SOUTHINGTON By MIKE McLAIN
Watching 36 players show up for the start of training camp was a pleasant sight to Southington coach Bill Bohren as he entered his 50th season of coaching.
The trick now is to find a way to keep all 36 healthy before the season ends on Oct. 28 at Ashtabula St. John.
Quality depth is cherished by all coaches, especially at Division VII schools. Having 14 returning lettermen from the 3-6 team of last season is as good as it gets in terms of depth for the Wildcats.
“We’re OK right now,” said Bohren, noting that he had just 25 players on the roster last season. “Our problem is always in an injury. If we get an injury, he’s probably a two-way player. We have to develop some depth and stay healthy.”
The key, in Bohren’s estimation, is making up ground on the three elite teams in the Northeastern Athletic Conference — Pymatuning Valley, Grand Valley and Mathews.
“Last year, we played Grand Valley the week after they upset Kirtland,” Bohren said. “They dressed 60 kids and we dressed 25 kids.”
An unsettled issue entering camp was which of two sophomores — Trystan Mollohan or Dakota Whitt — would replace the graduated Travis Lehman at quarterback.
Whitt is an outstanding athlete capable of working in the often-deployed winged-T offense. Mollohan has more of a pocket style.
Bohren is set at tailback with senior Cody Helmuth, who rushed for close to 800 yards in 2015. Senior Christian Romigh will be the fullback, with either senior Cam Mazzola or Justin Sherwood at wingback.
Jeff Greathouse and Jake Bee will see time at tight end. The split ends are Joey Meyer and Gaige Armstrong.
Helmuth should feel good knowing the entire starting line is back, including strong-side tackle Case Shorts, a 255-pound junior with college potential. Wolf Wildman, a 295-pound sophomore, will be the opposite tackle. Senior Markus Smith, a tri-captain along with Helmuth and Romigh, will start at a guard, with senior Devin Reckart starting at the other guard. Two-year junior starter Logan Rhodes gets the call at center.
Eight starters are back on a defense that should be a team strength. Among those are Romigh, who led the unit in tackles last season at inside linebacker. Mazzola lines up next to Romigh, with Reckart and Helmuth at the outside spots.
Wildman and Rhodes anchor the interior of the line. Shorts and Smith will man the end spots.
Whitt’s athleticism is a perfect fit for one of the corners. Sherwood and Armstrong were contending to start at the opposite corner. Meyer will handle the lone safety spot as the Wildcats will often show a cover-3 look.
Bohren is comfortable with Helmuth as the long snapper and Romigh at punter. There are concerns with deep kicking and point-after kicking.
Bohren, 82, is nine wins short of 300 for his career. It might be asking a bit much of the Wildcats to go 9-1.