There is one thing for certain with the 2015 Chillicothe Cavaliers football program … they are using their 2014 season as motivation for this upcoming football year.

One season ago, the Cavaliers lost four games, but two of those losses came on the final play of the game, and the other two came in the final quarter. Their four losses came by a combined 28 points, including a Week 7 loss to the eventual South Central Ohio League champion Clinton-Massie by a 22-19 score and a Week 10 loss to Wilmington at 7-3.

Those losses have stuck with the Cavs all winter, spring and summer, motivating a team that returns a lot of talent, but a team that must replace some important pieces as well.

In all last season, the Cavs tied for second place in the SCOL at 5-2 with Miami Trace and Wilmington and went 6-4 overall.

This season, the Cavaliers have 70 players in their program, though they would like to see their numbers closer to 80 players with 20 players in each class. Of those 70 players, 19 are seniors, followed by 16 juniors, 17 sophomores and 18 freshmen.

The summer for the Cavaliers is described by 32-year head coach (six at CHS) Ron Hinton as "good."

"The kids have worked hard," he said. "We are tweaking things with what we believe our talent can do. We are trying to make ourselves better, because each year every team is different, and we are just trying to set ourselves up for success with the players we have."

One of those players is senior three-year starting running back Nate Rosenbauer (5-9, 170), who on 171 rushes last season finished with 1,128 yards (6.6 yards per carry) and 14 touchdowns to lead the team. He also caught 13 passes for 196 yards (15.1 yards per catch) with two touchdowns.

"We only rushed for 1,400 yards as a team last year, and he had over 1,100 of them," Hinton said. "He's worked very hard to bulk himself up, to increase his strength and speed, and will become a better football player for it."

Another returning running back is senior Jacob Staggs (6-0, 190). He rushed for 5.9 yards per carry in '14, scoring three touchdowns on just 13 total carries. Also at running back will be senior Dylan Hughes (6-0, 175).

The wide receivers for the Cavaliers have a couple players returning as well. Those players include senior Quintin Davidson (5-8, 170) and senior Matt Valentine (6-1, 160).

Davidson is described as a "big-play threat" by Hinton. Last season, as a junior, Davidson collected 22 receptions for 462 yards (22 yards per reception) with six touchdowns.

Valentine last season had nine receptions for 190 yards (17.7 yards per reception) with two touchdowns. The Cavs also have a transfer from Zane Trace in senior Kristian Boltenhouse (6-4, 180). Other wide receivers who can make contributions to the Cavs are senior Tristan Penn, junior Khaleel Danzy (5-7, 145) and junior Jordan Johnson (5-9, 160). Also at wide receiver is sophomore Will Roderick (6-2, 170).

"We believe our skill is the strength of our football team," Hinton said. "Quintin came on later in the season for us, and he's a very explosive player. Anytime he touches the ball, we feel he's a threat.

"We have a lot of depth at wide receiver, but our problem is we are thin at running back.”

There is also the offensive line for the Cavaliers, who have players back in the trenches that blocked for over 1,400 yards of rushing and over 1,600 yards of passing last season.

Returning are senior Leo Woods, who will be the center this season (was a guard in '14), along with both tackles in seniors Trevor Wright and Elijah McNish. Another player back is fellow senior Isaac Bocook.

"Trevor has worked really hard and has done a nice job of improving himself during the winter," Hinton said. "Isaac is moving from tackle to guard this year."

Those linemen will be protecting senior quarterback Jack Busch, who will be a first-year starter for the Cavaliers. In '14, Busch attempted just five passes, completing three of them for 60 yards, including a 42-yard completion.

"Right now, we are in a string of one-year quarterbacks," Hinton said. "Jack had been recovering from a baseball injury, but he's come a long ways. He'll be a different style quarterback than we had last year.

"Last year, we had a drop back passer (Caleb Price) who could sling the ball 50 or 60 yards down the field. This year, we have more of an option, run quarterback. He'll be a better runner, and he's a 4.2 student, so he's extremely smart."

Chillicothe also has good depth this season as they have three offensive lines at the varsity level. Some of those players include sophomore Gage Daniels at tackle, and guards in senior Clayton Ratcliff and senior Cole Vanhorn. There is also junior Malachi Reissig, who was moved from running back to guard, and sophomore Phil Linzy. Also with the depth of the o-line are sophomore tackle Zach Bryans, sophomore tackle Nick Colley and senior Austin Bristow.

"The problem with the depth is we go from veterans to pups," Hinton said. "Our pups will be OK."

All of the work put in by the aforementioned players comes back to the "sour taste" from last season with the Cavs and their close losses.

"We worked all winter because we still have a sour taste from losing two games on the last play of the game against Teays Valley and Clinton-Massie, and the other two games we lost in the final two minutes of the game,” Hinton said.

"We were 6-4, but we were on the verge of having one more win and we were in the playoffs, no question, but I don't like talking about the could have, should have and would have. We were so close to being 9-1, but we finished with six wins. You know football is a game of inches, and we were a couple inches short."

One fact about the Cavs' offense from last season was they passed for more yards than they rushed for, something Hinton said has never occurred with a team he's coached. Hinton said he's tweaking parts of his offense to go with the players he has on the roster.

 

"Last year was the first year of my career, when I did my stats, I thought I did them wrong. It ended up being passing for 500 more yards than we rushed," he said. "That’s never happened. We’ve got these skill kids. We’ve got to get them in space, get the ball to them and let them make plays.

"I’m comfortable with what I do because I know the ins and the outs, the adjustments. With a spread offense, I’m learning, I have to learn different cues, different things. How I call my plays. Again, we spent a lot of time at OSU, with my brother there. They’re traditionally a power running team, running the spread. We try to look at some things that they do well that we could use for our kids.

"We spent time at Dublin Coffman with Mark Crabtree, one of the best coaches around, on his quick screen games and things, again, to get the ball to our skill guys, get them in space and let them play. We have to find some kind of a good mixture of getting the ball into our skill kids’ hands. We’re not rebuilding, just reloading and continuing on."

Then there is the defense of the Cavs, where they are looking to redo their inside linebackers.

“It is a total rebuild at inside linebacker," CHS defensive coordinator Jeff Arnett said. "Every few years, you have to go through it, but you know when you have players who have been around two or three years that you will eventually have to replace them."

One of the inside linebackers this season is Barnes, the same Barnes who is the quarterback for the Cavs. Jakob Staggs (74 total tackles, 52 solo, two sacks in '14) returns as an outside linebacker. Other inside linebackers include Bristow, Reissig, Jeff Webb, Conner Mathis and Vanhorn.

At defensive line, the one returning player is Isaac Bocook. Another player on the defensive line is Woods, along with Clayton Ratcliff, Anthony Grow, Linzy and Simon Roderick.

"Isaac started late in the season last year, and as for our defensive line, we lost a lot of starters and depth from last year," Arnett said. "One of the things we've done is getting a group of six guys to rotate in, and that is still a work in progress."

The defensive backfield consists of cornerbacks Davidson (seven interceptions in '14) and Rosenbauer (40 total tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, two interceptions, seven pass breakups, 27 total tackles). Tristan Penn (39 total tackles, two fumble recoveries three pass breakups) will be at safety. Others in the defensive backfield will be Will Roderick, Danzy and Johnson.

"If you look at our total defense, the strength is going to be the secondary," Arnett said. "We have Davidson back at one corner and Rosenbauer at the other corner. Having Tristan back at safety is big for us, too.

"At free safety, we have a battle with Kristian Boltenhouse and Will Roderick. There is also Khaleel (Danzy), who is really showing us a lot of pleasant things at corner who can take over for the other two when they need a quick break."

The Cavaliers begin their '14 season on Friday, Aug. 28 at Johnstown-Monroe.