ELYRIA — While the Open Door football program has existed for four seasons, last year was its first playing a full varsity schedule.
As expected, the Patriots struggled at the beginning of the season, giving up no fewer than 32 points in each of their first six games, while only breaking the 20-point barrier once. However, they ended the season with back-to-back victories over Worthington Christian (40-20) and Lutheran East (21-0) that has given the fledgling program some momentum.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the two wins we had at end of the year helped,” said head coach Ray Lowe, entering his fourth year as the only coach the school has ever known. “That really paved the way for our offseason workouts, especially in summertime.
“We’re such a small school that, for football, our offseason begins when school ends. We had a good amount of kids that came out to our evening practices and our conditioning camps and the weight room that we ran. That was definitely something that we’ve built on.”
And, with four seniors that have stuck with the program since the first day four years ago and an all-time high 24 players out for this year’s team, Lowe and his players feel that the momentum is starting to surge in a positive direction.
“We are playing only our second year of varsity football,” Lowe said. “That being said, we are returning 18 players from last year’s roster. We picked up some kids moving up into high school, picked up some new players and a couple that have transferred in, giving us a total of 24 players on our roster this year. We are excited to see what God has planned for our program.
“We are looking to continue to improve and be more competitive on the field. Our best defense will be our offense. For us to be successful this year, we must be able to control the football and the pace of the game.”
The 18 returners are led by the four seniors who have stuck with football since they were freshmen – quarterback/defensive end Dan Stintsman, wide receiver/cornerback Jacob Lowe, offensive lineman/linebacker Zack Davis and two-way lineman Dennis Robinson.
All four have been starting since they were freshmen, when the team was playing a JV schedule, and enter their senior years as the captains, looking forward to seeing what they started back then pay off.
“We want to take that momentum from our last two games and take it over to this year,” said Stintsman, an honorable mention All-Ohio selection last season. “The group we have this year is a very athletic, very fast group. I’m very excited for this season and I’m looking forward to it. I think we can do some great things.
“From my freshman year, our starting year, to my senior year, we’ve really bonded as a team and we’ve gotten tighter and tighter. Over the years, we’ve gotten better and more athletic and the fundamentals have caught up with our team from the players that never played football before. We’ve grown in leaps and bounds as football players.”
Jacob Lowe, who missed some time last season due to a concussion and a dislocated shoulder, has been Stintsman’s top target in their spread offense since their freshman year.
“I think it’s a big advantage,” he said. “We’ve been working all the way up on the same team from our freshman year. I think we’ll have great chemistry. I know what he’s thinking when I see coverage and he knows what I’m thinking when he sees coverage. I think it makes our decision making that much quicker and I think that should work to our advantage.”
The foursome will be joined by fellow senior Justin Davis, a two-way lineman, on this year’s team.
Along with them, the Patriots return six other starters in juniors Ty Haas (WR/DB/QB), Clayton Wright (RB/LB), Caanan Sullivan (RB/LB) and Matt Schock (two-way lineman) and sophomores Zach Anderson (RB/DB) and Jaret Hernandez (two-way lineman).
Other newcomers to the team include junior wide receiver/defensive back Dustin Hackney and two freshmen in R.J. Stanford and Jagger Schmidt.
“I think we are leaving a legacy that future classes can bring up,” Stintsman said. “From the freshmen class to the seniors, we have a lot of athletes on this team. We’re preparing the guys behind us so they can build off of what we started these last four years and keep it going.”
Because of the low numbers, every offensive starter on the Patriots will likely start on the defensive side as well. However, for the first time, they are two-deep at every position.
“We return every player we had last year and we’re picking up two freshmen and a couple new kids that haven’t played,” Coach Lowe said. “The majority of them have a year’s worth of experience playing the varsity game and a varsity schedule. The speed of the game picked up (from their second JV season) and it took a long time for us to get caught up. With us taking our lumps and learning from our mistakes, the kids’ heads are on right.”
The Patriots are looking forward to their first two games. They open up for the third-straight season against Lakeside Danbury and play their first Lorain County varsity opponent in Week 2 when they host Clearview.
“We don’t back down from any challenges,” Jacob Lowe said. “When our coaches said we’d be playing Clearview in Week 2, everyone was pumped up and ready to go. We knew we’d see Danbury again, and we’ve kind of developed a little rivalry with them and we haven’t forgotten about last year’s (67-0 loss). So it will be a fun first two weeks for us.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Open Door Patriots
CONFERENCE: Independent (Division VII)
COACH: Ray Lowe, 4th year
2013 RECORD: 2-6
RETURNING LETTERMEN: 18
RETURNING STARTERS: 10
PLAYOFF APPEARANCES: 0
NUMBERS GAME: 4 – The number of years Open Door has fielded a football program, and the number of players that have stuck with the program since day one.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Dan Stintsman – The senior quarterback/defensive end is one of the few, if not the only, quarterbacks locally that enters this season as a four-year starter. He was an honorable mention All-Ohio selection last year.
Aug. 29 ... at Danbury (7 p.m.)
Sept. 5 … Clearview (7 p.m.)*
Sept. 13 … Collinwood (7 p.m.)*
Sept. 19 … at Lucas (7 p.m.)
Sept. 26 … Toledo St. John (7 p.m.)
Oct. 3 … Hardin Northern (7 p.m.)*
Oct. 10 … at Warrensville Heights (7 p.m.)
Oct. 18 … Lutheran East (7 p.m.)*
Oct. 24 … Toledo Horizon Science (7 p.m.)*
Oct. 31 … at Western Reserve Academy (1 p.m.)
• — at Midview High School