ELIDA — Turnovers can hurt a team.
Just ask Elida coach Jason Carpenter.
In 2014, Elida (4-6, 4-5 Western Buckeye League) turned the football over 18 times.
This season, the Bulldogs are hoping to clean up the turnovers and work their way back into the WBL title race.
However, along with cleaning up the turnovers, Elida will have to fill some voids left from the graduation of several key players.
“We lost nine seniors from last year. Most significant, we lost five of our defensive guys,” Carpenter said. “We have some voids we have to fill, but the young guys stepped up last year in the second half of the year, like we needed them to. We turned the ball over way too much last season. We need to sure that up.”
Returning at quarterback for Elida is senior Logan Alexander (6-0, 200). Last season, Alexander was 114 of 208 passing for 1,545 yards, 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 1,102 yards and 14 TDs (second in the WBL). Alexander was named WBL Offensive Back of the Year in 2014.
“We have to know our assignments and be fundamentally sound,” Alexander said.
“Last year we had some assignment busts that lost us those close games. We have to make sure we finish games. I think all of our losses were less than seven (points) except for one.”
Gone from last year’s offense are two key wide receivers. Clark Etzler (40 catches, 601 yards, 7 TDs) is now playing at Mount Union. Also, Christian Moran (33 catches, 418 yards, 1 TD) has moved on.
“It kind of goes to our philosophy of how we lost (quarterback) Reggie (McAdams) and (wide receiver) Austin (Clark) in the same year (after 2011 season),” Carpenter said. “It’s not that we’re counting on just one guy. It’s when you’re losing good athletes, you take a couple and have them combine to replace them. It’s not like we’re asking one guy to do what Clark (Etzler) did. … It’s impossible. We’re going to ask a couple guys to do what Clark did.”
Last season, Elida scored 26.3 points per game. And like last season, the Bulldogs will run the spread offense in 2015.
“Offensively, we’ve got a lot coming back,” Carpenter said. “We return nine starters, four of which are on the offensive line. So, that’s got to be the strength of our team, the offensive line.”
Returners on the offensive line include center Tristan Edwards (6-0, 240, Sr.), tackle Noah Meeker (6-0, 235, Jr.), guard Tyler Kanitz (5-9, 200, Sr.) and tackle Dylan Holcomb (5-8, 175, Sr.).
Defensively, the Bulldogs return a lot. However, according to Carpenter, the defense still has a way to go. Last season, Elida’s defense gave up 24.4 points per game.
“Midway through last season, we changed philosophies and switched to a 3-3-5. …We’re going to stick to a 3-3-5,” Carpenter said. “We have a lot of guys back, but we still have a lot of sophomores and juniors out there on defense. So, we’re young on defense, but we’re very talented on defense. So, the good news is that we’re young, and the bad news is that we’re young. But, I like the makeup of our defense right now. They fire out and get to the ball and they’re going to try to create turnovers, which is something we haven’t done very well in the past.
“Our defense came up with its own goals this year. They want to come up with three turnovers a game. That’s a big number, but I encourage that. … If we’re getting three turnovers a game, then we’re going to win the turnover battle. I’m hoping that our defense really steps up, like I think they will.”
Last season, Elida forced 14 turnovers.
Carpenter feels that the WBL will be very competitive this season.
“O-G, on paper, is probably one of the favorites. Kenton is always going to be good. I think (head coach) Doug Frye is going to do a good job of resurrecting St. Marys football. Wapak is going to be good because they are big and mean. … They’re just tough. So, those are the teams that really stick out. It’s going to be tough. … Every week’s going to be a battle,” he said.