SPENCERVILLE – Sometimes it takes a while before a team will come together with a new coach.
When Chris Sommers took over the Spencerville football program last season – after a successful stint at Delphos Jefferson – it didn’t take long before his squad got adjusted.
After losing its first two games of the season, Spencerville then won nine of its next 10 games, en route to winning the Northwest Conference title and playing in the state playoffs – where it lost in the second round to Marion Local.
“We started out 0-2,” Sommers said. “I feel that now we’re a year forward. I feel like we’ve really grown from last year. We had some adversity things – things you have to learn from – and this team stuck
together last year. They did some really great things, and I was proud of them.”
Sommers said his team did not rest on its laurels after last season’s success.
“This was a group that when they got back to work, you didn’t hear that (NWC title) come up too much,” he said. “It’s a hungry team. It’s a senior group. We have high expectations. I think they feel we did some good things last year, but feel there are some things we could have done better. We’re coming in to try to fix that a little bit – particularly starting the season a little better. That’s a goal we have coming into this season.”
Sommers said the transition went pretty well.
“The nice thing was, they had a good idea of the Wing-T, because obviously, they ran it successfully before, too,” Sommers said. “We put in some little changes here and there. No transition is easy. I found that out a little bit last year. It takes some time. I think earning the players’ trust and learning who they are is important. Once we were able to do that, we were able to grow as a program.”
The Bearcats return 11 letter winners. However, Sommers did not enter summer camp with the depth chart set in stone.
“Right now, we have competition here – which is good,” Sommers said. “We’re a year older, so we do have some guys coming back that were returning starters. But, they also have some competition right there with them. So, as far as who’s out there Day One, we’ll find that out; which is a good thing to have and is exciting to have in your program.”
At quarterback, there are two battling for the starting job.
“We have two really good ones competing – Kale Lee (Sr., 5-foot-9, 160) and Dalty Prichard (So., 6-2, 180),” Sommers said. “They’ve both done a really nice job. Kale had a good season a year ago, and his leadership is tremendous. Dalty had a really good offseason, and is getting ready here. So, we’re excited to see who we’ve got.”
In 2017, Lee did not get many opportunities to throw the football in the Wing-T. On the season, Lee was 15-of-32 passing for 269 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“We always shoot high (expectations),” Lee said. “That (NWC title) is always the main goal, but we would like to make it farther into the playoffs each year.”
Spencerville’s biggest loss from last season, is the graduation of running back Chris Picker, who rushed for 1,421 yards in 10 regular-season games.
Returning in the backfield for the Bearcats is junior running back Joel Lotz (5-8, 160). In 2017, Lotz rushed for 805 yards and 13 touchdowns in 12 games. Along with Lotz is senior running back Cannan Johnson (5-8, 150). Last season, Johnson rushed for 670 yards and 12 TDs in 12 games.
“I think our team is a lot closer this year,” Johnson said. “We’ve become more of a family.
“I think our goal as a team is to start out better than we did last year, and then keep improving.”
Last season, the Bearcats’ Wing-T offense reeled off 3,964 rushing yards (12 games).
“We have quite a few new guys rotating in,” senior offensive lineman/defensive lineman Matt Macklin (6-0, 195) said about this
year’s O-line. “We lost quite a few. But we expect our line to be good. We want to pound the football.”
Senior wide receiver Conner Holmes (6-5, 165) said he has grown accustomed to his role, playing on a Wing-T offense.
“You have to love blocking. It’s something you grow to love since you play midget football,” he said with a grin.
Defensively, the Bearcats look to be solid once again. Leading the way for Spencerville’s defensive unit is senior defensive back Drew Armstead (5-7, 140). Last season, Armstead earned first team all-NWC honors, as well as earning honorable mention all-Ohio accolades.
“The thing I saw from this team was that in December, they got right back to work,” Sommers said. “So, it’s a hungry football team. They
have some big expectations and goals. But what I like about them is they have a big vision, but they are focusing on what is in front of us right now. I think that comes from our seniors. We have great leadership.”