The East Clinton Astros are traveling in a different direction this season with a new coaching staff as they look to improve their place in the South Central Ohio League standings for the 2015 season.

EC, who went 2-8 overall (2-5 in the SCOL), are now coached by Jeremy Yankey, who replaces Bill Hrabak as the head coach of the Astros, as Yankey enters his first season as a high school varsity head coach.

Last season, the Astros defeated Hillsboro and McClain, both league foes, with a 3-0 win at Hillsboro in overtime and a 25-22 victory vs. the Tigers.

For Yankey, he led the East Clinton pee-wee football program for 20 years before taking over as the head coach of the Astros, but he's also brought with him Herb Mihalik as the defensive coordinator. Mihalik is a former head coach at Hillsboro High School and other high schools in various sports, including the head football coach at HHS from 1998-2000. He was also the head football coach at EC from 1986-92.

"It is great to have him here," Yankey said. "So many of our guys coaching are inexperienced at this level, but he gives us someone to talk to about things and gives us a totally different view about things, which is what we need.

"As a staff, we all can't agree on everything. We need to be able to speak our minds. He gives us 30-plus years of coaching experience to work with. We talk about both sides of the ball a lot, and having him here is a great asset to me, being a first-year head coach."

Yankey, on the other hand, is a 1991 graduate of East Clinton High School and has taken his new role in stride.

"This offseason has been very busy," Yankey said. "I was hired on Jan. 20. We got our official offseason started in March and went hard at it for five months.

“Attendance was very good when school was in. We would have 35-40 players in the weight room. It has been pretty good. I would have liked to see more kids here in the summer, but that will take time."

The Astros will have 12 seniors this season and a total of 48 players in the program this season.
EC this preseason scrimmaged Williamsburg, Dayton Christian and Southeastern (Clark County).

"The number-one thing coming out of the Williamsburg scrimmage was we left healthy," Yankey said. "We played hard with them for a little over an hour. We were a little concerned going in because we had only one day of hitting before that scrimmage, but we hung in there well against a Williamsburg team that will be very good. They have 14 seniors, and it was a good, physical test for us.

 

"We know we have things to work on, but we were pleased with our two tailbacks, because they both ran the ball well."

Those running backs Yankey mentioned are Anthony Osburn and Wes Kidder.

"Anthony is a tremendously hard worker and is a kid who is a solid, quick and strong player at 5-9 and 185 pounds," the head coach said. "Wes is a more slashing type back at 5-7, 145 pounds. He's also very quick.

"They complement each other very well, and they both should see a good amount of carries this year, but Anthony is our first-string back."

At quarterback this season, senior Erik Moore returns under center, who Yankey describes as a 4.0 student and very intelligent.

"He'll tell you he didn't have the best year last year, but I think what we have planned for him this season should allow him to be successful this year,” Yankey said. “He's a pocket-type passer, but he can also escape and run.

"Erik is a good team leader and works extremely hard in the weight room."

Another player to keep an eye on this season is senior D.J. Luttrell (left tackle). Last season, he weighed 320 pounds, but he has since dropped to 286 pounds after recovering from a knee injury suffered during basketball when he was a sophomore.

"D.J. has worked hard this offseason," Yankey said. "His knee injury during his sophomore year affected him last season, but he's a lot faster, quicker and stronger than he's ever been. He played well in the scrimmage at Williamsburg.”

There is also senior Brian Barnes (wide receiver/defensive end), who was a starter on both offense and defense in '14.

"We have a good thing by having our left tackle and quarterback returning this season,” Yankey said. “This senior class as a whole, we had almost 100 percent of them work really hard for five months and buy into what we are wanting to do here.

"I'm their third head coach in four years, and they've won eight games total in their time here so far. They want this to be a success. Many of them I coached in youth football, so they were very familiar with me and willing and ready to work hard from day one. I'm very pleased with the work ethic and attitude of the seniors this summer. I told them to make this their team and to take ownership of it."

What are the expectations of the Astros this season?

"We play in a very good league (SCOL)," Yankey said. "Any league that has a team (Clinton-Massie) that has won two state titles the past three seasons, you can say that's a pretty good league. Then you throw in Chillicothe, Wilmington and Miami Trace … those are just good programs with coaches who have had great success at a very high level.

"We are facing an uphill battle. We know we are the smallest school in the league, being Division V, when everyone else we play is Division III and IV, but I look at that as an advantage because should we improve ourselves where we can get to five or six wins, in our region, that could be enough put us in the playoffs. I don't want to sell my seniors short because we want to make this the best year we can make it.

"If a lot of things go our way, maybe we can get to that point. I like our non-league schedule as we open up with three schools that are just like us (vs. Batavia, at Blanchester, at Greeneview), being they are the same size of school. We'll see how we come out of those three games, and a lot will be figured out by that point. There are still a lot of unknowns with a new coaching staff, but we have a lot of the kids back from last year."

The Astros begin the season on Friday, Aug. 28 when they take on Batavia at ECHS at 7:30 p.m.