SIDELL – Five years ago, Heyworth High School didn't have enough football players to field a varsity team.
Four years ago, the school was so short-handed by Week 9 that it had to forfeit.
This season, coach Mike Law's program has enough athletes (43, including freshmen) that when senior quarterback Nick Kronmiller sustained a season-ending broken hand, it didn't devastate the team.
When the Hornets (5-4) travel to face Salt Fork (7-2) in a first-round Class 1A IHSA playoff game at 1 p.m. Saturday at Jamaica High School, sophomore signal-caller Spencer Campbell will start his fourth varsity game.
Salt Fork coach Brian Plotner has cautioned his team not to look at the Hornets as a team that barely finished above .500. Heyworth is one of two Class 1A qualifiers (the other is Stark County) whose regular season schedules consisted of six opponents that qualified for the playoffs.
"I've made the kids aware that this team has the speed of a St. Joe or a Westville (schools Salt Fork played and lost to this year)," Plotner said. "Their skill kids are faster than what we possess."
Law said tailback Jase Wilson (a 1,300-yard rusher), who sat out last week, will return to the lineup.
"We've had a bunch of kids banged up, but for the most part we're bringing over a healthy team," he said.
Salt Fork is in the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season. Law believes Heyworth might be prepared to make a similar run.
"Our JV team has been undefeated the last two years," he said.
Plotner's team has gained 65 percent of its total yards this season through the air. Quarterback J.D. Learnard has thrown for a program-record 1,411 yards and receivers Bryn Eakle and Jon Knoll each have gained more than 450 yards on receptions.
Law said his team has played other pass-oriented teams.
"We've seen stuff like that with Fieldcrest (whose quarterback has thrown for 1,612 yards) and El Paso last week," he said. "We've played teams that have used the spread or the shotgun."
Law, whose team lost its last two regular season games by a total of 10 points, said he would like to keep one streak intact this weekend.
"We've played very good competition," he said, "and we haven't lost yet to a Class 1A team."