In a 2020 season that featured challenges on and off the gridiron, Archbold made the most of it with its second-straight Northwest Ohio Athletic League crown and a long run in the playoffs. And with life slowly normalizing heading into the 2021 campaign, the Blue Streaks find themselves in a good position to contend and control the league again.
Archbold finished perfect in the league (6-0) and reached the regional semifinal where they lost 34-20 to Columbus Grove, finishing 8-1.
That team featured six first team and four second team all-league selections. Despite losing 11 starters from that squad, this year’s team returns abundant talent, especially in key positions, according to seventh-year coach David Dominique.
“I think one of our main strengths on the offensive side of the ball will be at the skill positions,” he explained. “We return our starting QB along with a RB, TE, and WR crew that was able to gain valuable experience throughout the season last year. As a whole on offense, we will have very good team speed across the board which we must utilize to our advantage.”
Dominique will look to build on eight starters returning — four on each side of the ball — and will have another group of up and coming talent that will fill in the gaps.
With a talented senior class, a quick-scoring offensive scheme and disciplined defense, the Blue Streaks have the pieces to put something big together in 2021.
Two big pieces return on the offensive side of the ball as quarterback DJ Newman (Sr., 6-1, 175, first team All-NWOAL) and running back Carson Dominique (Jr., 5-11, 200, second team All-NWOAL) will handle a majority of the touches every Friday night.
Newman returns after a impactful junior campaign throwing for 1,526 yards and 14 touchdowns while rushing for 831 yards, averaging 9.3 yards per carry and scoring 10 touchdowns.
The senior point man will have some big targets to look for including Gavin Bailey (Sr., 6-1, 170, honorable mention All-NWOAL), Karter Behnfeldt (Jr., 6-2, 165) and Hunter Cullen-Lemley (Sr., 6-1, 185), while senior Cayden Alvarado (5-10, 205) will play tight end.
One concern for Dominique early on will be the offensive line after losing some big pieces from a year ago.
“Our main concern on the offensive side of the ball will be the lack of experience on the offensive line,” he explained. “We return two starters and a number of guys who were able to get secondary reps last year but they must get used to speed and physicality of varsity football quickly in order for us to succeed.”
Anchoring the line will be junior guard Devon Morris (5-10, 190 lbs, HM All-NWOAL) and fellow junior, Hayden Dickman (6-1, 210 lbs, HM All-NWOAL), at tackle.
Mason Siegel (So., 5-11, 220), Spencer Simon (Sr., 6-0, 285), Brian Burrowes (So., 5-8, 215), Chase Cornell (Jr., 5-11, 170), Seth Foth (Jr., 5-10, 165), and Wyat Ripke (So., 6-3, 190) will also see some playing time on the line.
While the line may be a concern on offense, on defense, it will likely be a strength according to Dominique.
“Our main defensive strength will be our front six,” he explained. “We return three starters in this group and they are a physical group of guys. We feel that we will have some depth at these positions and will try to get as many of these guys on the field as possible to stay fresh into the second half.”
Leading up front will be senior defensive end Charlie Krieger (6-4, 200 lbs, HM All-NWOAL) and Morris. Simon, Cornell, Foth and Lance Bauer will also be key components of the defensive front.
Alvarado (HM All-NWOAL) will lead the linebacking corps along with Dominique and Gabe Chapa (Jr., 5-8, 160).
“A concern for us defensively will be the lack of experience in our defensive backfield,” admitted Dominique. “We lost three quality seniors here so that is never easy to recover from, but I think the younger guys were able to gain valuable insight and experience playing behind them last year. They too must get acclimated to the speed of the game and learn how to lead the defensive backfield.”
Behnfeldt (HM All-NWOAL) will be joined by Kaleb Gigax (Jr., 5-10, 145), Donmonic Simpson (Sr., 5-10, 165) and Chase Miller (So., 5-10, 160) at cornerback.
Newman, Jack Hurst (So., 5-10, 165) and Stephen Diller (So. 5-11, 165) will handle the duties at safety.
“We return both our kicker and punter so this should help us on the special teams side of things,” explained Dominique. “This will be Krayton’s (Kern) second year as a kicker so I feel that he will be more comfortable and can be a good weapon for us.”
Kern (Jr., 5-8, 165) will continue to handle place kicking and kickoff duties while Newman will be back to punt again this season.
“The biggest thing we must do is get the new faces acclimated to the speed and physicality of varsity football as quickly as possible,” stated Dominique. “If we are able to do this, I feel that we will be able to compete every week.”
The Streaks are at Genoa, host Liberty-Benton, and visit Lake the first three weeks.
As league play begins in week four, the NWOAL grind begins for Archbold as they are at Bryan, host Liberty Center, then play at Delta.
“We must keep our players healthy heading into the second half of the season,” declared Dominique. “We do have some depth at certain positions but there are a couple others that we are lacking depth at and must stay healthy.”
Staying healthy will likely be the deciding factor of how the NWOAL shakes out according to Dominique.
“As a whole, I think the NWOAL will yet again be a competitive league from top to bottom.” he concluded. “I look for Liberty Center, Wauseon, and Delta being at the top of the league but also could see other teams like PH and Bryan push for the top spot. In my mind, the team that is able to stay the most healthy will be the one you see at the top after week 10.”