New league, new outlook for Clear Fork’s football team

BELLVILLE — Clear Fork’s football team looks to reap the benefits from a change in conferences in 2017.

The Colts left the rugged Ohio Cardinal Conference for the more competitive Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference.

Head coach Dave Carroll, who enters his ninth year with a 42-41 career record, spoke on the the change. “I’m totally excited about being in the MOAC for our kids.”

In the OCC, Clear Fork faced larger schools week in and week out. The Colt’s last winning season was 2013.

“OCC teams had bigger, faster, stronger kids. They out-athlete you,” Carroll said. “Playing in a league where teams are much bigger than you, the success rate is much lower. That’s another reason for kids not to go out for football.”

Clear Fork finished 2016 with a 3-7 record, 1-5 in the OCC. The Colts lone conference win came over Mansfield Madison, which was winless in conference play.

A decline in numbers has hurt the Colts in recent years.

“Fewer kids are playing football,” Carroll said. “The concussion scare has something to do with it and the changes and society. Football is a blue-collar, hard-working sport. It’s difficult. There’s the injury risk. It’s tough and uncomfortable.”

A more competitive schedule has numbers on the rise in 2017.

“We have 61 kid out at the high school, which is more than we’ve had in several years,” Carroll said. “Also, our junior high numbers are up. It could be that parents are just saying, ‘hey, we’re playing schools our size now’.”

With 20 returning lettermen — eight starters on offense and seven starters on defense — the Colts should be very competitive in the MOAC.

“We are very excited to play schools of similar size,” said Carroll. “Everybody has a lot more fun when you’re winning.It’s not all about winning. But it is a lot more fun.”

The Colt’s also move to Division IV following Ohio High School Athletic Association realignment.

Moving from Division V to division IV isn’t an issue for the Colt’s according to Carroll: “Clear Fork’s gone back and forth. We’ve been Division V for the last two years. Most of the time we’ve been Division IV. So, going from Division V to Division IV, or from Division IV to Division V is not a huge deal. The huge deal is getting to the MOAC.”

The Colts last playoff appearance came in 2010.

If the 2017 Colts hope to be the next team in the playoffs, they have to rely on the play of Blake Dinsmore and Jared Schaefer, who will split time at quarterback.

“I know we’re going to get this question a lot this year,” the coach said. “You read about this in the paper about the NFL, at Ohio State and with the big boys. No. 1, this is high school football, calm down. No. 2, we’re not a throw it every down football team. Our quarterbacks are going to run the football a lot. Our offense is a spread option, and we’ll throw some as well.”

“Since the spring we’ve been evaluating the quarterback situation. The coaches are getting tired of me asking them every day in our staff meetings, who’s our quarterback? The answer is the same every time, both of them coach.”

“They’re both really good,” Carroll explained. “They’re both dynamic runners. They’re both good leaders and they’re both competitive. They’re both tough. Our thinking is, since they both play on defense, they should be able to get some rest if we play two quarterbacks.”

The Colts should have no problem scoring points.

Trevon Trammell, a junior running back/linebacker is ready for a breakout season after sitting out last season.

Bryce Lyon, a first team All-OCC selection in 2016, along with Matt Thran and Jacob Lowe, will provide weapons on the perimeter.

“Matt Thran is a 285-pound power cleaner; Trammell is a 285-pound cleaner. They payed the price in the weight room and they’re also very fast,” Carroll said.

The coach is excited about the offense.

“I have to remember that we need to use all of them,” he said. “We have a number of them that can run the football, catch the football and block for each other.”

“It’s exciting and the problem is having enough footballs to distribute to all the kids. It’s a good problem to have.”

Carroll took precautions with two-way starter Jacob Bailey.

The four-year starter has not participated in the Colts scrimmages. “He’s ready to go now, he’s our strongest kid. It’s nothing serious, but we just didn’t want it to become something serious.

Clear Fork has faced Tinora, Lexington/Loudonville and Madison in preseason scrimmages.

“Tinora is a good team. They were a playoff team last year and they have everyone back. Lexington has been pretty good of recent. Loudonville and Madison are both young teams.”

“We are seeing many good things from our team,” Carroll said. “We need to continue to improve every day. We performed pretty well most of the time. We scored quite a bit and our varsity defense only gave up one touchdown in three games.

“Against Madison, we started out terribly and made too many mistakes. Against good teams you can’t make that many mistakes. You have to stay focused and ready to go. At the end we adjusted and scored 48 points.”

Bellevue, River Valley, Pleasant and Marion Harding look to be key games for the Colts.

In Week 2, Clear Fork faces Bellevue, a familiar opponent.

“They’re a solid football program, year in, year out,” said Carroll.

In the MOAC, Carroll talked about three teams.

“Marion Pleasant, who has been in the playoffs 21 times, will be tough. Word on the street is that River Valley is going to be pretty solid. While Marion Harding — one of the bigger schools in the league — is improving.

“I don’t mean to slight anyone in the league, But these are the terms teams we’ve heard about,” Carroll said.

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Clear Fork quarterback Jared Schaefer avoids pressure from a West Holmes tackler to deliver a pass in second quarter action from West Holmes on Friday night.
Walt Butler/Galion Inquirer Fork quarterback Jared Schaefer avoids pressure from a West Holmes tackler to deliver a pass in second quarter action from West Holmes on Friday night.
Walt Butler/Galion Inquirer
Changes fuel football optimism for Clear Fork

By Mike Tanchevski

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