By Lenny Sementi
Tuscola’s football team is strapping on the pads in March for the first time in program history. The pandemic pushed back the traditional football season from the fall to the spring and this Friday, March 19 the black and gold will travel to Moweaqua for a date with last year’s state runner-up Central A&M. It will be the first time in over 16 months that the area heavyweights will don the pads.
“A lot of coaches in the state have talked about how weird this all is and they don’t really care for it,” coach Andy Romine commented. “I’m the complete other side of the spectrum once you’re on the field for practice or a game it’s still the same as always for us. I love being around our guys and watching them develop.”
The summer and fall were full of IHSA deemed contact days in preparation for the spring season and head coach Andy Romine’s group like always attended in large numbers as well as hitting the weight room. Senior offensive lineman Mike Calderon and Hans Goodman lead a solid crew on the Warriors front lines. Joining them in the trenches will be classmate’s Austin Lewis, Alex Brooks and Kyler Skaggs, juniors Haven Hatfield, Colton Guenther, and Chase Jones as well as sophomores Chris Boyd and Mason Jones.
They will be opening holes for running backs Grant Hardwick and Caden Baer to name a few and multi dimensional quarterback Payton Armstrong. Hardwick will miss the first game due to COVID protocols but will be the feature back after a breakout junior season in 2019. Armstrong can do damage with his feet as well as his arm forcing defenses into tough situations. Hardwick could be seen behind center at times as well and so will Bobby Fancher in certain packages.
Also banging at the line will be tight ends Patrick Pierce and Tyson Macauley. The duo will have a strong run game presence and will also be targets in the passing game. Speaking of the receiving corps we need to mention seniors James Boyd and Nate Keoster. The two three year players bring varsity experience to the field and will keep defenses honest. Sophomore Hunter Branca will also work his way into the rotation as well. Hardwick was a big time pass catcher as a junior and should be another option in empty sets.
“We have a lot of options on offense,” stated the coach. “It will allow us to go fast or to slow it down behind a strong offensive line.”
Defensively Pierce will anchor that side of the ball for the Warriors at middle linebacker. Senior Tyler Walker resides on the weak side and brings speed to that side of the field. Armstrong is the adjuster at Tuscola’s stinger backer utilizing his speed to play sideline to sideline and M. Jones will rotate at all three spots.
Ben Hornaday will see time at nose guard as will Guenther and Skaggs while the Boyd brothers will be on the strong side. Hatfield has seen time at both strong and weak end and will serve as a hybrid type linebacker as well. Goodman and senior classmate Alex Brooks will add depth to the unit as will Macauley.
Leading the way in the defensive backfield will be Baer at hero back and Audi and Krish Patel at safeties. Hardwick will join them in week two and James Boyd could see time there as well. Koester, Branca, Ian Buchanan and Fancher hold down the outside corner.
“We are going to attack a little more on defense,” Romine said. “We want to fly around the field using our overall team speed.”