2018 Gridiron: Clopton Elsberry Hawks
2017 Overall Record: 2-7
Head Coach: Ben Burnett
Years at School: 1
Record at School: 0-0
BURNETT CLEAN: INDIANHAWKS FORGE ON FROM A TUMULTUOUS OFFSEASON
TRADING PLACES: After six seasons helming Clopton/Elsberry Football, Mike Scheibel found himself in a very odd predicament this Summer. Due to some other personnel shifting /budget cuts within the Clopton School District, the PE Teaching job Scheibel had been banking on evaporated. He was offered the chance to continue as Head Football Coach, but absent a teaching gig, it was a financially untenable situation for the Scheibel Family. Enter Ben Burnett. The Former Fort Zumwalt South Assistant jumped at the chance to ascend the coaching ladder after seven seasons and was hired as Scheibel’s replacement six days before the start of football workouts. Burnett is now charged, on short clock, with reinvigorating a program that lost its final seven games of the 2017 campaign to finish 2-7 overall.
REESTABLISHING THE NORM: Over its relatively brief 13 year existence, the IndianHawk Football program distinguished itself through a succession of precocious, quarterback-centric offenses that generally scored a lot of points and proved a lot of fun to watch. That dynamic fell off the table for Clopton/Elsberry in 2017. After opening the year with wins over Louisiana and MMA, the IndianHawks seemed to unravel during a two game stretch against Bowling Green and Montgomery County that saw them outscored 109-54. In the aftermath of those drubbings, the C/E offense seemed to lose all of its usual potency. Over the last six games of the season, the IndianHawks averaged a paltry 10 points per game and were held to single digit scoring in four of those contests. Coach Burnett thinks he can remedy these issues with a few schematic tweaks and through the avenue of more experience personnel. C/E will operate from a base spread look and seek a more dedicated run component to the offense than in years past.
THE YATES MOTEL: Junior Shawn Yates will take the tiller on Offense, settling in for his second season as C/E’s Quarterback. As a Sophomore, he accounted for 734 rushing yards and four touchdowns; so clearly he has some dimensionality and can be a threat with his feet. Shawn’s passing numbers were a bit less steady. He threw for almost 1400 yards and 16 touchdowns but on just 45% accuracy. The new system will likely afford him the luxury of a more dependable run game around him; putting less pressure directly on his shoulders. It should also allow him to better calibrate his throws when he is called upon to put the ball in the air. Shawn will also benefit from better passing game weapons this season. Senior Trevor Anthony is making the move to Tight End and the 6’4” 225 pound Senior is one of the most powerfully athletic talents in the Class of 2019. The IndianHawks will seek to get him the ball in space and let him stampede his way over and through high school tacklers who really aren’t going to want any part of trying to tackle the kid. Sophomore Zakk Eivins is a name to watch her as well at Wide Receiver.
Senior Damian Walker will slide into the role of Feature Back. He had just 22 carries for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns last season, but Ben Burnett loves the idea of pairing his tough-minded style with what looks to be a very capable Offensive Line. Jake Wolanski won the Center Job last year as Frosh. Ditto for Left Guard Riley Martin and Left Tackle Jacob Martin. The IndianHawks will be more veteran on the Right Side of the Football with Senior Guard Matthew Dugan and Junior Tackle Chance Lucas leading the way. It’s a young group to be sure, but one whose ambition and dedication has really impressed the new C/E Skipper.
TIGHTENING THE SCREWS: Put simply, C/E has to improve dramatically on defense to reverse course overall. The IndianHawks surrendered a mind-numbing 51.3 points per game last Fall; and more maddeningly, did so even with a couple of difference making individual talents on the field for them.
Ben Burnett will employ an attacking 4-4 scheme to better exert pressure against the run. Part and parcel to this, Burnett is moving Trevor Anthony to Defensive End after a Linebacker stint that saw him produce a team high 81 tackles as well as 12 stops for loss. Anthony is among the most highly recruited Seniors in our area given his length at 6’4” and his speed. He’s got as good a tackle radius at his disposal as any kid in our area. And putting him on the edge this year makes it very hard to throw the ball over Trevor’s long arms to his side this season. He will be bookended here with Sophomore Zakk Eivins, who had 29 tackles and 7 stops for loss.
Damian Walker will be the anchor piece of the Linebacking Corps. He posted a team high 15 tackles for loss and had 68 stops over all. Again, tough, smart kid who has a nose for the football. Expect Juniors Maleek McPike (40 tackles, 5 TFL) and Kyle Martin (49 stops) to reprise their roles as Outside Linebackers here as well.
The Secondary Scenarios are a little hazier going into Camp. Shawn Yates will likely pull double duty and play Safety here. Sophomore Justin Jennewein enjoyed an impressive debut with 49 total tackles and an interception. His versatility would allow him to play either Corner or Safety.
THE DUERR DIAGNOSIS: Perhaps the hardest team in our area to evaluate, given the late Summer coaching change. Ben Burnett didn’t have the luxury of an off-season to evaluate his personnel. Nor is he taking the path of least resistance here; ambitiously implementing scheme changes on August 6th rather than trying to retrofit to an existing philosophy and playbook with which his kids have familiarity. That’s a Bold Move, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off. By the same token, it’s hard not to like Burnett’s enthusiasm and fire and his zeal to maximize the opportunity. And he’s got real talent on this roster; albeit much of it very young. Still, I think if you are arming yourself with kids like Shawn Yates, Trevor Anthony, Damian Walker et al, you are going to have a chance to win some football games. And it feels like Burnett is smartly catering to the strengths of his strongest players in trying to create avenues to success. That said, the EMO promises to be such an explosive conference this season again offensively, I have genuine concerns about any team that defended this poorly a year ago. I guess the cop out here is I will have a far better read on these guys after the Barnstorm Tour; when we figure out how radically the tackling has improved. Until then, I suspect the upshot here is that I think Clopton/Elsberry will do some pretty fun things on both sides of the ball along the way that will certainly keep them interesting. They are a weird X-Factor to try and wrap our arms around. But maybe that works to their favor in a big way. Stranger things have certainly happened over the years around the EMO.