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Caldwell Returns Veteran Cast Seeking to Improve

Caldwell High’s 2020 football team. Front row, left to right, Dawison Moore, Skyler VanFossen, Chris Hill, Jonah Croucher, Matthew Cunningham, Caden Moore. T.J. Wehr, Whyatt Parks, Joel Ackley, Brandan Piskula and Tate Leasure; second row, assistant coach Jensen Croucher, assistant coach Bryan Sawyer, assistant coach Chance rucker, Braxton Dudley, Colby Langley, Waylon Clark, Zach McDowell, Marshal Sayre, head coach Grant Gaydos and assistant coach Shane Rucker; back row, Wyatt Williams, Easton Depuy, Devin McKee, Cale Bender, Brody Peachey, Whyatt Freeman, David Guiler and Hunter Parks.

By Journal Sports Writer Julie LaFollette

The Caldwell Redskins are a senior laden team and return the bulk of their starters from last year, losing only one starter to graduation, so Coach Grant Gaydos is looking for his team to improve on last year’s 2-8 record.

“Last year was a disappointing season,” said Gaydos “We only had one senior and played a lot of young guys in ‘skill’ positions, including a freshman at quarterback. We dropped a lot of close games, but we learned and have improved over the off-season.”

The Redskins had 1,872 total yards last season, with 1,325 of them coming on the ground and 547 through the air.

“With the weight room time limited because of Covid, our guys have had to do a lot of the off-season stuff on their own,” offered Gaydos. “They have been working hard and we are excited to get the season going.”

Coach Gaydos is pleased with the team chemistry this year.

“Our team attitude has changed for the better this season,” he said. “Our older guys have grown up and matured and their positive attitude and discipline has filtered down to the younger guys.”

The only starter lost to graduation is Bradley Michael, who started at offensive guard and defensive end. He earned several post season honors including special mention all-Ohio Division VII first team all-East District and first team all-OVAC Class 2A, and he was selected for BACF All-Star Game which like most other athletic endeavors, was postponed.

Others lost wereAndrew Gregg and exchange student Alejandro Poza, who handled the kicking duties.

Offensively, the Redskins have changed some things. They are looking to utilize the passing game more this season as well as continuing their strong running game.

Sophomore Braxton Dudley (5-9, 166) will return at the quarterback position. Last year, he completed 61 passes for 526 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran the ball 130 times for 366 yards and six touchdowns.

“Braxton was put into situations last year that you don’t like to see a freshman in.” said Gaydos. “He is in there because he is the best at that position. He had a lot of learning to do and still does, but last year’s experience will be significant for him.”

Backing up Dudley this year will be freshman Cale Bender (5-10, 148).

The backfield will consist of senior Caden Moore (6-0”, 168) and sophomore Marshal Sayre (5-8, 165).

Moore led the Redskins in rushing last year, carrying the ball 168 times for 668 yards and four touchdowns. Sayre ran for 264 yards on 30 carries and two touchdowns.

Coach Gaydos likes the toughness of his backfield.

“Caden and Marshal are tough runners,” he related. “We are looking for Caden to have a career season this year with the changes we have made in our offense.”

Freshmen David Guiler (5-10, 150) and Dylan Wheeler (5-7, 145) will be backing up at running back.

Dudley has an experienced group of receivers to throw to this season, led by seniors Whyatt Parks (5-8, 150), Brandon Piskula (5-9, 182), Skylar VanFossen (5-8, 165), Chris Hill (5-11, 196), and Tate Leasure (5-11, 152).

Senior Dawlson Moore (6-1. 169) will be the tight end, backed up by senior Joel Ackley (5-7, 155).

Whyatt Parks led the team in receptions last season with 23 for 225 yards, followed by Piskula with 20 for 139 yards and a touchdown.

Others looking to get some time at receiver are freshmen Devin McKee (5-10, 120) and Hunter Parks (5-5, 140), while freshman Brody Peachey (6-1, 160) will be backing up at tight end.

The offensive line will be led by senior TJ Wehr (5-11, 285) at tackle. He will be joined by junior Waylon Clark (5-10, 190) at tackle. Senior Matt Cunningham (5-11, 205) will handle the snap duties and senior Jonah Croucher (5-10, 180) and sophomore Colby Langley (5-8, 165) at guard.

Sophomore Zach McDowell (6-0, 200) will be looking to get some time on the line along with freshmen Easton Depuy (5-7, 185), Jase Norman (5-8. 250), Whyatt Freeman (6-4, 274) and Wyatt Williams (5-7, 230).

Sophomore running back Ethan Carpenter (5-7, 160) is out for the season due to surgery.

Coach Gaydos is excited about the defense this year.

“As a coaching staff, we are most excited to watch our defense this season as they are going to fly around and make plays,” he said. “We have a lot of guys who are headhunters with a great football mentality. That is something that you can’t necessarily teach them…they just have it.”

The Redskins will run a 4-4 as their base, but will have multiple looks

Caden Moore and Dawlson Moore will lead the defense as the inside linebackers along with Wehr from his tackle position. Caden Moore led the defense last year with 97 tackles.

“Having Dawlson back this year will be big for us. He is a game changer.” offered Gaydos.

Joining Wehr at tackle will be Clark, while Croucher and Langley look to line up at the ends. Outside linebackers will be Piskula and Hill, with Ackley and Sayre also being in the rotation. The secondary will consist of Dudley at safety while Leasure and Parks are at the corners.

Others looking for time on the defensive line are McDowell, Depuy, Freeman, Norman, and Williams. Backup linebackers will be Guiler and Peachey, while Bender, McKee, Hunter Parks, and Wheeler will be looking for time in the defensive backfield.

Several returning Redskins earned postseason honors last year including Caden Moore (special mention all-Ohio D-VII, first team East District D-VII, first team OVAC Class 2A, and team’s defensive MVP), Wehr (second team East District and honorable mention OVAC 2A), Croucher (second team East District), Whyatt Parks (special mention East District), and Sayre (special mention East District and honorable mention OVAC 2A).

Caldwell’s revised schedule has them playing many of the same teams, including traveling to Shenandoah earlier than normal – Week 2 – on September 4. New to the schedule are at Berne Union on September 25 and at Strasburg on October 16.

All teams in Ohio will qualify for the playoffs this season and that game will be held October 9.

Gaydos enters his fifth season at the helm with a 14-26 record. Returning to the coaching staff are Jason Rucker and Jensen Croucher while joining the staff this year will be Caldwell alum Bryan Sawyer, who is moving up from coaching the junior high and Chance Rucker, who is coaching for the first time after completing a stellar collegiate career at West Liberty University.

Caldwell opens the season hosting Eastern on Friday at the Noble County Fairgrounds. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.



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