ELNORA — Following a disappointing 5-7 season in 2012, the North Daviess football team will kick off the 2013 season with renewed optimism with a roster loaded with experience players. Cougars coach Scotty Helms is confident in what he thinks will be an improved football team led by upperclassmen on both sides of the ball. Helms is entering his 20th year with the school and he’s registered a 102-92 record in that time.
The Cougars open with two straight road games, the first coming Friday at Tecumseh and August 30 at North Central (Farmersburg). North Daviess opened with the same two opponents a year ago and came away with a close 34-28 victory over Tecumseh in the home opener and a 42-19 loss to North Central — also at home.
“I love starting on the road, because it takes your team out of its comfort zone and I think you find out more about your team playing on the road early,” Helms said. “We’ll have a good following to Tecumseh and North Central. The kids are in a different environment, a little hostile and you’re able to find out a lot about your kids. If used in the right manor they can grow closer as a team. Those first two games are extremely tough.”
The beginning of each season brings optimism for every team, but the Cougars are hoping to have a special season after winning as many games as they have lost over the last two seasons. According to Helms that improvement starts in the offseason activities and grueling practices in the summer heat. With only three days before the season kicks off, Helms likes what he has seen.
“I’ve seen a lot of great team bonding — this is a football team that enjoys playing the game together,” Helms said. “We’ve had an outstanding preseason.”
A year ago, the first, second and third options were to hand the ball off to workhorse senior tailback Colton Lengacher, and the Cougars’ opponents figure to get more of the same in 2013 with some timely play-action passes from senior quarterback Brady Helms mixed in to throw off defense’s trying to crowd the line of scrimmage.
“We’re expecting a great deal from those two, and the reason we’re expecting so much from them is our guys up front,” Helms said. “I think our offensive line is going to be very good — it’s the strongest football team we’ve put on the field since I’ve been here in terms of physical strength. Our backfield is a lot stronger, a lot bigger and a lot faster than we were last year. (Colton) Lengacher has gained 30 pounds, (Brady) Helms has gained 25 pounds, and Dakota Adams has lost some weight and gained a lot of speed through Force Fitness program. We’re blessed with Logan Turnpin and Doug Bays as backups at the running back position.”
The running game will be the focus of the Cougars offense, but the passing game was a primary focus in the off-season as an option that could really keep North Daviess’ opponents guessing on defense. The evolution of that passing will no doubt include 6-foot-5, 255 pound sophomore tight end Shannon Chesterfield.
“We’ve spent so much time in the offseason on our passing game,” Helms said. “Our playaction pass has got to be solid, and not only do we have Shannon Chesterfield, who is a big target, we’ll also play (Dakota) Adams at tight end and Andrew Steffey has moved to tight end as well. We’ve got some big targets at tight end, and Bays and Turpin will man the halfback position and will be very much included in our passing game this year.”
The North Daviess defense has Helms very excited about the improvement of a unit that surrendered 40 or more points in six games last season. When asked what he has seen on the defensive side of the ball in summer practices, Helms summed it up in one word.
“Speed,” Helms said. “We’ve seen a lot of speed. We have speed across the board defensively, not only in the secondary and the linebackers, but up front as well. I think these kids need to understand that alignment is 80 percent of defense. If the defense will get aligned right, I’m certain they will do their jobs.”
Helms has seen some upperclassmen taking a leadership torch and stepping up on the field to lead a defense that must be improved if the Cougars want to make a run toward a sectional championship since 1993.
“Logan Turpin at cornerback, he’ll be a third-year starter at corner for us,” Helms said. “It’s great to have a kid with that much experience in your defensive backfield. (Doug) Bays will be a second-year starter at safety. We’re going to have some youth cornerback and another secondary position with sophomore Jacob Reed and Jordan Allen we moved from outside linebacker to safety and Nate Gingerich from outside linebacker to safety as well. Inside linebacker has been solid with (Colton) Lengacher and (Andrew) Steffey — they were solid last year and we expect a lot of tackles from both of them. Brady Helms will add some strength to the outside linebacker position. Junior Mavryk VanHentenryck, who had an outstanding sophomore season will man the other outside linebacker.”
An underrated aspect of each game is special teams and kick coverage, and Helms said starting field position is so important, especially in high school football. Due to an injury, (Shannon) Chesterfield won’t be resuming his place kicking duties, instead Helms has a competition between senior Steven Cox, Jordan Allen and junior Alyssa Allen for the starting position.
Entering the 2013 season, Helms said the entire program feels extremely confident, and with that confidence comes expectations.
“We obviously expect to win every Friday night,” Helms said. “We went through some growing pains last season, but we only graduated five kids — only two or three of those kids had significant playing time. We have a lot of experience, and I expect our kids to get the job done every Friday night.”
Schedule Aug. 23 at Tecumseh 8 p.m. Aug. 30 at N. Central (Farm.) 7p.m. Sep. 6 Eastern Greene 7 p.m. Sep. 13 Washington 7 p.m. Sep. 20 North Putnam 7 p.m. Sep. 27 at Linton-Stockton 7 p.m. Oct. 4 at Wood Memorial 7:30 p.m. Oct. 11 North Knox 7 p.m. Oct. 18 Springs Valley 7 p.m.