DELPHOS – Coaches always talk about senior leadership.
But for Delphos Jefferson, many of the team’s leaders will have to come from the non-seniors.
The Wildcats return only five seniors from last year’s 1-9 team (0-7 Northwest Conference). And of those five, only two played football.
Four juniors dot the roster, but only three of those were on the field.
In all, the roster consists of 25 players.
“We have to jell, stay positive and have to keep them healthy,” Delphos Jefferson coach Ben Rahrig said.
The good news is six starters return on offense and seven are back on defense.
Quarterback Logan Hubert graduated after he threw for 962 yards last year with 12 TDs.
Taking over at quarterback is junior Colin Bailey, who was a running back/wide receiver last year. Bailey had 21 receptions for 327 yards and 5 TDs.
Bailey will trigger the spread, one-back attack, the same as last year.
“Colin is our best athlete,” Rahrig said. “He gives us the threat to run the ball, make plays and get us out of trouble. The key is him reading defenses and making the right decision. He played quarterback his freshman year and ran some special packages (at quarterback) last year.’’
Two starters are back on the offensive line, tackle Seth Estle and guard Skyler Voorhees.
Eli Kill takes over at center.
Tanner Voorhees returns at tight end and Rahrig said, “We’ll get him the ball.’’
J.T. Taviano, the team’s leading rusher with 635 yards and four TDs, has returned to Perry.
So Jacob Simmons and Cole Hoersten, who both played running back and wide receiver last year, will be the main ball carriers.
With a one-back set, both will see time at running back and wide receiver.
Sophomore Trent Teman is a veteran wide receiver, who may see action at quarterback in special packages.
The Wildcats will also feature sophomore wide receivers Andrew Miller, Levi Rode, Cody Bailey and Lucas Grothaus.
Jefferson scored 18 points per game, which was last in the NWC.
On defense, seven return from a unit that needs to improve on yielding 49 per game last year.
Jefferson plans to run a 4-2-5 defense.
Skyler Voorhees is back on the defensive line, while Tanner Voorhees returns to his defensive end spot.
Estle returns to lead the linebackers.
Simmons and Bailey are back at cornerback, however, younger players could occasionally spell quarterback Bailey on defense.
Hoersten and Teman are the veteran safeties.
A huge key is how quickly the young Wildcats can jell.
“We’re very young,” Rahrig said. “The key is for them to understand they’ll make mistakes, but to not let their spirit get down and keep playing hard. It’s difficult for freshmen and sophomores to playing against juniors and seniors, but they are good kids and they play hard.’’
It marks Rahrig’s second year as Jefferson’s head coach, which gives him an early advantage over last year.
“The coaching staff is more on the same page,” he said. “But we’re putting so many new guys in there and there’s not a lot of depth.
“We did have good attendance at our summer weight lifting and conditioning and they gained it all back from when we had to shut down. They guys we have seem to jell, like each other and work hard.’’