BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Mike Zehner is back for his seventh season as the football coach at Culver, but he has ceded the offensive playcalling duties.
Former John Glenn coach Austin Foust is the new associate head coach, and he will call the plays offensively.
That means that the power-T offense, where Culver lined up three backs behind the quarterback and one tight end on each side of the center, is no more.
Foust’s offense is more multiple than the power-T, which relied on one formation on every play.
Culver also needed a new quarterback with the graduation of Tucker Fisher, and Jason Cadle, who played fullback last year, will take over.
Then again, senior fullback Shane Shuman will still get plenty of carries. In fact, Zehner said Shuman can’t come off the field this year.
“Any time you’ve got Shane on the team, you’ve got a chance to do some special things,” Zehner said.
But the greater issue might be on the offensive and defensive lines. The graduations of Auston Zehner, Alex Zehner, Hunter Evans and Hunter Taylor have left holes that need to be filled. Top tight end Marquez Anderson, now playing at Franklin College, also graduated.
“We saw some bright spots,” coach Zehner said in evaluating last week’s scrimmage against North Miami. “Some guys that we needed to step up stepped up. A guy like Steven Pugh, who didn’t see a lot of varsity time last year, I thought he really emerged and was an awesome leader for us on the defensive and offensive lines and really took a hold of that leadership position for us playing center and then defensive tackle. So we’re real excited about him.”
Coach Zehner said he’s been trying to get Foust on his staff for years. Foust, a 2010 Rochester grad, played for Zehner when he was a player and Zehner was the defensive coordinator at Rochester.
“He brings a wealth of knowledge, especially offensively, to the coaching staff,” coach Zehner said. “And really giving him the reins for the offense has been nice. I think it has really rejuvenated some of our guys as far as we actually have more than, like, two passes. It’s been nice for the kids to see.”
Cadle can be a “playmaker with his feet as well as his arm,” according to coach Zehner.
“He’s not very tall, but he definitely makes up for it with his speed,” coach Zehner said. “I think he can attack the edge a little bit more and do some good things and maybe have some RPO (run-pass option) action with him back there.”
Ben Lee, Devin Burkett and Pugh will form the interior of the line. Robert Evans, Hunter’s younger brother, could see playing time at guard.
Travis Blankenship and Brady Bush are players who await medical clearance and who could factor in on the line.
Shuman is the fullback, and Emiliano Ortiz will be a slotback running jet sweeps and counters while also being a downfield threat as a receiver.
Oliver Morgan is a leader at tight end as both a blocker and receiver.
Ben Lee will be at strongside end, and Pugh will be at tackle.
Sophomore Ethan Binion will be a strongside linebacker while Morgan will be on the weakside. Shuman and sophomore Braiden Molebash will play in the middle.
Binion will also help out on offense at a halfback spot.
The Hoosier North is filled with top passers like Knox’s Cohen Watson, Triton’s Cole Shively, Pioneer’s Caleb Sweet and LaVille’s Lucas Plummer, which means that defensive back play will be key.
Cadle and Hayden Parker will start in the secondary, and coach Zehner awaits the return of Ian Brown from basic training to help out.
“Defensively, we want to build on our secondary,” Zehner said. “Those guys just improved over the last three years.”
Culver typically went for two points after touchdowns last season. Shuman has experience punting.
Zehner said the team has about 22 to 24 players. That’s a smaller number than Culver has typically had since he’s been the coach.
“I told those guys with us not having a ton of guys, you guys better be mad if you come off the field,” Zehner said. “You better expect to play every snap and not ask. We’ll see. We’re excited to get the season rolling. It’s here.”
Aug. 19 – at North Judson, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 26 – South Central (Union Mills), 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 2 – at Knox, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 9 – West Central, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 – at Triton, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 – Winamac, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 – Caston, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 – at Pioneer, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 – LaVille, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 – Class 1A, Sectional 41 quarterfinal
Class 1A, Sectional 41
South Central (Union Mills)