HARROD – Allen East head coach Wes Schroeder introduced the Mustangs to the high-flying, pass-happy spread offense last season.
For Year 1, it was a success.
The Mustangs improved from 2-8 (1-6 Northwest Conference) in 2017 to 5-5 (4-3 NWC) last season.
It marked Allen East’s first winning record in the NWC since 2006.
Schroeder has the advantage of not having to start from scratch this year.
Not only that, but his roster has expanded from 32 at the start of camp last year to 50 on opening day this year.
“It has been really beneficial having the offense completely installed and for me now knowing what to expect,” Schroeder said. “And a lot of them had 10 games with it because we have a lot of guys back. We feel we’ll play a lot faster because of it, but we have a long way to go.’’
A strong nucleus returns with seven starters back on offense and nine returning on defense.
One who will not return is junior Tyler Clum, last year’s starting quarterback, who set school records with 2,355 yards passing and 24 passing TDs. Clum torn his ACL in his knee in AAU basketball in the spring.
Senior Bryce Belcher, who battled Clum in the preseason for the job last year, moves from wide receiver to quarterback.
Last year Belcher had 25 receptions for 409 yards and five TDs. He also rushed for 296 yards and seven TDs.
Schroeder will continue to run the full spread package without any modifications.
“We miss him (Clum) a lot, but at the same time, we can’t do anything about it,” Schroeder said. “Our quarterback this year can throw the ball, but he’s more of a runner. He led our team with 13 (total) touchdowns last year. … We’ll ask him to do the same things Tyler did and more.
“We believe we’ll be OK, and Tyler is still here and is a big help at practice.’’
Belcher will have plenty of veterans to throw to including Cole Fletcher (6-2, 200), who had a school-record 1,011 yards receiving and was first-team all-NWC. Fletcher had 48 receptions and 10 TDs.
“He’s a big receiver, and he’s fast,” Schroeder said. “We get the ball to him, and he’s hard to tackle.’’
Second-team all-NWC wide receiver Bradden Crumrine is also back. He had 32 receptions for 532 yards and five TDs.
“Bradden is shifty, quick and has great hands,” Schroeder said.
The third wide receiver is veteran Logan McCluer.
Running back Hunter Paxson led the team in rushing (437 yards and two TDs), and Schroeder will look for him to run more this year. He had only 63 carries a year ago.
“We broke most of the passing records, but the bottom line is to win the big games, you’re going to have to run the ball a little better,” Schroeder said. “We have to be effective running the ball when the situation calls for it and when the weather is not in our favor.’’
Two offensive linemen return and a big key will be filling the three spots up front.
The veterans are offensive tackle Brennan Davies (6-4, 300) and center Eli Myers (6-2, 250).
“If we can figure that out (the offensive line), we can be really good,” Schroeder said.
Once again, the defense will usually line up in a 3-5-3.
Paxson, a safety who lined up in the box last year, moves to outside linebacker. Paxson was first-team all-NWC.
Another first-team all-NWC defender is junior Blake Hershberger, who was all over the field last year at outside linebacker. This year he’ll move from the inside to middle linebacker.
Other veteran defenders include Fletcher at end/strong safety; Crumrine at cornerback; and Davies at tackle.
McCluer, who had six interceptions last year, moves from cornerback to free safety.
Travis Wilson is back at linebacker, and Gabe Criblez returns to the defensive line.
The Mustangs welcome back senior nose tackle Garrett Neth (5-10, 210), who finished sixth in the state wrestling tournament last year. Neth missed a good part of last year after suffering a broken leg against Delphos Jefferson. He’s also the team’s kicker.
With the high-octane spread, Schroeder knows he has to have cohesive line.
“We have to get better up front,” Schroeder said. “And if we’re able to run the ball against anybody, we can be pretty good.’’