Kroner's football tour '14: Arcola
ARCOLA — Last year, Zach Zehr was the new coach at Arcola High School, implementing a new system.
This year, the preseason is going much smoother for the Purple Riders.
With 18 of 22 starters returning between the offensive and defensive platoons, the experience is helping the team hit the ground running.
“We’re working ahead of schedule, with so many guys coming back,” Zehr said. “We can focus on execution instead of installation.”
The biggest battles are to determine who will fill the positions on the offensive and defensive lines. Senior Justin Kuhn is preparing for his third year at center. Flanking him could be any number of candidates, including five with some varsity starting experience: Drew Fultz, Cole Hutton, Kyle Kepley, Ronny Olvera and Raul Ortiz.
Richard Jaeger, Javi Leal, Christian Mendoza, Dalton Pantier and Jack Spencer are among the other prospects for the offensive front.
“We have a lot of competitive guys, and they’ve done a good job of getting after it,” Zehr said.
Justin Hobgood will fill one of the defensive line slots. Other openings could be filled by Fultz, Hutton, Pantier, Brandon Lebeter or Brad Nall.
“We had a very good offseason,” Zehr said. “Kids worked extremely hard, and they’re excited to put the effort to the test.”
One challenge for Arcola is a schedule in which five of the nine regular season opponents are newcomers.
“In the old Little Okaw, you kind of know what each other can do,” Zehr said. “Now with half of the teams on the schedule new, there’s nothing to measure against. It creates a different level of excitement.”
The backfield will include quarterback Clayton Strader, who had 1,290 yards between rushing and passing as a sophomore, and Wyatt Fishel, who had 633 yards between rushing and receiving as a sophomore.
Coach: Zach Zehr, second year
2013 record: 3-6
2014 roster size: 41
Home opener: Sept. 5, vs. Toledo Cumberland, 7 p.m.