Pictured is the 2010 Fort Recovery High School football team. The Indians, who haved finished 3-7 in each of the last two seasons, open their season on the road Aug. 27 against Mississinawa Valley.
Pictured is the 2010 Fort Recovery High School football team. The Indians, who haved finished 3-7 in each of the last two seasons, open their season on the road Aug. 27 against Mississinawa Valley.
It’s a new era in Fort Recovery football.
The coach is the same.
The formation is the same.
But with the graduation of Greg Kahlig, the Indians’ all-time leading passer, some things will definitely be different.
“I think the challenge for us is to not try to replace him, just try to work to the strengths of our players,” said FRHS coach Tyler Niekamp of the loss of Kahlig, who threw for 2,280 yards and 23 touchdowns last season. “Things will be a little bit different this year. Things will be spread out and we’ll still try to get the ball out on the edges like we’ve been doing, but we’ll probably run the ball more.”
With Kahlig at quarterback in 2009, the Indians threw the ball 61 percent of the time.
Juniors Jason Pottkotter and Kenny Wenning are in line to take over the quarterback spot in Niekamp’s spread offense this year.
“Those guys are both real capable, but the both have a very different style than Greg,” said Niekamp. “They’re not as much drop-back passer kind of guys, they’re more runners.”
So, both quarterbacks will carry the ball as part of the Tribe’s more balanced attack, as will returning running back Brian Keller. He ran 51 times last season for 180 yards and a TD.
Aaron Vagedes, who had 12 receptions for 248 yards in 2009, Ryan Schoen, Derek Gaerke and whoever is not playing quarterback will fill out the four receiver spots. Mason Evers and Trent Kaiser will also see time on the outside.
They, too, will have big shoes to fill following the graduation of Craig Tobe (54 receptions, 819 yards), Michael Gaerke (36 receptions, 453 yards), Cody Fiely (30 receptions, 364 yards) and Nathan Keller (28 receptions, 292 yards).
“It’s definitely going to have to be a team effort,” Niekamp said. “We’re going to need certain things from different guys to be good offensively.”
The offense will have a veteran line to work behind, with Jacob Whitacre, a junior three-year starter, anchoring the group at center. Adam Rohrer, a senior, is the only other returning starter, but the rest of the line is made up of all seniors — Aaron Wilker, Kyle Schmitz and Elliott Post.
“That’s a pretty old line,” said Niekamp. “Jacob has been a starter since he was a freshman. And the other four guys are all seniors. So we get some pretty good leadership from that group. … For us to be successful they’re going to have to do a good job.”
The same five players will work on the defensive line as well, along with Ryan Gaerke. Wenning and Keller are the inside linebackers, with Derek Gaerke and Kaiser on the outside. Vagedes and Schoen will play on the corners, and Jason Pottkotter will line up as the free safety.
Wenning is the top returning defender after finishing second on the team with 92 tackles last season. Ryan Schoen made 49 stops, and Jacob Whitacre was right behind him with 48. Post and Rohrer each had one sack in 2009.
“Even though our offense has been pretty good the last few years, I think what we have to do is play really good defense,” said Niekamp. “I think that’s been the difference the last few years. So we’re really focused on that.”
Vagedes will also handle all of the punting and kicking duties.
Niekamp said he’s been especially happy with the way his seniors have led the team thus far in practice.
He said they’re a group that for the most part did not come into high school with as much natural athletic ability as some classes, but has battled to become a group of good football players.
“Those guys are a really good group and set a good example,” he said. “They demand a lot out of the younger guys, in a positive way.
“They’ve all worked really hard to be good players.
“I always love it when I see guys who are more or less program guys, who work hard and develop. … I think that kind of work ethic in itself gives the younger guys a good example.”
After going winless in 2006, Fort Recovery fought back to finish 5-5 in 2007 and has earned three wins in each of the last two years. But, as usual, Niekamp said he is focused on the way his team players more than the wins and losses when it comes to evaluating success.
“What we want to have happen this year is that every player executes on every play,” he said. “So, we’ve just been really focusing on that with our guys. If everybody does their job on every play, we’re going to be pretty successful. That’s something that we can control.”