SPRINGFIELD — The athletes are all a little faster, bigger and stronger, and the hits come a little harder too, when playing football at the college level. Greene County standouts Zach Hoffman, Josh Bannick, Tyler Everidge and Trey Ellis seem to be enjoying every minute of it.
The four are now teammates on the 2015 Wittenberg University team.
Bannick, a senior defensive tackle and Tigers co-captain, spent his high school days playing for the Greenon Knights. He said college football has taught him the importance of off-season training and preparation.
“Everything begins with the off-season,” he said while clutching Ye Old Skull traveling trophy, moments after Wittenberg had defeated Ohio Wesleyan, 42-41, during Saturday’s home opener on a brand-new Edwards-Maurer Field.
Ye Old Skull has been in Wittenberg’s possession since 2006.
“I always went to the older guys for advice and they kinda brought me along each year. You get that mentality that you need to keep working hard every single year. And we’re all going after a four-peat, so we’re working hard to get it,” Bannick said.
Wittenberg has won the North Coast Athletic Conference title the last three years, so they’re motivated to make 2015 the team’s fourth straight title.
Fellow senior Hoffman played his high school ball at Beavercreek. He tore his Achilles tendon just before the season got started, and so he was able to redshirt this year and will play next year.
“I thought I’d just pinched a nerve, at first, but then to learn that it was my Achilles and that I’d be out for six months … it really got me, being my senior year,” Hoffman said. “I’m happy that I get to put in the work again to get healed and ready to go for next year.”
There’s an overriding theme of putting in the hard work among the Tigers. Sophomore Trey Ellis worked hard as a Greeneview Ram lineman. Now as Wittenberg’s starting right guard (in place of Hoffman), the Tiger sophomore says that same work ethic hasn’t waned.
“I learned a lot of stuff at Greeneview, because coach (Neal) Kasner was here for awhile and I learned a lot of the system while I was there,” Ellis said. “You have to work as hard as you can, especially the time from when you graduate from high school to when you come into camp. … You can be as strong as anything, but if you don’t come to camp in shape, you’re not going to do any good.”
Bellbrook grad Tyler Everidge is also a Tiger these days. He played most of Saturday’s game against Ohio Wesleyan as the team’s starting tight end, and often was used in blocking formations alongside Ellis. Almost as elusive as a real Tiger, the sophomore Everidge couldn’t be found for comment after Saturday’s game.
Bannick didn’t care that he had six tackles, 1.5 sacks and two tackles for a loss of nine yards in Saturday’s game. All that mattered to him was that his Wittenberg Tigers walked off the field with another win.
“I don’t keep track of anything. I just enjoy playing the game,” he said with a laugh. “Whatever the stats say, that’s great. But I love this game. I just come out to play.”