Springfield football coach looking for team growth this season
LAKEMORE — Springfield High School football head coach Kevin Vaughn said he is “real excited about the attitude and the coachability of the kids” on this year’s team.
“We have strong senior leadership, some talented juniors who will contribute, and we have a nice group of sophomores who will also be part of this,” he said. “It will be a nice mix of age groups that contribute to the direction in which we are heading, and hopefully that’s a positive one. The kids are working extremely hard.”
Springfield finished with a 3-7 overall record last year, Vaughn said, and the team lost 16 seniors to graduation prior to the new season.
“Most of those seniors were a large part of what we did,” he said. “Out of those 16 seniors, 12 were starters on one side of the ball or the other. Most of it we lost on the defensive side of the ball.”
According to Vaughn, the team has a strong returning core of starters on offense, led by junior quarterback Aaron James, who took over the starting spot last season “by week five.”
“Aaron is a fiery competitor, and he’s a little bit of a spark plug,” the coach said. “He is somewhat electric — he makes things happen. He has a nice arm as we go into our passing game, but what makes him even more successful is that he has a good eye to read the defense. He can make the right throws based either on what he’s seeing presnap or in movement.”
The backfield will be led by returning running back Blake Gump, Vaughn said.
“Blake wasn’t a full-time running back, but he did get reps last year,” he noted. “We also have Aaron James, who we consider as someone who runs the ball. But as far as what happens next in line with the other running backs behind Blake, we are working with a couple of different kids. We have Zach Weaver and Bruce George, who are sophomores, and we have Justus Baker, who is a junior. Those three are going to be pushing to find time at running back.”
The offensive line figures to be a strength for Springfield this season, Vaughn said.
“Two of the guys up front — junior Nick Ballantyne and senior Josh Hako — who we considered among our strongest offensive linemen are back, so that’s a positive thing,” he said. “We also got a transfer from Barberton —Jordan Grof — who moved into the district, so he’s eligible immediately. It was a bonafide change of residency. He was a starter over at Barberton and he’s a senior, so that gives us an added senior up front. Right now, we have him at tackle, but he could potentially play at guard as we figure out who will earn the last couple of spots.”
On defense, Vaughn said he “feels really good” about the team’s defensive line and linebackers.
“And it’s not that I feel bad about our secondary, it’s just that we lost three seniors there and that kind of experience is hard to replace,” he said. “We have put some young individuals in the back, and you always have the potential for big plays. But the kids that are in there right now are doing a good job and we’re excited to have them. We think they are going to do just fine.”
In addition, Vaughn said the team is “excited” about what new defensive coordinator Greg Reed can bring to the table.
“Greg is a Springfield alumnus with a lot of coaching experience — 27 years or so,” he said. “Greg was at Medina for a long time and has been at Norton for the past few years.”
Springfield’s season will kick off at Ellet High School Aug. 29 at 7 p.m.
“That’s our No. 1 rival, and I think how we perform in that first game will set the tone for the rest of the season,” Vaughn said. “A lot of people say it’s not how you start, but how you finish. Well, I believe that how we start will play a large part in how we finish. We have to come out of the gates and do things the right way from the beginning.”
Overall, the coach said Springfield will “be in a position to grow” this season.
“Hopefully, that growth will be in terms of getting better each day, at each practice and each week,” Vaughn said. “As we grow, there is plenty of potential for us to grow in the winning column, but, more importantly, we just want to focus on the process of getting better. After that, the outcome should take care of itself, and we feel really positive about the direction in which we are heading. It should be a good year for us.”
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