Culver football preview: Shuman behavior: Junior running back, linebacker joins 10 seniors for Cavs
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Culver football coach Mike Zehner asks his players to be patient.
He praises them for it. He says it’s a hard enough concept for much older adults to adhere, but he said his players have embraced it.
If they gain 10 feet at a time from their unique power-T offense, which consists of three running backs, two tight ends and no wide receivers, then they are doing well.
Playing this way, they can seemingly drain an entire quarter off the clock.
“I think that’s one of the best compliments I got was from coach (Brett) Lambert from (North) Judson,” Zehner said. “He said you guys don’t understand Culver. Everybody wants to have a big play every play, but they’re consistent. If they get three yards a carry, they’re happy with that. And that’s what we are. We’re happy with three yards a carry because we know if it’s fourth-and-one, we’re going to go for it.”
Still, Zehner believes Culver will have to get better on defense. He will be his own defensive coordinator this season after being the offensive coordinator the previous three seasons.
Culver went 3-8 last season and allowed 44 points per game in their eight losses. That has to stop.
“Obviously, our focus has been just team pursuit and getting 11 hats to the football,” Zehner said. “If we can do that, we can have a successful defense. Big plays have been our Achilles heel the last few years. We have to eliminate those and make them earn everything.”
Tucker Fisher is back for his fourth year at quarterback. In 44 quarters of football last season, he attempted 46 passes.
More likely, he will be spending much of his time to fullback Shane Shuman, who ran for 1,390 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior. Senior running back Blake Thompson, who ran for 721 yards, and junior running back Emiliano Ortiz, who ran for 337 yards, are also back.
Junior Ian Brown and senior Jalen King could also contribute at running back.
“Actually, we’ve got some depth,” Zehner said. “It’s something we haven’t had at Culver. We have seven or eight backs we can put in there at any time.”
Senior tight end Marquez Anderson, who caught a team-high nine passes last year, is back at tight end. Other tight ends include Brady Moise and Oliver Morgan, who will play the tight end spot opposite Anderson.
Auston Zehner is back for his third year at center, and right guard Alex Zehner and left guard Hunter Evans also return. Alex Zehner has recovered from two knee surgeries that limited him in 2018 and 2019. Evans can be a “man among boys,” according to coach Zehner.
“We’re pulling those guys quite a bit,” coach Zehner said of the guards. “They have to be a big part of our offense.”
Ben Lee and Hunter Taylor are the tackles.
“There are times where we can eat up an entire quarter in just one possession,” Zehner said. “That’s what we want to do is make sure we turn those into points.”
As much as Shuman contributed on offense, he might be a bigger factor at linebacker after making the Indiana Football Coaches Association Junior All-State team at linebacker.
“We return all 11 on defense,” Zehner said. “We had one senior last year in A.J. Cooper, so we’re excited about the returners we have. We have 10 to 11 seniors right now, and I’m excited those guys.”
Tucker Fisher will be the kicker. Ortiz and King are among the kick returners.
The numbers situation would appear to be robust. Culver has 10 seniors and 13 juniors among the 32 players listed on the roster.
Mike Zehner, who is also the athletic director at Culver, said the team had a great summer in terms of strength and conditioning. He said he wanted all the athletes – not just the football players – at Culver in the weight room all at the same time, and it was not uncommon for 75 to 100 kids in the weight room each day during the summer.
“You’re sweating, you’re bleeding a little bit, that’s the fun part,” Zehner said of the unity he hopes the athletes developed. “You get that sense of community, and that’s what we’re about.”
Aug. 20 – vs. North Judson, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 27 – at South Central (Union Mills), 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 3 – vs. Knox, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 10 – at West Central, 7 p.m.
Sept. 17 – vs. Triton, 7 p.m.
Sept. 24 – at Winamac, 7 p.m.
Oct. 1 – at Caston, 7 p.m.
Oct. 8 – vs. Pioneer, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 – at LaVille, 7 p.m.
Oct. 22 – Class 1A, Sectional 41 quarterfinal
Class 1A, Sectional 41 (last year’s record in parentheses)
Lake Station (0-9)
North Judson (9-3)
South Central (Union Mills) (4-6)
South Newton (0-6)
West Central (2-8)
Preseason rankings: Winamac is No. 10, and North Judson is No. 12.
NOTES: Winamac is the defending sectional champion. Culver’s most recent sectional title came in 2009. Culver has won four sectional titles in its history. Culver coach Mike Zehner played on Culver’s first two sectional championship teams in 1999 and 2000.