By Zach Baker
ATTICA - Seneca East has had some good seasons under Ed Phillips.
But the squad's goal has eluded the Tigers to this point, and it has eluded the program since 2004.
The Tigers want to make the playoffs.
|2012: 7-3 (4-3 MAL).|
|Head coach: Ed Phillips.|
|Assistant coaches: Kevin Dick; Justin Ruffing; George Parks; Jarron Reesman; Ted Weaver; Jeremy Cornwell.|
|Aug. 30||at South Central|
|Sept. 6||at Upper Sandusky|
|Sept. 20||at St. Joe|
|Oct. 4||NORTH BALTIMORE|
|Oct. 11||at Mohawk|
|Nov. 1||at Carey|
"Absolutely," Phillips responded when asked if the postseason is a driving motivator for him, his staff and his players. "That's what everybody wants. We want that greatness. We want that special year. Last year, it was about two plays away from being that: The St. Joe game and the tight one against Calvert. If we had turned the tides in those two games we could have been where we wanted to be, and we weren't."
The Tigers are coming off a 7-3 campaign, but a 34-27 loss to St. Joe and a 28-21 defeat at the hands of the Senecas in back-to-back weeks still stick with Phillips. It was another season of being close, but not being there.
"That's life, and that's what drives you," he said. "You've got to have that motor to keep going after it. We've had some good seasons, but we do. We want that great one, there's no doubt."
Phillips believes this could be that year.
"Yeah, I think we've got the bullets in the gun," he said. "I think without a doubt we've got some really good playmakers and we've got a mix of youth and experience, but our youth is pretty talented."
On offense, the Tigers will be led by quarterback Ethan Caudill, who threw for 1,522 yards with 14 touchdowns. Both of those totals were second in the Midland Athletic League. He was a dynamic presence, also rushing for 305 yards.
"Ethan's a fourth-year guy for us now, and it's just like second nature to him now," Phillips said. "He's run everything we've got so many times that the biggest difference I'm noticing now is there is no delay between when he gets the ball and pulling the trigger. He makes his reads quick and gets the job done."
Phillips said Caudill is one of the team's leaders.
"He's a lead by example kind of guy, and he's really quiet," Phillips said. "But he just goes about his thing and gets it done and shows up to the weight room every day, and there's no doubt that he gets us going offensively."
At running back, Phillips said the "bulk of the carries" will go to Cory Depinet and Alex Scheiber. Cale Felter also is in the mix.
"In Scheiber and Depinet, we've got two really dynamic guys," Phillips said. "Both running and catching the football."
Phillips said the Tigers success will depend greatly on how their offensive line does.
"They key is our offensive line coming together and doing the job," he said. "I believe we've got the playmakers, and I'll tell you what, from day one back in June when we started working, our offensive line has worked their butts off, and they're coming along and doing a really good job right now in the run and the pass game."
Owen Best and Eric Depinet are returning starters up front, while Josh Waggoner will also play on the line. Garrett Boesser and Joe Roth will be a pair of newcomers to it.
"From where we were three weeks ago until now, they're just playing outstanding football," Phillips said.
At receiver, Adam Hall returns. He had a big season in 2012, with 23 receptions for 412 yards, both team highs.
"He's big and he's fast," Phillips said of the 6-foot-2 senior. "And he's agile. I think he's got a shot to be one of the better (receivers) in the league."
The coach said he's also expecting big things from Isaac Phillips, a junior.
"He's strong, he's physical, he's quick," he said. "
Brayden Walker and Depinet also could see time at the receiver position, as could Devon Buchholz and Nate Snavely.
"I feel like we're pretty deep there again," Phillips said. "And we've got good competition to keep us coming along."
It'd be fair to say that the Tigers didn't have a great year defensively last season, specifically against the run. They gave up an average of more than 197 yards on the ground a game.
For SE to get where it wants to be, that has to improve.
"The key for us is stopping the run," Phillips said. "I think the difference between this team and the team we had in the past, we've had some really good defenses, kind of like our team. We've had some really good teams that miss that step to greatness. We're really fast this year. We are extremely athletic. We're going to rely on that to carry us through the season.
"Usually that speed pays off for you in making some tackles for loss, and creating turnovers, and that's what we're counting on," he said. "I think that will be the difference in going from good to great. A defense that can make those plays in critical situations and feed our offense."
Depinet and Best will be on the defensive line, as will Hall and William Sampson. Roth also will get time there, as will Felter.
At linebacker, the Tigers return to starters in Lantz Bohrer and Waggoner.
"They both have potential to be really good football players," Phillips said, "and be the heart of what I hope is a great defense."
Phillips said Seneca East will be young in the secondary. Alex Scheiber, an all-MAL safety, does return.
"That gives me a little bit of comfort level," Phillips said. "We're probably gonna put some young guys out there with him."
In fact, a pair of seniors, Kyler Green and Cody Stombaugh are competing for time, but neither one has much experience. Buchholz is also expected to play in the secondary. Depinet and Snavely also are there.
"I've really got five guys there for a couple positions,"Phillips said. "It would be great ... to have a couple of them step forward and say, 'hey, I'm the guy.' They're all playing well and playing even."
On special teams, Caudill will return as punter, with Isaac Phillips handling the kicking. Bohrer and Caudill are both kicking options.
Phillips said he's excited about the team's prospects on kick and punt returns.
"That's another place where we've had great success in the past," he said. "It's something to feel good about this year. A lot of those names... if I mentioned their name at receiver or running back, they're a guy who can return for us."