The Inter Tri-County League will be no more after the 2016-17 school year season. The United High School football team would like to say goodbye with a bang. That means the Golden Eagles must improve dramatically over last year.

The team finished a mere 2-8 a year ago. But its prospects are brightening, thanks to 20 returning lettermen and a bit more talent and experience at the skill positions.

Coach Michael Demster understands the motivation involved in leaving the old league on a high note and entering the Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference with momentum for the program. But he doesn’t believe that will be the primary incentive.

“That motivation would be for anybody in the final year, finishing on a strong note, but for us and the lack of success we had last year, we want to turn that around,” Demster said. “When you win only two games, that’s not the ultimate goal for any of the boys.

“Injuries and youth [are] a bad combination and we had both of those things going on last year. But it also gave us experience and mental fortitude and I feel that this year they’ll be able to handle adversity better.”


Demster knows that for the Golden Eagles to fly high offensively, their I formation must produce a strong ground game. But he also understands that a potent balance as the team shifts over from the Wing-T will be critical to success.

“We’re going to be a little run-heavy, but we want to throw efficiently,” Demster said. “We’re going to work in some play-action and short throws to keep defenses honest.

That experience includes senior starting quarterback Colton Graham, who threw for 862 yards and six touchdowns a year ago. Graham, who doubles as an all-district linebacker, has continued to improve his reads and footwork.

Graham will be handing the ball off quite often to junior wingback Cade Wood, who blazes the 40 at 4.5 and contributed on both sides of the ball in 2015 when healthy. He’ll be running behind senior Colton Bowen, who lost nearly all of last season to a broken fibula after opening the campaign with a 94-yard rushing effort.

Though the Golden Eagles boast some depth at wideout, they will be depending greatly on rangy and athletic senior Jake Clark, who caught 12 passes for 174 yards a year ago. Demster also touts the talents of junior receiver Nathan Mikell.

United is strong and experienced in the middle of the offensive line with center Kyle Bailey and guards Andrew Dulak and Gary Eichler all back as starters. Demster is optimistic about the combination of strength and quickness along the line, as well as junior tight end Tyler Humphrey.


Stopping the run is critical at any level of football, but particularly in high school competition. Demster is hoping the cream will rise to the top along his line.

Junior Josh Good, along with Humphrey and Dulak, will be rotating at defensive end while playing time at the tackle spots remain up for grabs. Graham is an all-district outside linebacker while Bowen returns in the middle and sophomore Brady Leyman is back after securing a starting spot as a freshman.

Demster is optimistic about the secondary, which includes returning starters Mikell and Clark at the corners and junior Kaden Smith at safety.


A battle rages for the starting placekicker between juniors Zach Himes and Jordan Russell.

The punting spot is set with sophomore Parker Hydrick, who lettered in 2015.


The returning talent and experience gained by the Golden Eagles last season should translate into more wins this year. The continued development of Graham, particularly as a passer, would bode well for the offense.

United appears to be solid defensively.

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