HS Football: Mechanicsburg confident despite roster turnover

Mechanicsburg’s Dustin Knapp tries to avoid a tackle by Jefferson’s Brenen Auer last season. Bill Lackey/Staff

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Mechanicsburg’s Dustin Knapp tries to avoid a tackle by Jefferson’s Brenen Auer last season. Bill Lackey/Staff

Over half the roster has turned over at Mechanicsburg. Who could expect another winning season, league title and return to the playoffs?

The people inside coach Kurt Forrest’s locker room, that’s who. They aren’t worried about what those on the other side of the door might assume. The tradition established in recent seasons is one they will “fight, scratch and claw” to continue.

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“On August 22nd that’s probably the last thing on my mind,” Forrest said. “But it’s also one of the things that we feel when we go out and put our best effort forward I think we’re going to have a chance to win every ballgame that we’re in. And when you do that, you’re going to give yourself a chance to compete for those things.”

The Indians lost 23 players from last year’s team, including 12 to graduation. The greatest loss is one of the greatest players in school and Ohio Heritage Conference history, Kaleb Romero. The record-setting quarterback led the Indians to a 43-8 record in four seasons as starter and four playoff berths.

But the Indians are determined to move forward with some talented returnees and new faces. The offense will continue to be primarily a one-back spread, but it will be more traditional this season with more speed on the outside and fewer tight ends and backs as blockers. Yes, Forrest wants throw the ball more and get as close to a 50-50 run-pass ratio as possible.

Still, senior running back Dustin Knapp will certainly be a focus of the offense after a 1,000-yard season.

“It doesn’t matter if the ball’s in his hands or he’s blocking or he’s playing linebacker, whatever he’s doing he’s doing it the way it’s supposed to done,” Forrest said.

The offense will be in the hands of sophomore Logan Hurst, a 6-foot-2 left-hander who ran the JV team last year.

“He’s a kid that I know he’s going to do exactly what he’s supposed to do,” Forrest said. “And he understands the offense very, very well. He’s gained that little bit of confidence with every day that goes by, and it’s been fun to watch him develop.”

Hurst has experienced receivers in junior Joey Mascadri and senior tight end Justin Hunt, the team’s fastest player.

Both sides of the line will lean on the experience of fourth-year starter Cannon Propst at offensive tackle and defensive end.

“He’s probably the most athletic lineman and pound for pound the strongest in our league,” Forrest said.

Drew Vanvoorhis is a senior with a lot of backup experience that Forrest hopes makes it back from injury soon in the middle of each line. Kix Thiel moves from tight end to guard and will also start at defensive end.

Also on defense, the Indians are counting on Knapp, senior tackle Jayden Loveless (6-5, 280), Mascadri at outside linebacker, Hunt and Hurst at cornerback and freshman Keith Bebout and sophomore Mack DeLong at safety.

The Indians schedule looks different this year with a home opener against Cedarville. It’s a non-conference game because the two teams are in opposite divisions of the Ohio Heritage Conference. The Indians’ traditional opener for the past 15 years with West Jefferson will be later in the season because WJ joined the OHC this year and the teams are in the same division.

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