The good news for the 2015 Indian Lake High School football team is that it’s stocked with returning players who piled up tons of post-season honors following a 5-5 campaign last year, the Lakers having won four of their last five games to finish 4-1 in the Central Buckeye Conference’s Mad River Division.
The bad news is that the Lakers play a murderous first-half schedule this year that includes four teams that reached the OHSAA playoffs in 2014. Indian Lake will face Triad to open the season, then see CBC-crossovers Kenton Ridge, Bellefontaine and Tippecanoe in three out of next four weeks. The Cardinals, Cougars, Chieftains and Red Devils all qualified for the last year’s tournament, and all four racked up wins against the Lakers to get there.
The last five weeks are reserved for MRD opponents Graham, Northwestern, Greenon and Urbana, with 2015 version of the Backyard Blowout to be played at Benjamin Logan in the regular season finale. Indian Lake should have no problem with familiarity with any of these 10 teams as they are playing the exact schedule in ’15 as they did in ’14, with the schools simply switching the locations this year.
Dave Coburn will be entering his 18th year as coach of the Lakers this fall. Returning to anchor the defense for Coburn is Joey Davidson, who earned the 2014 CBC Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2014 as a junior. The 6-foot, 210-pound Davidson, who lines up as both a H-back and inside linebacker, rang up 107 tackles for the Lakers last season on his way to earning the award.
Also coming back are three other first-team all-CBC performers, led by junior Alex Jacobs, a 6-foot, 190-pound quarterback who racked up over 1,900 all-purpose yards for the Lakers last season, throwing for 1,265 yards when he wasn’t tucking it in and rushing for another 663 yards. Cole Merritt made the first-team as a running back, using his diminutive 5-7, 180-pound frame for rush for 501 yards and punch it in for nine touchdowns. Rounding out the returning first-team all-CBC players for Indian Lake is 6-foot, 230-pound senior Steven Major, who both plugs holes on the defensive line and creates them on offense for Jacobs and Merritt. Coburn is also expecting junior Nate Kaffenbarger, a 6-foot, 185-pound defensive and Z-back, to step up and shore up the Laker secondary.
Indian Lake gets a chance for some for payback for last year right out of the gate as Triad comes to visit in a non-league game to open the season Aug. 28. The Cardinals shocked the Lakers, 20-18, at Triad last year in the season-opener, a win that went a long way in helping the then-Div. VII Cardinals make it into the 2014 playoffs, their third trip to the tourney in as many years.
The Lakers, with their experience and host of excellent players, will certainly be among those favored to win the Mad River Division. With a couple of wins against CBC Kenton Trail Division powerhouses Kenton Ridge, Bellefontaine and Tipp, Indian Lake could also be monitoring the OHSAA computer rankings late into the season in the hopes of making the post-season tourney.
Tom Stephens is a regular contributor to this newspaper.