ELIDA – When Kyle Harmon took over as the head coach of his alma mater in 2020, the Elida football program was desperately looking for a restart.
Elida went 2-18 between the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
In Harmon’s first season at the helm, Elida went 6-3. In 2021, the Bulldogs were 4-6. In 2015, while an assistant coach at Elida, Harmon stepped in as the interim head coach and went 2-0.
This season, the Elida coaching staff will try to fill some voids that were created with the graduation of several key athletes.
“I want to say we lost five (starters) on offense and five on defense,” Harmon said. “But we have a lot of experience coming back. We have some young guys who played some, but will now be stepping in to that starting role this year.”
Senior quarterback Larkin Henderson (5-10, 175) returns for the Bulldogs. Henderson missed a great deal of playing time in 2021.
“He (Henderson) sprained his knee in week one,” Harmon said. “Then, he separated his shoulder in week six. So, Jackson Covault (then a sophomore), got a lot of quality time at quarterback. … With Covault (6-0, 175) being a speed guy, he’ll be moving out to a receiver this year.”
Last season, Elida was sixth in the Western Buckeye League in total team offense, averaging 232.1 yards per game. The Bulldogs’ offensive unit averaged 15.8 points per game.
Harmon realizes he will need to fill some big shoes from last season.
“We lost Jayden Irons (32 catches, 354 yards, 2 TDs) and Gunnar Kuhn (23 catches, 372 yards, 3 TDs) from last season,” Harmon said. “They were kind of our two vertical threats. But the guys we have back, they can stretch the field. … They’ve been working extremely hard.”
The Bulldogs have several key returners that should make an impact this fall.
“We have Larkin (Henderson), who returns at quarterback; and we have Jackson Covault, who played some games when Larkin got injured,” Harmon said. “We have Keaton Hawkey (5-11, 190, Jr.) back at a receiver, and Noah Schweitzer (6-1, 190, Jr.) at tight end. We have Tori Thomas (6-2, 220, Sr.) and Luke Alexander (5-11, 180, Sr.) back on the O-line. We have some fresh faces coming in, but we also have some kids who have played, because of injuries the past couple years.”
Last season, Brady Kirk led Elida in rushing with 637 yards on 151 carries (4.2 yards per carry) and three TDs. Kirk (5-11, 190, Sr.) returns for the Bulldogs.
“We’re going to spread it out,” Harmon said. “We’re going to take advantage of our skill set. We’re not built the same as last year. The O-line will be a work in progress. …. But we’ll get a little better up front, because some of the kids do have some experience. In the end, the offense is going to look very similar to past seasons.”
Last season, defensively, Elida gave up 20.2 points per contest, which ranked seventh in the league. Jayden Irons, who graduated, led the WBL in interceptions last season with four.
“We lost three DBs (defensive backs), two linebackers and two defensive linemen,” Harmon said. “With that being said, we had a lot of guys who got some experience last year, because of injuries.
“Defensively, we should be pretty good. We had a good summer; and we do have some guys ready to step up, who have put some size on.”
Henderson is feeling optimistic about the upcoming season.
“I feel really good about this season,” Henderson said. “We have some younger guys stepping up this year. We have a good, solid group. I think it’s going to be a solid year.”
Henderson should see some time at a cornerback position as well.
Senior defensive back Tyler Carter (5-9, 170) feels confident that this year’s defensive unit will hold its own in the very competitive Western Buckeye League.
“I think our defense is going to be very strong again,” Carter said. “We have a lot of good DBs coming back. Our linebacker corps is pretty solid. We have some big guys coming back at the linebacker positions. The D-line is going to be pretty good again.
“We have some key guys who got pretty big during the offseason in the weight room; and they’re going to take some big steps.”
Carter should see some playing time at a running back position as well.
The numbers are a little down this season for the Bulldogs. However, Harmon is confident that his team can still compete.
“We’re going to dress about 45 (players) on Friday nights,” Harmon said. “We have a good group of kids, who work extremely hard. … Those things are going to pay off on the football field. Our kids do expect to win every week, which is a good thing.”
Coach: Kyle Harmon
Years at school, record: 3 as head coach (17 overall), 12-9
Last season’s record: 4-6 overall, 3-6 Western Buckeye League
Division: Division III
Returning letterwinners: 16
Returning starters: Larkin Henderson (QB), Brady Kirk (RB), Noah Schweitzer (TE), Keaton Hawkey (WR), Jackson Covault (WR), Tori Thomas (OL, DL), Kevin McGuire (DL), David Etzkorn (LB), Tyler Carter (DB), Grant Hardeman (K), Logan Crow (P)
August 19 – at Spencerville
August 26 – at Kenton
September 2 – at Ottawa-Glandorf
September 9 – Bath
September 16 –Celina
September 23 – at Defiance
September 30 – Wapakoneta
October 7 – St. Marys
October 14 – at Van Wert
October 21 – Shawnee
All games begin at 7 p.m.