Lukas Moore --
Phil Faires will be coaching his 26th Trimble football team in the 2019 season. It has been an accomplishment filled 25 years, three regional titles, two state championship appearances, and an utter domination of the TVC-Hocking in most seasons. Faires has adjusted schemes and strategies to fit his players over the years to ensure no Trimble team is a carbon copy of another. From the wishbone to spread, run heavy to pass heavy, the Tomcats have evolved constantly.
There has been one constant in the Faires era. Trimble will hit and hit hard on every play. They'll play with a ferociousness and physicality that's hard to find in the game of football these days. It's old-school how intensely the kids from Glouster swarm the football and annihilate ball carriers and blockers. They wear down most opponents by continuously hitting them, even if they aren't bigger than their opponent, they'll certainly be tougher.
This was on full display in their Monday scrimmage against the Chesapeake Panthers. It wasn't even 25 plays before Chesapeake looked tired of getting hit. The Panthers are a division five school that is 9-11 over their last two seasons. Trimble had its first live look, against solid competition, to see if their team has a chance to meet the lofty expectations that come with returning nearly everybody from a team that played in Canton.
What we already knew
The starting quarterback will be Cam Kittle in 2019. There was some discussion about the talented sophomore Tabor Lackey stepping into the role as a crisper passer and moving Kittle into the running/receiving role occupied by the now-graduated Max Hooper. Kittle would undoubtedly excel in that role, and he showcased it on Monday. On one of Lackey's opportunities at quarterback Kittle caught a short screen in the flat turned his hips and completely juked his defender, picking up a huge gain. This, along with some well thrown deep balls, showcased the potential in a Trimble offense operated by Lackey's arm.
But Lackey is a step behind Kittle in experience and the ability to escape pressure and create big plays with his feet. Lackey took a few too many sacks in the scrimmage. Kittle will, and should, be the commander of the offense for a majority of the snaps in 2019. But Faires is no fool, and will give Lackey plenty of opportunity to learn and grow. Expect Lackey to make important throws in important games in 2019, and expect him to be a great Trimble quarterback in his junior and senior seasons.
What we learned
Conner Wright has gotten bigger, in the good way, over the offseason and will be a menace in 2019. Well, he already was a menace, Wright averaged over 9 yards a carry and earned first team All-state a season ago. He showcased the added strength with multiple bruising runs against Chesapeake. Wright's running instincts are excellent, and he will be competing with Nelsonville-York's Keegan Wilburn for best running back in Athens county.
We also learned not to mess with this Trimble team if you aren't ready for a response. A small skirmish broke out between the teams and the Tomcats were motivated to hit even harder in the scrimmage. The incident certainly showed the Tomcats are together as a team.
The best thing we learned is how much better it will be to watch a game from the stands at Glouster Memorial Stadium in 2019. The field lights that interfered with fans view of the field for decades are gone, replaced by new lights in each corner of the stadium. Jerry Lackey and company have done an excellent job over the last two years giving the Trimble team a stadium that matches their play on the field. Glouster will be jumping on the first Saturday of the season.
What we still don't know
An assumption many made about the 2019 Tomcats is that the defense will be better. Sawyer Koons, one of the most ferocious defenders in the state, leads a unit with a lot of returning experience and talent. But after Trimble's performance vs Chesapeake, I'm not sure it is a given the Tomcats will be better defensively in '19 than '18. The Tomcats were pushed by Chesapeake up the middle, and allowed chunk play after chunk play to some talented Panther skill players. They'll obviously still be an incredible defense, they still kept Chesapeake off the scoreboard. But, it's hard to be better than the '18 Trimble defense, and it is not a guarantee the '19 defense will be.
The Tomcats are going to win the TVC-Hocking in 2019. Yes, I'm confident enough to write that sentence as a 99.9% guarantee. The rest of the TVC-Hocking can use this for motivation, but it won't matter. The Tomcats return the most talent in the Hocking, and they only gave up 12 points in the Hocking a season ago. The average score of Trimble games in the TVC-Hocking was an astonishing 46.1 to 1.5. An average margin of victory of 45 points, plus the most talent coming back in the conference, means they're going to win the conference.
The question for the Tomcats is if they can compete for a regional title in their new division. For the first time the Tomcats are no longer in the lowest division of Ohio high school football. The #1 ranked team in the state sits in Trimble's region in Fort Frye. Add in teams like the always dominant Mogadore and Trimble's path back to Canton is harder than ever. If the defense can improve from their 2018 dominance, and Tabor Lackey can become a reliable thrower and give Faires the option to air it out in the playoffs, then perhaps the division change won't matter. Unfortunately, all that won't be learned until week eleven.
For now, the Tomcats have their focus locked on the team over the hill, and the Saturday night week one showcase vs the Nelsonville-York Buckeyes.
It's the best time of year in Glouster, it's football season.