SPENCERVILLE – Winning at least a share of the Northwest Conference title has been commonplace for Spencerville head football coach Chris Sommers.
The past three seasons, the Bearcats have at least shared an NWC title. Last season, Spencerville ended in a three-way tie with Allen East and Columbus Grove for the conference title.
In 2018, the Bearcats shared the conference crown with Crestview and Columbus Grove.
In 2017, Spencerville won the NWC title outright, going 7-0 in all conference games.
This season, Sommers’ squad returns 14 letter winners from last year’s 7-3 team (6-1 NWC).
So far this summer, Sommers is feeling pretty good about his team’s effort.
“We just need to get better as a team. On both sides of the ball, we certainly see some things that we can work on,” Sommers said. “Like always – when you lose a really good senior class, you have new guys coming in. So, it’s going to be important to get them up to speed, quickly. And they’re giving a great effort. … They’re doing an awesome job.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Spencerville lost running back Joel Lotz from graduation. In 2019, Lotz rushed for 1,027 yards. However, Gunner Grigsby (Jr., 185) returns in the backfield for the Bearcats. Last season, as a sophomore, Grigsby was third in the NWC with 1,134 rushing yards on 215 carries, with 13 touchdowns.
“We’ve lost some good skill players,” Sommers said. “We like some of our younger guys that have come in and done a really good job. So, we think as a skill unit, we’re really excited about it. We’ve lost some really good offensive linemen, but again, we brought some new guys in and they seem to be stepping up.”
Returning at quarterback for Spencerville, after suffering an early-season injury in 2019, is senior Dalty Prichard (190 pounds).
“He got hurt last year in a scrimmage, and he didn’t play quarterback for the season,” Sommers said about Prichard. “He’s come back, and has done a really nice job. We really like where he is at. Our coaches have done a really nice job with him. We’ve seen him get better each day.”
Prichard is excited about returning at quarterback this season.
“I got hurt last year, so I just played strictly defense,” Prichard said. “We’re working hard and getting the job done. We’re just taking it one day at a time.” Sommers is pleased at how Prichard is progressing behind center.
“Dalty has really showed us that he certainly has the ability to throw the ball back there,” Sommers said. “We just want to try to keep getting a little more balanced on offense.”
Last season, the Bearcats, with their quick-hitting Wing-T offense, led the NWC in rushing, averaging 306.3 yards per game. Spencerville finished second in the conference in team scoring, averaging 35.2 points.
“So for us, it’s the same Spencerville football that we love – being physical and running the ball,” Sommers said with a smile.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bearcats were difficult to push around in 2019. They were first in the NWC on rushing yards allowed (102.2 per game) and first downs allowed (9.3 per contest).
“We need to get better as a defensive unit,” Sommers said. “That’s something we’ve talked a lot about this summer. We certainly have been putting a lot of work in there. We lost some good guys on that side of the ball.”
Senior (offensive and defensive) lineman Isaiah Pugh (220), feels like things started to click on the defensive side of the ball during summer camp.
“On the defensive line – we have a good number of guys back. We’re looking pretty strong and doing some good things, so far,” Pugh said.
Added senior linebacker (and running back) Keegan Goecke (180 pounds), “I feel that this year, we’ll have a pretty solid defense. I think we’ve had pretty good chemistry, so far. So, I’m pretty confident.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the cancellation of both seven-on-sevens and scrimmages, Sommers and his coaching staff was forced to take a little different approach this summer.
“We try to keep it as normal as possible,” Sommers said. “We were really happy about the camp that we had. We felt like it was really good. We probably slowed down and did more teaching. We definitely saw some positives from that.
“I can’t say enough about our guys. They’ve been great to come out and to coach every day; and we’ve had a lot of fun. We’ve really enjoyed it.”
Sommers feels that the NWC will be as competitive as ever this season.
“We have such great coaches in our league, who all do an awesome job; and we have great players in the league too,” Sommers said. “We have so much respect for every team that we play. You know you have to bring your best to
every game. No matter what week it is, there’s always going to be some tough battles. We will go week by week, and hopefully can get better as we go on.”