ARCANUM – With nine starters back on both offense and defense, the Arcanum Trojans have big goals for the 2015 football season including winning the Cross County Conference championship and qualifying for the playoffs.
“The expectations are high, and we’ve got to fulfill those,” coach TJ Powers said.
Leading the way for the experience-laden Trojans are nine seniors. Four of those seniors – Daniel O’Donnell, Austin Gibboney, Hunter Saunders and Cole Burrell – are four-year varsity players.
“We have good leadership,” said Powers, who is entering his fourth season as Arcanum’s coach. “It’s just a great group of seniors. It’s a special group for me, this senior group, just because they were freshmen when I first came here.”
Powers has 41 high school players on his most-experienced Arcanum team to date. That has led to a lot of competition in practice as the team looks to improve on last year’s 5-5 record.
“We’ve had the most physical practices,” Powers said. “We almost have to gear guys back a bit. We don’t, but you almost feel like you have to. I almost ended practice early the other day because we were just getting after each other. And that’s going to make us better.”
Guiding the Arcanum offense will be quarterback Daniel O’Donnell, who led the Trojans with 564 passing yards and 1,163 rushing yards a year ago.
Behind O’Donnell will be fullback Brandon Kinney, who ran for 837 yards last year. Between O’Donnell and Kinney, the Trojans have 2,000 yards worth of rushing returning to the field this season.
“It’s not going to be rocket science,” Powers said. “We’re going to run what we run option-wise and smash-mouth, downhill football and get after it.”
Leading the way for the potent rushing attack will be center Cambell Gostomsky, who is flanked by guards Hunter Saunders and Logan Wilson. Maverick Hildebrand will start at right tackle, and Alex Weiss will step in at left tackle as Brandon Riffell recovers from an injury.
Andrew Baker will start at tight end while Austin Baker, Daniel Coates and Pierce Lindemuth will share time at the wing/slot role.
Jordan Dubbs, Cole Burrell and Austin Gibboney will be featured at receiver and give the Trojans the fastest receiving core they’ve had in Powers’ four years with the team.
On defense Cambell Gostomsky, Logan Wilson, Maverick Hildebrand and Mike Johnson will man the line. Powers feels very good about both his offensive and defensive lines and considers his players in the trenches to be one of the Trojans’ strengths.
Hunter Saunders and Brandon Kinney will line up at inside linebacker with Austin Baker and Pierce Lindemuth manning the outside linebacker spots.
Austin Gibboney, Cole Burrell and Jordan Dubbs will share the corner back spots while Daniel O’Donnell, Daniel Coates and Christian Layman will split the snaps at safety.
The Trojans’ starters constantly will have to work to keep their spots as there are players throughout the lineup fighting to earn playing time.
“We just have a lot of experience everywhere,” Powers said. “We’ve got a lot of guys nipping on their heels, too. And that’s the thing that’s going to breed success for us is competition among each other.”
With so much talent returning, Arcanum feels confident that it can be a tough challenge for every team on its schedule.
“If we can go out and we can stay healthy and come together and continue to come together and continue to push each other and have great leadership, we’ve got a shot of making some noise,” Powers said.
And if Arcanum performs like it expects, the Trojans could contend with teams such as Covington, Miami East and Tri-County North for the CCC championship.
“Our league is going to be … it’s up in the air, I think,” Powers said.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports. For more features online go to advocate360.org or ‘like The Daily Advocate’ on Facebook by searching Advocate360.