That’s the question for Lima Senior’s football program this season after many of the players and the coach who took the Spartans to levels they hadn’t seen since the 1990s have moved on.
Low expectations have been replaced by big expectations after eight wins and nine wins and trips to the playoffs the last two seasons.
Lima Senior’s 22 wins in the last three seasons are more than the teams in the previous 12 years combined had won and the playoff trips were the first since the Spartans qualified for the postseason six times with Leonard Rush as their coach, including winning the 1996 Division I state championship.
The Spartans lost two first-team All-Ohio players – wide receiver Ruben Flowers III and linebacker Jaylin Thomas, who both were NCAA Division I recruits. Flowers is at the University of Pittsburgh and Thomas signed with Ball State.
They also lost players like quarterback Darius Gordon and wide receiver Rico Stafford, who helped make Lima Senior’s offense electrifying the last two seasons.
The talent cupboard is not bare, though, with players like running back Jaden Walker (1,609 yards rushing, 26 touchdowns) and offensive lineman Darius Collins (special mention All-Ohio) returning.
And to replace Fell, now the head coach at Mesa (Ariz.) Mountain View High School, Lima Senior hired Andre Griffin, a member of one of the most famous families in the history of Ohio football.
Griffin, the son of Ohio State legend Archie Griffin, is coaching at the high school level for the first time after working as a college assistant for a total of 11 seasons at Saginaw Valley State University and Capital University.
The Spartans have returning starters at 13 positions.
Walker was a two-way starter last season at running back and defensive back. The defense also has two starters back at linebacker, Dniyae Morris and Miguel Clark, two starters on the line, Cordell McDonald and Jalin McDonald, and Diamonte Fisher at defensive back.
Offensively, most of the experience is on the line, where Keaton Towsey, Caleb Tyson, Jordan McClendon and Collins are all back. Tight end Keaton Upshaw and Walker are the other returning starters.
With new talent and a new coach, some change is to be expected. But Griffin said the changes won’t be dramatic.
“It’s going pretty good. We’re still learning the system. Change is always hard. A lot of people are set in their ways but they’re learning how Coach Griffin wants to coach,” Griffin said.
Lima Senior will still use a spread offense, but with most of last year’s top pass catchers gone, will try to involve the tight end more. Defensively, the Spartans will line up in a 4-2-5 base defense after playing in a 3-5 last season.
“Our guys are young. We’re all new as far as the (quarterback and receiving) skill positions,” Griffin said.
Reach Jim Naveau at567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Navaeu.