Prep football preseason countdown: #12 ANGOLA HORNETS
Andy Thomas was still walking to his dorm room at Manchester University the last time Angola High School had an unbeaten season or won an IHSAA football sectional title. However, a quarter-century later, Thomas put himself (along with a number of very talented players) in Hornet lore by guiding his team last fall to a 12-1 record and a Northeast Corner Conference championship, as well as a victory in the Class 4A Sectional 19 title game.
“It was one for the ages,” Thomas told News-Sentinel.com while reflecting on the 2017 season. “It was special for our players and for our community.”
The season was “special,” however it won’t help the Hornets in the least when they open the 2018 season on Aug. 17 against DeKalb.
“We can’t take anyone lightly,” Thomas said of his schedule. “None whatsoever.”
Thomas “lost an all-timer” in quarterback Chance Roddy to graduation, but the Hornets are immersed in training camp and Thomas is evaluating seniors Jarrett Gibson and Jacob Domanski, both of whom Thomas said are “capable” to lead his offense.
Gibson has experience at running back, while Domanski has played receiver, so both are athletic.
The offense will feature the run game and with good reason.
Senior Chase Schnepf gained 1,300 yards a season ago and scored 24 times. This will be his third season as a varsity starter and was All-NECC as a junior.
“He has worked really hard,” Thomas said. “He should have a tremendous season. Chase has really put himself in position to have a great year.”
Another Angola senior, Joel McCurdy can provide depth at the running back spot, while Thomas has a number of starters returning along the offensive line, which is always a great thing to have.
Seniors Ben Villafuerte and Colton Mattox are “going to be the leaders of our offensive line,” according to Thomas.
“Offensively,” Thomas explained, “it’s going to depend on how we come together on the offensive line and what kind of consistency that we get out of our skill players.”
A defense can go a long way if its defensive front is effective and there is no reason to believe that won’t be the case for the Hornets this fall.
“We’ve got three guys back,” Thomas said of his defensive line. “Bryan Luna, David Frank, and (junior) Kyle Trick are all returning guys.”
Thomas said that senior Marcus DeLaCruz “will be in the mix” up front, as well.
Luke Horner returns for the third consecutive season and the all-state and all-conference linebacker will team with senior Marcques Tagliaferri in the heart of the Hornet defense.
Who else lines up with those two remains to be determined as camp progresses, but Thomas said he is “really, really excited about our young guys that are competing” for the other linebacker spots.
When Purdue University offers your strong safety a scholarship that resonates with the opposition and Angola having junior Ryan Brandt in the secondary makes the unit formidable.
Seniors Jayce Meyer (cornerback) and Jake Bradley (free safety) are each three-year starters and will also contribute once again.
“We have eight, nine guys back on defense,” Thomas said. “We think, especially early, that will be the strength of our team.”
ABOUT THE HORNETS
2017 record: 12-1
2017 storyline: Angola enjoyed its most successful season since 1992 and will be trying to win consecutive sectional titles for the first time since then. The climb to dominance under Thomas has been progressive, as he has strung together seasons of three wins, four, seven and 12 victories.
Coach: Andy Thomas (26-17, in five years at Angola, 116-84, 19 seasons as a head coach at Garrett, Culver, and Angola)
QB Chance Roddy (two-time All-NECC)
LB Braydon Hart (three-year starter and All-NECC in each season)
WR Jarrett Schultz (two-time All-NECC)
OL Cole Trick (two-time All-NECC)