By John Bombatch
FAIRBORN — With an exciting new offense, and some talented skill-position players in the lineup, veteran coach Roy Thobe hopes to create some excitement with this Fairborn Skyhawks team.
“We’re going with a variation of last year’s offense. We have more speed, so you’ll see us a little more spread. We’re playing out of a shotgun formation. It’s a spread offense, and our kids have been picking it up really well. We plan on going about 60-percent run, 40-percent pass, and move the ball around to our skilled kids. The kids are picking it up pretty well. It should be fun.”
Sophomore Brent Grody looks to have the nod at quarterback this season. Grody saw some playing time as the back-up QB a season ago, and Thobe likes his abilities to lead the offense.
That frees up Aron Childers and Robert Batey as running backs, with Brandon Easterling and Tyler Cutlip in as slotbacks. Both Childers and Easterling are returning starters.
Corey Gayheart (6-foot, 220 last season as a junior) returns on the offensive line, joining fellow senior Tyler Lewis and juniors Austin Sears, Tray Stidham and Brandon Perry.
Another pair of juniors — Leslen Switzer and Jared Olade — will see plenty of action at wideout.
“These guys have done a great job in adjusting to the new offense, and they’re out here looking to get better every day,” Thobe said. “Your ‘O’ is gonna flow with your offensive line, and we might have a good one.”
The Skyhawks will stay with the 4-4 base offense. Thobe has two-way starter Childers leading the secondary at the safety position with sophomore Christian Rountree and senior Kyle Keaton at cornerback.
Switzer will be another two-way starter. He’ll be an outside linebacker along with sophomore Austin Hill. Returning starter Dusty Johnson and Liam Bailey look to fill the inside backer roles admirably.
Chris Diggs-Copeland returns as a starting defensive tackle, and will join fellow senior Ryan Bates and soph Wendell Wheeler. Stephen Coghlan, Max Morgan-Eliott and Deoinne Gibson will share playing time at defensive end.
“These guys will see a lot of playing time, because we will be flowing bodies in and out of the lineup a lot,” Thobe said. “One freshman to keep an eye on will be Nico Elam at cornerback. He should see a lot of playing time as well.”
The good news is that Adam Knaub returns to handle kickoffs, extra points and field goals. The bad news? “We’re still auditioning people to be our punter,” Thobe said. “If you can punt, come on out.”
Look for skill players Easterling and Childers to handle the kick and punt return duties as well.
Fairborn opens with traditional rivalry games with nonleague schools at New Carlisle Tecumseh (Aug. 29), home against Dayton Stebbins (Sept. 5) and then there’s a GWOC border war with Beavercreek in Week 3. They’ll finish the 10-game regular season with what should be another exciting game with Greene County foe Xenia, Oct. 31 at Cox Stadium.
If enthusiasm has anything to do with success, Fairborn should be pretty good this year. Coach Thobe says he likes the players’ attitudes, and has really enjoyed the preseason thus far. “We know the division will be another dogfight. But our numbers are up, the kids are very receptive to being coached, and we’re having fun. If we can stay healthy, we could be right there in the hunt,” Thobe said.