After nine consecutive non-winning seasons, South Adams broke out in a big way last season by winning 10 games before falling 41-40 to Sheridan in the sectional title game.
Fifth-year Starfire coach Jason Arnold recently spoke with News-Sentinel freelance reporter Justin Kenny.
News-Sentinel: Coach, how has the summer gone and what you guys are expecting this fall?
Arnold: We are excited right now, and I know people are like, “Why are they excited? They lose a lot of seniors, points and stats.” But we are excited about the guys we have coming back. This summer has been a good one for us. We don't have a lot of numbers in terms of replacing the guys we lost last year, but the guys that we have coming back that have been here have been working hard and they are ready to get at it. Whenever you have guys who are willing to put the work in to make themselves better, that has to make you excited.
News-Sentinel: Who do you have returning on offense?
Arnold: On offense, we have some work cut out for us because we lose just about every offensive stat we had last year. When you look at our quarterback Dustin Wanner going to Taylor University this year, our receivers, our running backs, three of our linemen, we lost them all to graduation. So we don't have a lot returning statistically, but we are excited about the guys we have back. We have a quarterback Corey Seffernick who got to fill in last year when Dustin got hurt and in situations where we felt the game was in our hands and he got to gain some valuable experience there. He will be battling with sophomore Derek Wanner, Dustin's younger brother, who has been here all summer and has looked good. Running back wise, we will be led by Sam Dellinger, who is a fullback for us, and Alex Kistler as well. Those guys did not get that much valuable experience on offense last year, but they do have experience. We have seniors on the offensive line – Blake Fox, Nathan Wynn, Mitchel Kaverman, Cory Sank – so we have guys, we just need some game experience.
News-Sentinel: What about defensively, do you have a lot to replace there as well?
Arnold: Absolutely we do. I think when you … look at last year's roster, I think maybe 19 out of 22 starters on offense and defense are gone. We just hope we do not have to have so many guys go both ways. We are trying to develop some new guys in some new positions and develop depth as well and hopefully get some younger guys ready for varsity football.
News-Sentinel: Historic year for South Adams football last year with double-digit victories – you mentioned losing a lot of players, but a positive has to be that you are in the second year of a new system.
Arnold: That is something we noticed during camp that we were doing things then that we were not doing until week three or four last year. It's exciting because we know now where everyone is supposed to go and the terminology is down and we are able to check plays and call plays at the line of scrimmage. Even though we are at a little bit of a disadvantage because of the guys we lost last year talent-wise, we are already ahead of … where we were last year at this point mentally.
News-Sentinel: Once again Leo looks strong in the ACAC. Talk about one through seven and the teams you will have to face.
Arnold: Leo is obviously No. 1. Any time you have the size advantage on everyone else in your conference, you should be the favorite every year. I think Heritage has put itself in a position where they should expect themselves to be towards the top of the conference. I am excited to see what happens with Garrett. Knowing (new Railroaders coach Chris Depew) from my days in the NHC when I was at Norwell, I am interested to see what he does with a Garrett team that (former coach Ron Frickey) did such a good job with. I can see them being in the top half of the conference. I am sure Adams Central is pretty excited about what they have coming back with some of their running backs and (Dalton Combs) at quarterback. I really like the ACAC … I don't think it gets the publicity that it should get. It's tough football, it's fun football and some of us small kids in Class A and 2A can play football too.
News-Sentinel: What are your thoughts on the new “success rule”?
Arnold: It will be very interesting to see how it really does affect high school football. Do certain schools have an advantage? Probably. I don't know how much of that advantage is through “recruiting” even though I know that is a no-no to say sometimes, or if that success is because of their tradition. If I had the choice and I had a chance to go to a school that consistently wins championships, I think that would probably entice me to want to play for that school also. The landscape will shift a little bit. I don't know if I agree completely with how they did it. I probably would have gone with a four-year time period instead of a two-year, but hopefully I can say that tradition forced us to move up (a class) one of these years.