Outside the Huddle’s Spring Football 2022 series will appear periodically throughout the next few months as we check in on area football programs prior to the rigors of season prep in the summer.
What are the things that teams want to get accomplished before the pressures of preparing for the start of the season? OTH reached out to coaches for some answers.
While it was another winning season for East Noble in 2021, the 19th consecutive for the program, the Knights fell short of conference and sectional titles. Leo had a lot to do with it, knocking off East Noble by eight in the regular season and pulling out a three-point victory to open the postseason.
What is Coach Luke Amstutz looking to achieve this spring?
1. Who are the leaders?
Most teams this time of the year are looking to identify the next crop of team leaders that will carry the squad through the fall. It is the grind of the winter and spring where these leaders typically emerge, and Coach Amstutz hopes to find some as the spring progresses.
“We have some talented young players, but we have to find out who can be calm under fire, guide and teach our guys how to compete at a high level when it matters most,” Amstutz said.
Players like Nick Munson, Chris Hood and Rowan Zolman each left tremendous voids not just in their production, but their ability to lead vocally and by example.
The top six tacklers on the defense in 2021 have all graduated, as have five of the leading six offensive players in all-purpose yards. There is talent to replace the stats lost, but who commands the respect in the locker room?
2. Who develops at the skill positions?
Zander Brazel was thrust into the starting quarterback role last year as a sophomore, and looked like it on occasion. But he also showed the promise that Amstutz recognized as a key component to East Noble’s success the next few seasons.
While Brazel only completed 53 percent of his passes for a touch over 1,200 yards, he did throw 14 touchdowns against four interceptions while also rushing for six scores.
A year older, wiser and more developed, Brazel will be looked upon to carry a more consistent load on offense.
And he will have to. The top three rushers – Kainon Carico (873 yards, 10 TDs), Ethan Nickles (676 yards, six TDs) and Munson (302 yards, five TDs) have all graduated, as have the three leading receivers in Zolman (540 receiving yards, five TDs), Munson (355 yards, three TDs) and Brett Christian (186 yards, five TDs). Despite being still just a junior, Brazel will have some of the top experience amongst the offensive skill position players that East Noble will deploy on Fridays.
3. Can the talented sophomores emerge?
There is an adage that gets tossed around prep football that says “you lose one game for every sophomore you start.”
With a lot of positions up for grabs due to graduation, Coach Amstutz is hoping his upperclassmen make strides, but his younger groups grow up fast.
Amstutz does not shy away from the fact that his sophomore group is laden with talent, and the junior class should see some playmakers emerge from the jump this fall.
While East Noble may not end up starting a lot of sophomores, it will need those 10th graders to contribute at key times. Can the practice reps in the spring turn into quality game reps in the fall? For the Knights to achieve their goals and regain their place at the top of the NE8, that aspect of the team will be key.