McDonald looking at season of transition
Coach: ‘Kids have to grow up in a hurry’
By STEVE RUMAN
“Rebuilding year” is rarely a part of the McDonald High School football program vocabulary.
The Blue Devils haven’t experienced a losing season since 2002. In the last 13 years, the Devils have made the playoffs eight times. During that span, they have logged a 106-36 record, including four perfect regular seasons.
Even in the non-playoff years, the Blue Devils won 32 of 50 games.
Still, it’s safe to suggest that the 2019 season will be a season of transition for them. The vast majority of starters who led McDonald to a perfect 10-0 regular season (11-1 overall) a year ago were lost to graduation.
Ten of the 12 graduating seniors were three-year starters, leaving the cupboard extremely bare in terms of varsity experience.
“Our kids are going to have to grow up in a hurry,” McDonald coach Dan Williams said. “The experience that we do have, those kids will have to really take charge and lead this team.
“But we do have leaders,” Williams said. “We’re confident that our program is built in a way that will allow us to build off of our past success.”
McDonald made headlines in 2018 when it transitioned from its decades-long Wing-T offense to a spread attack. Though many of the playmakers have moved on, the Blue Devils will stick with the change.
Sophomore Logan Hawk — used sparingly a year ago — is expected to get the majority of the playing time at the quarterback position. Junior Dominic Schadl also will see some action behind center.
Senior running back Cameron Tucker and junior wide receivers Dominic Carkido and Schadl will provide some experience at the skilled positions. Junior Kaden Crown will lead an offensive line which lacks varsity experience.
Schadl and Tucker return in the secondary, while Crown will again lead up front. The three returning starters will be asked to guide an otherwise inexperienced defense.
The linebacker corps should benefit from the return of senior Riley Lewis, who missed the vast majority of his junior year because of an injury. He will be joined by sophomore Nathan Gilligan, who lettered as a freshman.
“There are a few players we’re really high on, but you never know how someone will respond to playing varsity ball until they actually get out there under the lights,” Williams said.
McDonald must replace its punter and kicker. Hawk is expected to handle the punting duties while senior Tanner Kilbourne will take care of the kickoffs, field goals and extra-point attempts.
The Blue Devils’ roster not only lacks experience, but it also lacks numbers. The Blue Devils will field 28 players, six short of last year’s total. They return just four starters on offense and three on defense.
Still, Williams is not about to write off the season as a rebuilding year.
“I hate the whole rebuilding term,” Williams said. “The guys we have on this team right now, they are confident and more importantly they are comfortable in their roles.”
“They’ve been around success. They’ve seen what it takes to succeed and they are heading into the season with the right mindset. They are also working very hard to improve from day to day.’
Williams acknowledged that his team “must grow up really fast.”
The first half of the season includes games against Brookfield, Columbiana, Crestview, Mineral Ridge and Western Reserve.
“Four perennial playoff teams and our arch-rival,” Williams said of his early-season foes. “We’re going to find out pretty quick just where we stand.”