The Cowanesque Valley Indians were a much different team in 2019, and when looking at the numbers, their turnaround bodes well for the future of a program that has notoriously struggled over the years.
The statistic that jumps out the most is clearly what the Indians were able to accomplish on offense, after having issues on that side of the ball last season and playing major factor on their season ending up winless.
The biggest notable change from a team perspective was the attitude. Coming off a winless season can create an aura of defeat before a game has even been played, but the Indians were constantly optimistic. The effort level from years passed had risen which is one of the hardest tasks to accomplish with a struggling program.
The Indians put up a point per game total of 9.7 in 2018 and turned the ball over 25 times during that season. Both of those numbers were the worst in the NTL, and quarterback Seth Huyler coughed the ball up on 22 interceptions.
This year, the offense was significantly more productive and the Indians did a much better job protecting the ball and putting their players in position to make plays. A lot has to do with new head coach Michael Schmitt’s new offense, that was able to optimize the personnel he had available to maximize production.
The perfect example of this is quarterback Huyler, who has one of the better arms in the league but was forced to try and do too much last season, which was a heavy contributor to the 22 interceptions. Huyler made the turn around from a five touchdowns and 22 interceptions quarterback, to one who with threw 14 touchdowns to just seven interceptions and was dynamic in the running game with 579 rushing yards and four touchdowns as well. The offense jumped from passing for 135 yards per game to nearly 160, and Huyler showed much better decision making throughout the season.
He ran the offense with confidence, and his stats would have been more impressive if he hadn’t missing the better part of two whole games throughout the season.
The Indians were also able to revitalize something that every high school football team desperately needs, and that’s a running game. Last year the Indians averaged a pedestrian 109 yards per game on the ground, and at 3.9 yards per carry, they weren’t able to get much going in that facet of the game.
This season, especially in the second half of the year, the Indians used their fast-paced offense in order to create opportunities, and it showed as they averaged 163 yards per game on six yards per carry, which in terms of football, is a huge difference.
Elliot Good emerged as a young player to watch over the next few seasons. As a sophomore he came into his own over the last four games of the year, where he averaged 128 yards per game with more than seven yards per carry and scored four touchdowns. The Indians will need him to carry his strong play into next season if they want to continue to grow moving forward.
Defensively, the Indians still struggled to stop offenses, and it will need to be the focal point of their offseason if they want to improve. Two of their losses came by less than two touchdowns, and they also scored more than 20 points in three of their losses this season. An improved defense could be the difference between a 3-7 record and a 6-4 record with a shot at districts.
It has been a tale of two seasons for the Indians, and with losing a lot of seniors this offseason, it will be interesting to see how this upcoming season will play out, especially with losing so many key players and a limited sized roster.
The Indians will lose their best defensive players in Owen Fitzwater and Magnus Swimley and two of their most productive offensive players in Huyler and wide receiver Kole Hurler so utilizing the young talent they have available will be key in their continued growth this season.