The 2023 Delaware County high school football season is right around the corner as week one will begin on August 18. While some teams are looking to continue with what they worked on last season, others are going to have new looks.
But the three goals that are the most prevalent are making their school proud, being the best in the county, and making a run in the playoffs.
One season removed from their sectional championship season, the Tigers are looking to run it back.
“For us, it's just our goal [to win],” Yorktown head coach Mike Wilhelm said. “We want to win championships every year and when we don't, we're disappointed.”
It is no secret that one of the Tiger’s best weapons graduated last year in Kolton Nanko. Nanko led the Tigers with 80.9 receiving yards per game and finished the season with 16 touchdowns.
But starting quarterback senior Mason Moulton thinks that the team's explosive offense will continue to shock their opponents.
“I think we have a lot of athleticism and speed,” Moulton said. “I think we can just have a lot of fun and use a lot of big plays… [Those] plays are going to set the tone for our season and lead us to a lot of wins.”
Moulton finished last season with 19 touchdown passes and a 71.6 quarterback rating. Besides Mouklton, senior Jalen Thomas will be returning after a big season. Last season, Thomas led the team with 96.5 rushing yards per game and 18 touchdowns.
To Wilhelm, both Moulton and Thomas will be the guys that set the bar for their teammates.
“You want your best player [Moulton] to be your hardest worker and he is,” Wilhelm said. “I think everyone sees that and it's his leadership… Jalen [Thomas] is the quiet guy who leads by example and I think he just does things the right way.”
The Tigers will open week one at home as they will take on Anderson.
Some of the biggest news of the off-season was the fact that the Bearcats were getting a new turf field and a new stadium. To second-year head coach Kyle Padgett, the team is ready to show why they deserved the upgrade.
“The community’s excited about things and they're buying into the kids,” he said. “ I told the kids, they're investing in us. Now it's time for you to invest in yourselves both on and off the field and go out there and put out a good product.”
Last season, the Bearcats went 4-6 overall, with a 4-3 record in conference play. That is the best Muncie Central record since the 2016-17 season.
“They proved that they believe in themselves and believe in what we're doing,” Padgett said. “And I think that kind of led to what our offseason has been because we had a really good offseason.”
But the other big difference for Muncie Central is the amount of athletes that showed up. Padgett mentioned that they had doubled their attendance from last season.
With the new stadium and new players, the atmosphere is what excites senior Marvin McClinton.
“It's just really the atmosphere that we brought in from the summer, from spring ball, and from winter lifting,” he said.
McClinton was a factor for the Bearcat defense last season. He led the team with eight quarterback hurries and caused two fumbles. To him, the biggest component of the season will be discipline.
“As long as we become more disciplined and stay disciplined, we're gonna win more games,” he said. “The more disciplined you are, the more teams won't be able to get to you.”
Another returner, senior Leo Boyd, talked about the state of the team during the summer practices.
“Our offense started off a little rocky,” Boyd said. “But we're getting better every day. We had to go through a whole bunch of new offensive linemen and people move on positions. But on defense, we've been locked in and ready since spring.”
The Bearcats will start the season when they visit the Delta Eagles.
Muncie Central was not the only school in Delaware County to receive upgrades to their football field this offseason. This season, The Warriors will be the third Delaware County team to have a turf field.
“Our superintendent and our administration, we're pretty big on getting our kids to have pride in what they have,” head coach Matt Nuckols said. “...So being able to get some of that for our kids, I think that's big just for them to have some pride in their school.”
Last season was Nuckols’s first season as head coach. The Warriors ended the year with a 1-9 record, and with most of last year’s roster returning, Nuckols wants to build upon that.
“That's probably the most exciting thing to see is how much more ready we're going to be on a Friday night,” he said. “With just our kids having that extra year of development and getting in the weight room and getting into those varsity bodies.”
One of the Warrior’s standout players from last season was senior Trey Adams. He led the team with 33.7 receiving yards per game and 32.1 rushing yards per game.
“We're getting the young guys developed and we're getting more developed as a team,” Adams said. “I feel like we've been a lot better [in practices this summer] than the previous summer.”
To Nuckols, senior quarterback Triton Blevins was one Warrior that looked great in summer practices. Blevins threw for 425 passing yards and had a touchdown pass last season, and is ready to improve this season.
“Some of the receivers and I have been going around and running routes just on our own free time,” Blevins said.
With both Adams and Belvins graduating after this season, they are excited to compete one last time on their brand new field.
“It's just a nice feeling,” Adams said. “ I'm happy for the young guys that get to play on it for the rest of their careers.”
Last season did not end the way the Eagles or their fans wanted. Their last-second sectional loss to Yorktown is something that head coach Chris Overholt wants them to use as motivation.
“I think anytime you go [through something like that], either that's going to break you or motivate you going into the next season,” he said. “And I'll tell you, our captains and our leaders, starting January 1, had the mentality that we are going to move on from it. It was going to make us better and it was not going to hinder us for this upcoming season.”
But there is something different about this season's team. Senior Kaiden Bond has been the starting quarterback the last two seasons, but the Eagles plan to use junior Bronson Edwards alongside Bond this season.
“We're excited that they both [Bond and Edwards] kind of bring something to the table,” Overholt said. “Bronson's accuracy down the field has really come along.”
To Edwards, the energy that the Eagles have shown this summer is something that can carry them through the season.
“I think energy right now is great,” he said. “I love playing with them and we just all feed off of each other.”
But there is one apparent thing. The Eagles lost many talented players and leaders due to graduation. Names like Palmer Samuels and Caleb Elliot are just a few.
“We have some great three-year starters for us,” Overholt said. “And guys just keep showing up. We've had great attendance over the summer and guys are coming along and we're still getting better each day.”
After their 3-7 record last season, the Eagles ranked third in Delaware County record-wise. This is something Overholt wants to change for his ninth season as Delta’s head coach.
“There's gonna be a big focus on retaking the 765 because that's something that we are proud of,” he said. “Delaware County football has gotten so much better in the last three years, and it means something to be the champion of the 765.”
The Eagles will open up the season at home against Muncie Central.
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