Coach: Brett Fox, first year.
Last year: 3-7; lost to Norwell 45-28 in sectional.
2013 per-game averages: 19.2 points scored; 30.3 allowed.
Key departures: Dakota Goldwood, Wayne Smith, Sam Dailey, Travis Herbst.
Key newcomers: Ryan Mosher, Carson Reed.
Key number: 18 - Number of turnovers the Eagles committed, an area in need of improvement.
The Pig says: Coach Fox played and coached at one of the most successful rural programs in Central Indiana in Eastbrook, so the Eagles are in good hands. There are some pieces in place, but is is enough to work into the upper half of the NHC?
Offense: New coach Brett Fox will have some experience at quarterback as senior Trevor Bolt saw enough time last season to get acclimated to the position after switching from wide receiver. He’ll have senior power runner Braden Myer and an offensive line that includes honorable mention All-NHC center Drew Cummings and fellow seniors Turner Gawthrop and Michael Simmons. The team will need to develop some targets in the passing game, with senior Drew O’Dell set to become the No. 1 receiver. Fox said he believes the running game is crucial to the team’s success, so there will be a need to develop a quality tailback early in the season. But at least some experienced players on the line will help.
Defense: Fox has his work cut out for him in developing a defense as only a couple of players with experience return, led by senior Myer. Myer, a defensive lineman, was honorable mention all-conference a year ago. Davin Lawrence, a junior who played a significant amount of time as a sophomore, could be the anchor of the linebacker corps. Dayne Asplund returns in the secondary, and O’Dell will be called upon at free safety. Cummings, Gawthrop and Simmons will also be mainstays on the defensive line, pulling two-way duties.
Special teams: The Eagles will count on soccer player Jordan Gregory to handle the kicking duties. Expect O’Dell and Asplund to get some looks as possible kick returners.
What to expect: The Eagles have been trending in the wrong direction in terms of wins the last three years, so Fox has his work cut out for him to turn things around. Fox, who played at Eastbrook High School, brings with him four years of college experience as an assistant coach at Taylor University. He said he is intent on building an offense that can run the ball, but also allows the team to get the ball to its athletes in space so they can take advantage of their skills. Defensively, Fox expects to have a four-man front but says the NHC offers some challenges in the fact that teams such as Bellmont and Homestead run such opposite style of offenses.
Big question: How will the Eagles get into the end zone? Former coach Randy Hudgins used a pass-heavy game at times, but Fox appears to be more intent on using the passing game to complement the run. The Eagles have some senior leadership on the line but will have relatively inexperienced players in the skill positions. Columbia City will need to have some success early to build confidence. The hope is that the energy Fox brings as a young coach (28 years old) will give some extra juice to the team. Fox said he is impressed by how much the community supports the school’s sports, and hopes to build a team that reflects the hardworking, family atmosphere of the town.