ELYRIA — From one win in his first year to two the next and to four last year.
That’s been the slow but steady progress under head coach Steve Hamilton since he took the reins of the Pioneers in 2007.
Could it mean Hamilton and his Pioneers are ready to double the total again and go from four to eight wins?
“I hope so,” Hamilton said. “On the back of our shirts it says, ‘One Team, One Goal’ and our goal is to make it to the state playoffs. We want to compete for a Division I championship. Does that mean we’ll make it to the Division I championship? No, but our goal is to make it to the state playoffs where we’ll have a chance to compete for the state championship.”
Listen to coach Steve Hamilton talk about the season with WEOL's Jim Allen:
Elyria will build those hopes around Ohio State recruit Chase Farris, who has filled in his 6foot-6 frame to the tune of 270 solid pounds. Farris will be on the field as much as possible at defensive end and offensive tackle.
“No doubt,” Hamilton said. “Chase will be the cornerstone of our team this year. He’s worked his butt off in the offseason to get where he needs to be. He is a leader at all times in everything that he does and no matter what he does. “During the fourth-quarter grading period (last spring), I challenged him that for every non-A, he owes me 60 push-ups. First check report, he owed me 300 push-ups. He did every one. At the end, he ended up having just 60. He finished with all A’s and one B. He’s well above a 3.0 student now. He sees what’s in front of him and he’s working hard to achieve our goals. He’s a legitimate Division I player obviously by his verbal commitment to Ohio State.”
Farris is one of only a dozen seniors on the team but Hamilton isn’t about to make that an excuse. Elyria had 23 seniors on last year’s team and two of them — tailback Trynell Davis and lineman Isaiah Byler — were named to the All-Ohio first team.
In addition, Jake Neuschaefer — an outstanding defensive back — has decided to concentrate on fall baseball to enhance his potential prospects at Kent State next year on the diamond. Normally, losing players of that caliber calls for a rebuilding year, but Hamilton will have none of that.
“Holy cow,” Hamilton said, “my junior and sophomores are very good kids. They work their butts off. They’re players. Even the sophomores when they get in there, they’re not afraid to challenge the seniors. It’s just a special group. They hate to lose.”
Elyria returns its quarterback — 6-3, 180pound senior Dustin Stolarski — who Hamilton has already noticed as more of a leader on the field at two-a-days.
“On the field, he takes control of the huddle,” Hamilton said. “He demands excellence out of everybody. He’s a very smart, intelligent kid. He knows the kids. He knows where everybody needs to be on the field and he reads defenses very well.” Junior wide receiver Demetrius Walton came on strong last year to finish with 12 catches and 120 yards. He’ll also line up at free safety. The Pioneers return five starters on offense and four on defense.
“We’ll be an attacking defense,” Hamilton said. “We’ll bring pressure all the time. Our cornerstone will be (defensive end) Chase Farris. We’ll line up in a 3-4 but we’ll bring a lot of pressure out of it.”
Elyria’s freshman team was 7-3 a year ago and many of them were elevated to the junior varsity before the season ended.
“They got the experience at the JV level and now they’re moving up to the Friday night lights,” Hamilton said.
Elyria will play an ambitious schedule that includes a first-ever meeting with Elyria Catholic in the third week of the season — a Thursday night date at Ely Stadium that will be on Fox Sports Ohio. The Pioneers open with Amherst and North Olmsted — two strong teams from the Southwestern Conference.
“The one thing I like about our non-conference schedule is we’re playing all local schools,” Hamilton said. “Obviously, in our league we don’t play any local schools and you can’t build up the rivalry because you don’t see those kids out in the neighborhood, you don’t see the kids at the mall. The non-conference games are all schools from around here and are very competitive year-in and year-out.”
Elyria will play Mayfield and Parma — two Division I playoff teams last year — in NOC crossover games. Hudson (8-2 last year) and Twinsburg (10-2) bookend the River Division portion of the schedule that includes Cuyahoga Falls, Stow and Lakewood.
“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Hamilton said. “I like competition. I like to challenge our kids. It’s taken a couple years, but these kids get up for challenges. They hate to lose. They’ll do whatever’s necessary to get a win.”
More high school football previews
- Elyria ready to chase playoffs
- EC has plenty to be excited about
- Midview has depth, confidence, too
- Rangers staying hungry
- Keystone counting on defense
- Wellington plans to throw more
- Avon Lake needs a runner
- Amherst expects to be even better this year
- Oberlin staying positive despite heavy graduation losses
- Lorain has high hopes for Titans
- Clippers feel new guys are prepared
- Columbia thinks this season could be a special one
- Brookside’s comfort level rising
- Are Sailors on the way back up?
- Olmsted Falls relying on excellent senior class
- Firelands’ focus on present, not future
- Avon looks to return to playoffs
- Pay-to-pay hasn’t derailed North Olmsted’s optimism
- Black River loaded with talent
- Lutheran West hoping to stay healthy this season
- Coach thinks Westlake will have big year
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.