SPENCERVILLE – It’s normally nice to share. But when it comes to sharing a conference title, most teams don’t want to be that cordial.
In 2018, Spencerville shared the Northwest Conference football crown with Crestview and Columbus Grove, who all had one loss in conference play. Spencerville was 8-3 overall, 6-1 in the NWC, and made it to the Division VI postseason playoffs. In 2017, Spencerville won the NWC title outright.
This season, Spencerville is striving to notch the crown outright, as well as going deep into the postseason playoffs.
“I think everybody has that goal (winning the NWC outright) coming into the year,” Spencerville head coach Chris Sommers said. “Last year, we shared with two teams who we respect a lot, in Crestview and Columbus Grove – two very class programs. We had some good games with them, too.
“It’s the start of a new season. So, we have to get better every day. … That’s goal No. 1. We have to get ready for that first scrimmage and then get ready for that first game.”
The Bearcats return six athletes on offense and six on defense.
Leading Spencerville on the offensive side of the football is senior running back Joel Lotz (5-9, 155). In 2018, Lotz rushed for 1,044 yards and 14 touchdowns. He earned first team all-NWC honors.
“Our first goal is to get the conference title outright,” Lotz said. “After that, it’s making the playoffs. We talked about it, but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.”
Senior linebacker and center Jackson Goecke (6-1, 190) echoes Lotz’s thoughts.
“That’s one of our biggest goals (outright NWC title),” Goecke said. “Then we want to go to Week 11, Week 12 (in playoffs) and see what we can do from there.”
Last season, Spencerville’s potent Wing-T offense led the NWC with 359.2 rushing yards per game.
“We always try to run the football,” Sommers said. “We also try to throw the ball, when needed.
“We have our quarterback coming back, Dalty Prichard (6-3, 195, Jr.). He gives us a lot of leadership, too. Running back-wise, we have Joel Lotz back. Dylan Baughman (5-8, 155, Sr.) also played running back for us. On the offensive line, we have three coming back. We’re going to move some guys around. So, we have some experience coming back; and just like any other year, we’re going to plug some guys in.”
Baughman said this year’s squad is primed for a successful season.
“We just want to take it game by game. (Coach Sommers) is really pushing us this year,” he said.
Defensively, the Bearcats are anchored by the NWC Defensive Player of the Year and honorable mention all-Ohio linebacker, Eli Yahl (6-2, 235, Sr.). In 2018, Yahl recorded 143 tackles. Yahl also was all-NWC in 2018 at offensive guard.
“Eli is a great player,” Sommers said. “He practices really hard and he leads by example. We have a number of guys around him coming back, that we’re really excited about.”
Last season, the Bearcats’ defensive unit led the conference in rushing defense (57.9 yards per game) and total team defense (179.4 yards per game).
“It (defensive scheme) will be a little bit more multiple this year,” Sommers said. “It’s something we’ve been working on, and we’re really excited about.”
Yahl is in full agreement with his teammates when it comes to this season’s goals.
“We want to win (the league) outright,” Yahl said. “The playoffs, that’s what our goal is. We want to get there.”
After a very successful coaching stint at Delphos Jefferson in which his program won three consecutive NWC titles before he came to Spencerville in 2017, Sommers is feeling right at home at Spencerville.
“You get to know the guys over time,” Sommers said. “Being able to coach them for three years now, we know each other pretty well. They’re a bunch of hard workers. It’s a really good senior class. They lead by example. They represent what we want in our football program and I’m really proud of them.”