What's 'Bash looking like?
Tuesday, August 05, 2014 10:00 PM
Back and better than ever as a new week hits its stride. It's an exciting time around The Paper of Montgomery County. We are getting ready to rock the fall season and bring you the best coverage of the local athletes that you'll find anywhere.
There's a lot of excitement floating around in regard to the high school football teams and which players will emerge as the stars of the future. And we will talk about all of that, in good time. But this week why don't we talk about the guys that don the red and white jerseys of Wabash College.
Wabash has established itself as one of the premier Division 3 programs, year in and year out. And while they did lose a lot of talented players from last year's 9-1 squad, they're going to be good again this season.
New to the Little Giants will be Crawfordsville graduate PJ Schafer. Schafer led all Montgomery County receivers last year with 28 catches for 459 yards and six touchdowns. He'll be one of just four players from the Sagamore Athletic Conference to suit up for Wabash Football this year. Western Boone will be represented by junior Tom Garrity (an Anderson University transfer a year ago) and sophomores CJ McMann and LV Bowden. Area football fans might also recognize the name Ty Preston. He and former Lafayette Central Catholic teammate Gage Ulery will be teammates once again as freshmen at Wabash.
While I would love to see these young, local guys make a big impact right away, there is usually a learning curve that takes a while to be overcome. As long as Schafer and the WeBo boys work hard and stick with it, they'll be making their mark in due time.
So who should you expect to see in the headlines on Monday's starting in September? Well Houston Hodges is a good candidate to start with. Hodges enters his senior year having played in all but three games during his career (he didn't get in on three his freshman year). The 5-7 179-pound player is one of the smallest on the field most of the time, but he makes a huge impact. He plays both sides of the ball and has a knack for making plays. Last year he caught 47 passes, scored four receiving touchdowns, snatched two interceptions, returned one of those for a touchdown, scored on a punt return, forced a fumble, made 10 tackles and drove the bus home from Alleghany. OK, so he might not have a CDL, but the rest is true. And he's just over five-and-a-half feet tall. We'll talk more about Hodges this season . . . and during basketball season. He's a starter for the Little Giants on the hardwood, too.
To the delight of Wabash fans, Tyler Holmes returns to the roster this season. Holmes was going to be THE guy in the backfield last year. He started off last season with 146 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries against Hanover. He followed that up by amassing 98 yards on 17 carries and another score against Denison before injuring his knee. It was devastating to watch. Having him back for the Little Giants will be a major boost, not only on the field, but in the locker room.
When Holmes went down, a parade of backs scrambled to fill in. More and more running backs were injured and Grant Klembara emerged as a threat from the backfield. Klembara is a defensive back by trade but, like so many Wabash athletes, has the brain and ability to learn systems and fill in where needed. Another back to watch will be Indiana-native Mason Zurek. The buzz around Wabash surrounding Zurek has been amazing. He came in from Andrean where he rushed for more than 2,500 yards and scored 41 touchdowns in just two year. He's been plagued by the injury bug at Wabash and has only played in 11 games in two seasons. If he's healthy, he will be an All-Conference runner for the Little Giants.
Michael Putko seems like the likely candidate to start under center. He will be a junior and showed a lot of raw talent last year. With another year of maturity under his belt, Putko could be the guy that leads the Little Giants to a deep playoff run. He'll be backed up by a litany of strong arms, including Cameron Belton. You'll recognize that name as the sophomore brother of former standout quarterback Chase Belton. There's quite a QB lineage in that family with the oldest brother, Clay, spending time at Miami of Ohio and Maryland before landing at the University of Findlay and re-writing the record books.
But the defense was the story of last year. The Little Giants posted absolutely gaudy numbers defensively including three shutouts. Their lone slip-up was against Wittenberg, costing them a chance at the playoffs.
Wabash limited opponents to 11.3 points per game, 65 rushing yards per game and 157 passing yards per game. The simply created chaos for the opposing offenses. Opponents fumbled 23 times, of which Wabash recovered 19. The Wabash D intercepted the ball 18 times and scored 13 times on either defense or special teams. Delon Pettiford, Justin Woods, Eddie Cmehil and Hodges were the primary culprits in those take-aways, making up the core of the defensive backfield. They'll all be back this year.
Attacking the opposing quarterback will be Cody Buresh and AJ Akinribade. Gone is the toughest guy in town, Nate Scola, but Akinribade will have no trouble filling those shoes. The kid was named to the North Coast Athletic Conference All-Decade team after his sophomore year. He has only gotten better, so expect big things from the linebacker core. Buresh is getting national recognition for his play as a defensive end / linebacker hybrid. Opposing teams are less concerned with what he's called and more concerned with the 37 sacks the Wabash defense made last year. Buresh was at the forefront of those, with 14 to his credit.
The pieces are all there. The season starts Sept. 7 at home against Hampden-Sydney. Yes, it's a battle of two of the three remaining all-male colleges in the United States. There's sure to be jokes made . . . but there will undoubtedly be some serious football being played.
I'll see ya out there.