Banged-up ’Berg welcomes Wilmington to town

From the outside, it looks like things couldn’t be going better for Heidelberg.

The Student Princes are 2-0. They have romped each of their first two opponents, and sit 13th in Division III.

Going into today’s game against Wilmington (0-2), it looks like the skies over the program are cloudless.

From the inside, it’s another story.

Despite Heidelberg’s solid start, there have been a few key losses. The Student Princes have been forced to absorb injuries to key players. Starting safety Chadd Williamson and receiver Robert Gray are out, and are unlikely to return this season.

This is on top of an injury to safety Tyler Levanduski. Levanduski is healthy, but has been limited as the coaching staff eases him back into things.

Hallett said the injuries have created issues for the Student Princes.

“We still have things to work on,” Hallett said. “We’ve got some guys banged up. If we were completely healthy, we’d probably be a lot closer [to being where we want], but we’ve got a couple guys that are probably going to miss the year.”

Hallett said Williamson – a senior – and Gray likely will play big roles in 2014. But at present, the door is open for new faces.

“With Buddha [Gray’s nickname] out, we’re seeing the emergence of Ryan Fischer, Ethan Kindle, two guys that we were really high on last year, but they were young,” Hallett said. “Cameron Vocke, he’s starting to come on, and then we’re gonna see some newcomers such as [Columbian grad] Jonah Boyer and Nick DeLisa, and all those guys’ roles are starting to expand, and we need those guys with some of the bangs and bruises and more serious stuff that we’re fighting.”

Hallett said Cale Sandridge has filled in admirably at safety for Levanduski, and will continue to see a good deal of time there.

But while Heidelberg is looking for health, the Quakers are looking for their first win. The program is in the hands of first-year coach Stacey Hairston, a veteran of the Ohio Athletic Conference as a player and an assistant at Ohio Northern.

Hairston is best remembered nationally for his two year run as a defensive back/special teams player for the Cleveland Browns from 1993-’94. The Columbus native suited up 31 times for Bill Belichick’s Browns, making eight career tackles. He is a fixture on several highlight packages of former Cleveland standout returner Eric Metcalf. In a 1993 game against the Steelers, Metcalf memorably returned two punts for touchdowns. Hairston could be seen blocking for Metcalf on each return.

Hallett didn’t play against Hairston in college; the former didn’t start at Mount Union until after Hairston graduated. But a recovering Browns fan in (“I was,” he said, when asked if he was a fan, “before they traded Trent [Richardson]”) is well-aware of Hairston as a player and coach.

Along with his other mentioned experience, Hairston played and coached pro football in Canada, and last season was an assistant at Bluefield College. Hairston also had a brief stint as interim head coach at ONU.

Hallett said Hairston already has made the Quakers, who won one game in 2012, better.

“Their staff’s done a good job of taking what they had in terms of their roster and fitting some schematics around the players that were existing in their program, plus the guys that they brought in,” Hallett said.

One of the Quakers’ standouts in the early going has been quarterback Brandon Arehart, who threw for 360 yards in a Week 1 loss to Olivet.

“We’ve seen him for a number of years; he’s been a really good player for them,” Hallett said.

The coach said he’s also impressed with Wilmington’s improvement on the offensive line, and the play of slot receiver Kyle Akers.

The Quakers appear to have struggled defensively, allowing an average of 420 yards a game.

“I think they’re still catching up a little bit there,” Hallett said.

Kickoff is at Mayer field at 1:30 p.m.