ANSONIA – For a second consecutive season the Ansonia football team is changing up its defensive philosophy.
After employing a 4-3 defense last season, defensive coordinator Adam Hall along with assistant coach Matt Macy are having the Tigers move to a 4-4 defense this year. Head coach Eugene Hoening said his assistants told him the 4-4 is similar to what the Tigers used in the past, but he’s leaving the defensive transition to them.
“You heard the old saying you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I’m the old dog,” Hoening said. “The boys have absorbed the 4-4 defense. I’ve got to give Coach Hall and Coach Macy especially credit for explaining the intricacies of running a zone and applying the knowledge to running a zone defense. I’ve always been a free safety, man guy. And Coach Macy, Coach Hall, says with all these spread teams you just can’t stay in man and do it. So, OK, we’re in a zone. I will say, though, it seems to work.”
Entering his 36th season at the helm for Ansonia with more than 200 career victories, Hoening said the assistant coaches are crucial to the Tigers’ success.
“I’ve got to give credit to our assistant coaches,” he said. “Coach Macy, Coach Hall, Coach (Stuart) Beisner. When it comes to coaching, they go above and beyond the call of duty. They work well with the boys. The boys respond to them. If my boy was young enough to play football, I’d like these guys to coach him, and I think that’s what every parent wants – somebody who not only is stern with the boy but also compassionate and understanding, and I think these guys do that well.”
Along with a strong coaching staff, Ansonia returns most its players from last year after only losing three seniors to graduation. Those three seniors – Nick Buckingham, Cody Burnfield and Dane Wentworth – were all four-year varsity starters, though.
Assuming the quarterback duties from the departed Wentworth is sophomore Matthew Shook.
“He’s doing fine now,” Hoening said. “I don’t know why things should change.”
In addition to losing Wentworth, Ansonia also lost Cody Burnfield and Nick Buckingham from its backfield. Aydan Sanders, Cody Sanders, Trevor Beam, Jarvis Thwaits and Devyn Sink will try to replace the lost production in the backfield.
Of the Tigers’ top four rushers last season, only Aydan Sanders returns so he will be relied on a lot this season.
“I think Aydan will have to carry more of the load,” Hoening said. “I don’t want to single him out, but he’s the back that comes back with experience.”
Ansonia isn’t known for its passing, but the Tigers do have some athletic ends in Max Wardrip, Hunter Muir and Peyton Setser.
The Tigers also have their entire offensive line back with Andrew Rowland at center, Ross Shook and Dylan Burnfield at guard and Nathan Denniston and Rygh Fortkamp at tackle.
“I would like to think experience on the offensive line (will be a strength),” Hoening said. “We have the offensive line back from last year so keeping them healthy and in the right direction will be a key for success with the team.”
In the revamped defense, Andrew Rowland, Austin Ward, Mason Billenstein, Nathan Denniston and Austin Helmke will man the inside at defensive tackle. They will be flanked by defensive ends Ross Shook and Rygh Fortkamp.
At linebacker Trevor Beam, Jarvis Thwaits and Andrew Rowland will play the inside positions. Hunter Muir, Max Wardrip, Peyton Setser and Hunter Buckingham will share the outside linebacker duties.
Matthew Shook, Cody Sanders and Aydan Sanders are the projected starters in Ansonia’s defensive backfield.
Moving to a 4-4 defense and more zone concepts instead of man-to-man, Hoening said the Ansonia defense likely will have more opportunities for interceptions. However, the zone also makes the team more susceptible to allowing pass completions.
“So maybe it’s part of that bend-but-don’t-break mentality,” Hoening said.
Last season Ansonia finished just 2-8, but Hoening is hoping his squad can continue improving and contend for a Cross County Conference championship.
“My goal is always the same: win the CCC and go undefeated. Easier said than done,” Hoening said. “Every team’s goal should be that. Why not?”
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.