SPENCERVILLE — With starters back at 16 positions from a 9-3 football team, Spencerville is on everyone’s short list of contenders in the Northwest Conference.
But the Bearcats know they still will have to go a long way to get where they want to be.
“Our kids are very driven. They have goals. They have things they want to achieve,” Spencerville coach John Zerbe said.
“You remember what you have accomplished and are thankful for it. But you realize you haven’t done anything this year. You haven’t won any games. The big thing is that you remember what it took to get you there,” he said.
Spencerville’s nine wins were more than any Bearcats’ team since the 10-0 team in 1963. Their 36-7 first-round playoff win over Crestview was the first playoff victory in school history.
But they’re looking for even more this season.
Senior linebacker and offensive lineman Evan Pugh said, “We should forget the wins. We should remember what it took to get there. We need to up our performance because we want every year to be better than the last.”
Senior running back/linebacker Zach Goecke, who was a second-team All-Ohio selection last season, said, “It (last season) definitely sets a standard for senior year. It sets it high.”
How high is that standard?
“I would have to say 10-0 and undefeated conference champions,” Goecke said.
Goecke rushed for 1,641 yards last season and led Spencerville in tackles with 150.
The Bearcats’ ground-oriented Wing-T offense averaged 398 yards a game total offense last year, with 331 of those yards coming from the running game.
They had three of the top eight individual rushers in the NWC last season, but only Goecke is back out of that group.
That doesn’t necessarily mean he will carry a heavier load this year, Zerbe said.
“The cupboard is not bare. We always seem to have kids who can run the ball,” he said.
Calvin Wilson, who was honorable mention All-NWC as a defensive back a year ago, and Keaton Lotz, are among the other options to carry the ball.
Three-year starting quarterback Mason Nourse doesn’t pass often, averaging only seven passes a game, but is effective when he does. He completed 56 percent of his passes for seven touchdowns in 2014.
Spencerville has returning starters in nine positions on offense and in seven positions on defense. Three of its offensive linemen received All-NWC recognition last season. Wyatt Krouskop, Evan Barnett and Pugh all were honorable mention on offense, and Krouskop (second team) and Pugh (honorable mention) also were honored on defense.
“We’re very experienced. We have a lot of kids back. We also have a lot of kids who maybe don’t have a letter and spent time on the JV level, and now they’re ready to play on the varsity. Maybe you haven’t heard their names yet,” Zerbe said. “We feel like for the first time in a long time we have some depth.”
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.