LIMA — One of the popular theories with some coaches recently is to make everything a competition — every play in practice, every repetition in the weight room, everything.
But that might have already been built into Lima Central Catholic’s football season, with 14 open positions in the starting lineup going into preseason practice.
The Thunderbirds, 8-3 a year ago, have returning players at five positions on offense and five on defense. Six of those positions are filled by returning two-way starters.
“Last year when I came in here, it was pretty obvious who our best 11 were on both sides,” second-year coach Scott Palte said. “This year, we’ve had some pretty intense competition. Guys see there are opportunities to play.
“We’ve had a lot of competition, trying to find guys. Like a lot of teams right now, we’re still trying to find out who’s playing where. We think we’ve got some good guys. Hopefully, by Week 1 they’ll be ready to go,” he said.
LCC will have to replace six players who received some type of All-Northwest Ohio recognition from The Associated Press, including linebacker Malik Laws, who was a third-team Division VI All-Ohio player.
Quarterback Ethan O’Connor (2,345 yards passing, 829 yards rushing, 38 overall touchdowns) leads the returning starters. He also starts at defensive back.
He has three returning offensive linemen in front of him — Jamison Bradley (special mention All-Northwest Ohio), Tra Callahan and Ryan Rhodes. But, other than Nick Taflinger, the wide receivers will all be new. Replacements will have to be found for Dimitri Floyd (first-team All-Northwest Ohio) and Cameron White (second-team All-Northwest Ohio) in LCC’s spread offense.
Bradley and Callahan also are returning starters on the defensive line, and linebackers Tate Lamb and Vinny Pignataro were starters a year ago.
“We’re going to rely on Ethan to run and throw the ball. We think we’ve got some pretty decent targets. Nick Taflinger is a three-year letterman. Thomas Williams is back out as a junior and he’s a big target and can catch the ball. We think we have some speed and some athletes who can catch the ball,” Palte said.
“I think we’ve thrown the ball pretty well in practice. On defense, we’ve got to improve our tackling and our physicality up front has to improve both ways. We’ve got some guys who we think can do that. We need some guys to grow up for us. We’ve got some players,” he said.
Some of those players might have to come from the sophomore class. LCC has nine seniors and only five juniors on its roster.
“You’re going to have to have some sophomore guys who are going to step up and play. There are lots of new faces when you’ve only got five guys back on each side,” Palte said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.