FAIRBORN — With plenty of returning experience back with the Fairborn Skyhawks this season, coach Roy Thobe hopes this group can improve upon last season’s 2-8 mark, and then some.
“We’re pretty much the same as last year in terms of what we do. We have a spread offense,” Thobe said, moments after a recent scrimmage with Carroll. “We’ve kind of expanded things a little bit, where we now have some tight end sets and some double tight end sets. So we’re looking to expand on things from that aspect. We’ve added a few new wrinkles, but all in all we’re very similar to what we did last year.”
Fairborn brings eight returning starters to Thobe’s spread offense. And Wesley Watts will pair up with returning starting quarterback Grent Grody to make a formidable 1-2 combination for the Skyhawks attack.
Watts connected for touchdown passes of more than 30 yards each in the Carroll scrimmage.
Thobe has both starting wide receivers (Aron Childers and Brandon Easterling) and both slotbacks (Grayson Barnhart and Jared Olade) back for this season, so the two QBs will have plenty of experienced targets downfield as well.
Austin Sears and Trey Stidham are back to anchor the offensive line, and Tyler Cutlip returns as a solid running back.
“They’re doing well,” said Thobe. “The offense seems to be geling, but we’ve gotta sharpen up our running game. I’m not going to live and die by the pass. I’m going to run the ball, and that’s the name of the game. I didn’t see that today. I’m not happy with that aspect of it today.”
A pair of solid seniors — Ben Walburn and Robert Batie — are on the defensive line. Batie is making the move from the offensive line to D-Line, and Thobe thinks he could be very productive for the Skyhawks this season.
A trio of linebackers are back as well. Dusty Johnson led the team with 117 tackles last season. The public address announcer probably mutters Johnson’s name in his sleep. Johnson was second in the entire Greater Western Ohio Conference in tackles last season. He’s joined by Leslen Switzer (38 tackles) and Liam Bailey (51 tackles) to make a solid linebacking group.
Childers and Easterling will join Christian Rountree as returnees in the Fairborn secondary.
Adam Knaub has increased his field goal kicking range in the off season. Knaub’s longest field goal was from 31 yards out last season, and he was booming from 40 yards away in the scrimmage with Carroll.
Thobe is working on improving his long snappers, but he said he likes what he’s seen from the team’s kicking game.
Easterling and Childers will be busy guys. They already are receivers on offense and defensive backs on defense. They’ll be handling punt returns, too.
Judging on what he’s seen so far from his players, Thobe is encouraged with the 2015 brand of Skyhawks football.
“I feel good about where we’re at,” he said. “We’re progressing in the right direction. The key is we’ve gotta stay healthy, and that comes with being smart during practice. We’re ready to go.”