The Western Brown Broncos football team finished in second place out of 64 teams in the 2015 7-on-7 state passing championships held on June 20 at Coffman High School in Dublin, Ohio.
The event, sponsored by the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association, saw the Broncos fall to Zanesville High School in the final of the tournament, but still qualify for the national championships in Washington D.C. from July 9-11. Per Broncos head coach Don Sizer, the team doesn’t plan to attend.
“We played in a constant downpour,” Sizer told The News Democrat. “It was unbelievable. I could not believe how well our kids caught and threw a football. It was like playing in a shower. That’s how the whole day was, except for the championship game.”
Due to the rain, the 20-minute long games were played with a running clock. The officials in charge of the games were the same Ohio High School Athletics Association referees that will work games this fall.
In pool play, the Broncos defeated Olentangy Liberty High School and Cleveland Central Catholic High School before advancing to the single-elimination knockout stage. The Broncos first beat Kenton High School, then Anna High School, before knocking out West Liberty-Salem High School in the quarterfinals. The Broncos defeated Clinton-Massie in the semifinals before falling in the finals to Zanesville.
“There were some big schools, some small schools, private schools, public schools, rural, inner-city, any kind of situation and level in the whole state of Ohio, we played against,” Sizer said. “So it was a good experience for our kids to do that too, to go against a bunch of different kinds of programs.”
The 7-on-7 tournament gave Sizer and the coaching staff a chance to look at some players at the speed positions and give them some time on both sides of the ball. Sizer said that rising seniors Eean Hornung and Chaiten Tomlin had good days, especially on the defensive side, and other standouts include rising seniors Malachi Marlow, Michael Hensley-Otis, Zach Dowling, Jacob Altman, and rising junior Blake Colliver.
Sizer noted that this fall fans could see more players getting looks at both offense and defense.
“My goal is if I can play 22 different guys, I will, because I want as many kids playing as possible,” Sizer said. “But if I have to play 11 to win, I’ll play 11. I imagine some of the guys will be seeing action on both sides of the football without a doubt.”
Sizer said that the 7-on-7 tournament also served another purpose in addition to players getting more games under their belt. Under Sizer, the Broncos will be playing with a new defensive philosophy, and so the players were able to get invaluable experience learning some new terminology for plays that Sizer will call.
“Everything defensively was new and it did give them a chance to practice on what we want to get done this year and how we need to get it done,” Sizer said. “It was a big learning experience on defense.”
He added, “If I say slide, squat, press, it might have meant something else last year. So the hardest part is understanding the terminology. Defense is basically reacting and playing so that’s not going to be any different.”
“On offense, it was a great opportunity for a lot of the younger guys to compete at the varsity level, to see what it’s really like. The difference of junior varsity and varsity, the physicality difference. A lot of kids got better from the beginning to the end. A lot of kids started grasping ideas, saying ‘oh I see what you’re talking about coach’. It was a win-win going there.”
Earlier this month, the OHSAA approved this year’s fall schedules. Despite a change of coach from Evan Dreyer to Sizer, the Broncos are keeping nearly the exact same schedule, with Dayton Jefferson High School being replaced with Kentucky’s Campbell County High School.
The Broncos open the season at Hillsboro on Aug. 28, before returning home for three games against Little Miami (Sept. 4), Ross (Sept. 11), and Blanchester (Sept. 18). Then the Broncos visit Campbell County on Sept. 25 for the first of four road games.
Next the Broncos visit Harrison High School (Oct. 2), New Richmond (Oct. 9), and Amelia (Oct. 16), before hosting Norwood on Oct. 23 for the final home game of the season. Then the Broncos finish the regular season on Oct. 30 at Goshen.
Unfortunately for the Broncos, even with a difficult schedule, they still have an uphill battle to climb in Division III due to more playoff-ready teams being added to their division.
“It’s a real challenging schedule,” he said. “The non-league games are good, league games are always tough, and as far as the tournament goes, Division III Region 10 just got a whole lot more difficult to get into due to the re-alignments. We have some Division II schools come down and some Division IV schools came up that were in the playoffs along with the schools (in Division III) that already made the playoffs.
“I don’t really want to speak on making the playoffs. But I feel good about our chances, especially the way the kids are responding and preparing for the season. Last year I was an assistant and I saw how they approached getting ready for the season, so I’m not really surprised with how hard they’re working and the commitment they’ve made this summer.”