new kids stepping up, it’s the same,’’ Clark said. “We have the same work ethic, but a little higher goals this year.
“Overall, it’s the same team.’’
One of the main strengths of the North Vermillion program has been its team speed and the Falcons ability to execute a fast-paced offense.
“We’re a smaller football team, but we’re quick,’’ said Clark, who plays on the offensive line at 6-foot and 210 pounds. “We rely on our quickness and our speed to be successful.
The Falcons roster has only two players taller than 6-foot and only five players that weight more than 200 pounds.
“We know that we don’t have much size, but we want to use our speed and quickness to wear out those bigger players that we face,’’ said Abbot Dowers, a 5-10, 190-pounder linebacker for the Falcons.
Offensively, North Vermillion averaged 43.3 points per game a year ago. And the overall defensive numbers were good, as the Falcons allowed just 13.1 points per game, but five of their 13 opponents scored 20 or more against them a year ago.
Woodard, who also starts at safety, believes the Falcons are going to be better on the defensive side of the football.
“Guys are stepping up in their roles and we have more depth and more experience,’’ he said. “On defense we return eight or nine people and we have a couple of other guys that have some varsity experience.’’
And that experience was one thing that North Vermillion lacked a year ago on defense.
“Everyone on the defense have matured a little bit,’’ Dowers said. “And with more mature players on the defense, the better we can help our younger players learn the system.
“A year ago with a new coach and everything, we were learning things on the fly. I feel we are much more comfortable with the system.’’
Ethan Kunkle, the leading tackler on last year’s team, will return to anchor the defense and he knows he has another role that he has to fill.
“We learned how to be leaders and how to be vocal from last year’s senior leaders,’’ he said. “Now, it’s our turn to be the leaders.’’
Crabtree said one of the keys for his team will be staying healthy. North Vermillion had just 14 upperclassmen on its 37-man roster.
“Seniors leave and freshmen come up,’’ Davis said. “It’s rebuild and keep going.’’
North Vermillion will open the 2013 season with a pair of road games starting with its WRC opener at Turkey Run on Friday night, followed by a contest at South Vermillion on Aug. 30.
The first home game at Gibson Field, which has recently been renovated with a new bleachers on the home side, will be Sept. 7 against the Covington Trojans.
North Vermillion Falcons
Head Coach — Brian Crabtree
2012 record — 12-1
Date Opponent Time
Aug. 23 at Turkey Run * 7 p.m.
Aug. 30 at South Vermillion 7 p.m.
Sept. 6 Covington * 7 p.m.
Sept. 13 at North Central 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 Riverton Parke * 7 p.m.
Sept. 27 at Attica * 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 4 Rockville * 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 at Fountain Central * 7 p.m.
Oct. 18 Seeger * 7 p.m.
— All Times Eastern
* — Wabash River Conference Game