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Young Indians have room to grow

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With as good of a mix of youth and returners as it has in a few years, Strafford could be looking at its first winning season in three years.

Nearly half the roster is comprised of freshmen, with less than a handful of seniors. Still, Indians head coach Tim Hester loves their effort, and potential.

Uniquely, he’s turned to a first-year quarterback since 2018, but now has the luxury to develop one. The job will belong to either sophomore Silas Morton or freshman Jourdyn Edelstein.

“Right now they’re kind of competing for that position, so it’s going to be interesting how this thing goes,” Hester said. “[Jordan] has a very good arm, but Silas can run better.”

Hester indicated that the week of practice leading into opening night will determine a firm QB1. “It’s hard [but] I’m not doing a dual-quarterback thing; it’ll be one starter,” he said.

Gabe Core is a lone returning starter up front to protect whoever wins the job, but Hester said of that bunch, “This O-line wants to get better. They show up to film, to weights, and that’s something I’ve been looking for.”

Senior Mason Denning is the headline returner on the offensive side. In 2020, he proved a great fit in the spread, carrying for over 500 yards with six rushing scores, while hauling in 40 receptions for nearly identical numbers in yards and TDs.

Core is a two-way player who will feature on the defensive line like freshman Preston Ames, who appears set to make a big an impact as any of the newcomers. Sophomore Ryker Venosdel will joIn them up front.

In the middle core of the 3-5-3, there’s a healthy group of players who would have had even more experience if not for injury, including Dekota Ames. Wells, Eli Treat and Jon Watt are back, too, along with Isaac Berg, who returns after taking a year off and has sprouted, but with little depth, health will be critical.

Morton, who recorded several interceptions in 2020, will man the secondary, and transfer Avery Voysey (Ozark) is expected to start and provide immediate help as well.

Hester liked what he saw from the team at last Friday’s jamboree at Central as the smallest school there.

“Going against Central, it’s a different offense; Rogersville’s different,” Hester said. “You can’t really gameplan for it, you’re just moving to different looks, different kids...it’s a great experience for kids to make adjustments on the fly. For us, a 2A school, facing two 5A schools and a 4A school, I think we did pretty good. It just makes us better to go against bigger, stronger guys.”

A 3-7 team last year, the climb to a winning year begins at home Friday against Liberty (Mountain View), followed by three games on the road.

Hester recalled Strafford’s 2014 team that went 12-1 with a deep playoff run, and believes that this large group could have the same kind of potential. “We should be contenders by then if our numbers stay up,” he said.

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