Although there may not be high expectations from the outside for the Delta football team this season, new head coach Nate Ruple hopes this group can lay the foundation for a solid future.
The Panthers were recently picked to finish last in the league by the other Northwest Ohio Athletic League coaches. But Ruple doesn’t want his team paying too much attention to how they are perceived outside of the program.
“We know that we need to focus on us this season. And really focus on those short-term goals that we hope over the course of the season, can compound and help us to improve to play our best football in week 10,” said the Panther coach. “That’s where we are right now. We know we’re at the bottom of the league right now. But there’s only one place to go and that’s up.”
The Panthers have potential strengths at offensive line and in the backfield as they look to turn over a new leaf this season.
“We feel like over time, this group could be a good group of linemen for us,” stated Ruple. “You look across the board though, we are gonna be playing some sophomores on both sides of the ball. And it’s gonna be a learning curve for them. We know that going in. They know that going in. Throughout this 10-game season, we’re hoping to be playing our best football at Patrick Henry (week 10).”
They have a pair of tailbacks who were honorable mention all-league a season ago.
The first is junior Max Hoffman. “We’re certainly looking at Max Hoffman (to contribute),” said Ruple. “We’re not quite sure where he’s gonna fit in yet. But he’s gonna be a key for us at some point.”
Then there is sophomore Shawn Cook.
“Shawn Cook’s another guy that we’re looking at. He played a little bit offensively last year as a freshman,” said Ruple. “He could be one of those guys that could play that halfback/wingback for us. Again, we still have some question marks. And we have some guys competing for spots. But the competition’s been stout. The guys are really fighting hard for those positions. We’ll just have to see where things play out.”
Other returning starters for the Panthers are Hunter Tresnan Reighard, who was first team all-league and all-district as a specialist, Austin Kohlhofer, Austin Michael and Kai Fox.
They will have to replace Nate Kohlhofer who was first team All-NWOAL defense, second team All-NWOAL offense and second team all-district in 2018. Also gone is J.D. Osborn who was second team all-league, plus Tristen Saeger, Noah Druschel, Dalton Richard, Jose Arroyo, Dawson Swicegood and Logan Echler who were each honorable mention.
The defense could be construed as a microcosm of the team, as they are young with upside.
“I think our defensive line could be solid, if they continue to improve,” said Ruple. “We’re gonna have a young group of linebackers. And we’re gonna be young in the secondary. Potentially playing an extremely young group defensively certainly (has) its downfalls, but that being said, those guys are gonna be learning each and every week and getting better each and every week. We are looking to see that growth by the end of the season.”
The Panthers have a few players back that saw time on the field defensively last season.
“We’re really counting on Hunter Tresnan-Reighard to be a book-end defensive end for us. He’s a big kid (6-4, 230 lbs.). He’s played a lot of football over the last couple years. So we’re expecting big things out of him,” explained Ruple. “In the defensive backfield, Shawn Cook we feel like could be a solid corner for us along with DJ Davis. We’re really impressed with the sophomore Evan Perry. He’s the type of kid, he’ll do anything you ask him to do. He’s gonna find a spot somewhere on that defense and turn out to be a good player in the future.”
Delta has a tough start to the season as they host defending Division VII state champion McComb this Friday. They close non-league play at Rogers Sept. 6 and home against Tinora on Sept. 13.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010