‘Whatever it takes’ -- Eaton football off to 6-0 start

Eaton sophomore Devon Rader returned an interception for a touchdown in the Eagles' 35-7 win over Waynesville on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021. Eric Frantz/CONTRIBUTED

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Eaton sophomore Devon Rader returned an interception for a touchdown in the Eagles' 35-7 win over Waynesville on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021. Eric Frantz/CONTRIBUTED

Eaton head football coach Brad Davis began preparing for this season as soon as the 2020 season ended. He gave an important job to the 10 players who would be seniors: continue the tradition of creating the motto for next season.

“Whatever it takes.”

The motto is printed on the handouts they take to the weight room. It is said over and over at practice and on game night.

“We just felt like that’s something you could apply to everything,” said senior defensive lineman Breyden Boston. “Do whatever it takes, whatever you need to do to get that thing done.”

What the Eagles have done is win six games to begin the season. It’s been a long time since anything like that has happened at Eaton. Davis won’t quite call it a rebirth, but, at least for this season, 6-0 and 3-0 in the Southwestern Buckeye League West is a resurgence.

“Certainly we’re off to a nice start this season and certainly there’s plenty of work left to do,” Davis said. “But this is much better than where we’ve been these last several years.”

Davis played at Eaton in the mid-1990s for Ron Neanan, who led the Eagles for 27 years, and returned as an assistant in 2004. He’s seen what success looks like for the Eagles. Neanan led them to the playoffs in 2000 and from 2005-2010, culminating in a regional runner-up finish in ‘10.

Davis replaced Neanan in 2015, but the Eagles haven’t had a winning season since 2013 until now. With four games left, the Eagles lead Division IV, Region 16 in playoff points.

“We’ve been building toward this,” Davis said. “We’ve been close at times. The record may not show, but the work’s been there out of these past senior groups and it’s just a culmination out of these senior guys.”

That group includes five four-year lettermen. Aiden Williams, a senior who is a second-year starter at running back, said it’s been great to see his class mature from freshman year into a group of senior leaders.

“We came together in the offseason and talked about how we’re all tired of losing, we’re all tired of being the laughingstock of all the football teams and being doubted,” Williams said. “So the seniors all came together and put in the work in the offseason and decided we’re going to put an end to it and step up.”

The Eagles defeated recent SWBL power Bellbrook three weeks ago. They face another important step Friday at Brookville (5-1, 2-1).

“Brookville’s a good team, but our main focus right now is we’re 0-0 every week and we need to keep that mindset,” Williams said.

The Eagles have succeeded with a balanced offensive attack out of the spread. Williams has over two-thirds of the carries and has rushed for 689 yards and six touchdowns. Junior quarterback Brock Ebright has passed for over 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns and completed 66.7 % of his throws. Josh Martin has 28 catches and Leslie Orr has 18, combining for 10 touchdowns. That production has come behind the line play of Brady Rice, Gabe Puckett, Reid Tinstman, Hayden Bratton, and Zac Schaffer.

The coach calling the offensive shots in his first year as coordinator is none other than Ron Neanan.

“His philosophy and our philosophy as a program is just take what the defense gives us, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of the planning for that,” Davis said.

Boston and his teammates on defense complement the offense by allowing 6.9 points a game.

“We try to put as much pressure on the offense as possible and we like to blitz,” Davis said.

Friday won’t be the last big game this season for Eaton. The Eagles finish with Carlisle at home, at Valley View and at home against East-leading Monroe. Then a spot in the expanded 16-team playoffs awaits.

“The community’s excited and they weathered through some lean years,” Davis said, “but I think everybody saw the potential of what we’re doing now.”

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