Lucas returns home to lead Hornets


Photo’s by Tim Gearhart & Kent Sanborn

COAL GROVE – Jay Lucas is proving that you can go home again.

That’s because Lucas, after guiding the Wellston Golden Rocket football program for the past two seasons, has returned to Coal Grove – and now heads up his hometown Hornets.

Lucas leads the Hornets after several seasons as an assistant to his legendary father, Dave Lucas – a member of the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

While Wellston was the Lucas’ second home, as the duo also teamed up there from 2000 thru 2002, Jay’s chance to coach his alma mater was simply too much to turn down.

“It’s good to be home and I am thankful for the opportunity. I feel very blessed to be with this group of guys. This is a really good group of kids. They have worked exceptionally hard so far and I am hoping this season turns out good for them,” said Jay Lucas. “We feel good about the group of kids that we have. This group isn’t the same as they had last year, but as is always the case, you go with the next man up.”

Those next men up look to rebound from a 4-6 campaign – one year after advancing to the Division VI, Region 21 championship game.

The Hornets have graduated some key personnel, including third-team Division VI all-Ohio defensive back Aaron Music.

While some squads might sleep on the young Hornets, Lucas believes “we can compete with anybody on our schedule. But we still have to go out, play well and execute.”

That execution includes Lucas likely heading up the defense, which was his specialty when his father was the bench boss.

Dave Lucas, likely, calls the offense, which has traditionally featured a run-oriented, trap-heavy, ball-control, clock-consuming style of wing-T attack.

However, the younger Lucas said he has intentions of implementing some spread-the-field philosophies.

“We feel like we can move the ball on the ground. We have good interchangeable backs, and I feel confident with our line of scrimmage. But I think we will have to be more versatile, though, and get our athletes the ball out in space and in position to make plays,” he said. “To line up in double-tight all the time and run it down their throats…we do have to adjust and adapt, because the game is changing.”

So are the Hornets’ starters.

Besides the two-way standout Music, who also starred and was a first-team all-Southeast District wide receiver, two-year starting quarterback Nate Harmon also graduated – as he too was a first-team all-district honoree.

Harmon threw for 1,066 yards, while rushing for 527 as a senior.

Senior Cory Borders

Cory Borders
Current Team
Coal Grove
steps in under center, while sophomores Clay Ferguson and Malachi Wheeler will be the backups.

Austin Stapleton

Austin Stapleton
Current Team
Coal Grove
2019, 2020
returns at fullback, as the five-foot, 10-inch, 225-pound junior averaged nearly seven yards per carry (686 yards, six touchdowns in 2018) as an all-district first-teamer.

But Stapleton, Lucas said, should see some carries at tailback too, along with Wheeler, Austin Stormes and Trey Hunt.

Wheeler and Justin Hicks are the likely wingbacks.

The receiving corps consists of senior Ethan Short and sophomores Perry Kingery, Jarren Hicks and Joe Abrams, as Short saw considerable playing time last season opposite Music.

While several skilled positions feature fresh faces, the offensive and defensive lines lend experience and depth.

Ben Compliment, a 6-2, 240-pound junior, has started at every position on the offensive front – and is the anchor as a guard this year.

Compliment can play tackle as well, having earned all-district Special Mention as a sophomore.

Kye Robinson (6-0, 200, jr.) returns at center, but is being pushed by Jeremiah “Bullfrog” Rice (5-10, 210, jr.)

Seniors Justin Castle (5-9, 200) and Reece York (5-9, 245) are also returning starters, working heavily at guard AND tackle along with sophomore Logan Sizemore.

Fellow senior Colten Sparks (6-0, 215) is a returning tackle, along with juniors Tucker Meadow (6-4, 255) and Chris Wilson (5-9, 250).

The defensive line features returnees Stapleton, Castle and York, while Wilson, Rice and Sparks will join them in the rotation.

Short, Kingery and even Hunt hold down the end spots.

“We’ll be moving guys in and out based on formation,” said Lucas.

The linebackers will as well, with Hunt, Storms and even Compliment on the inside, as Wheeler and Short shoulder the outside.

The secondary rotation consists of Borders, Ferguson, Jarron Hicks, Justin Hicks, Wheeler and Abrams.

With Music’s graduation headlining the defensive replacements, Lucas likes those replacement parts, but it’s all about gelling as a unit.

“I’m anxious to see what pieces we have. We’ve lost some guys off the team from last year, and lost almost all the guys off the team from the year (2017) before. We do have a few pieces of the puzzle that are back. I know what those guys can do, but I have to see the younger guys that are replacing some of those graduated guys,” said the coach. “I like our speed and I think we have good size, but the key for us is how well we come together. I like our pieces, but will those pieces all come together.”

Those pieces perhaps need to mesh quickly, prior to the start of the Ohio Valley Conference schedule in mid-September.

Gallia Academy is the defending league champion, as Ironton and perhaps Portsmouth and Fairland are viewed as the top challengers.

Lucas labeled the conference “competitive and balanced.”

“Every team should be pretty good and everybody should be improved. I think the league is going to be balanced and competitive and fun,” he said.

Lucas knows all about competition at Coal Grove, as he and his father are both excited about returning “home”.

Head Coach Jay Lucas

Current Team
Coal Grove
Past Teams
Chillicothe, Portsmouth, Wellston

“My dad is my hero. I am very blessed to have him as my father. I think of him as a great football coach for sure, but it goes much deeper than that. He is the best man I’ve ever met,” said the younger Lucas. “I’m tickled to death that he is able to be out here and be with us. I don’t know that there’s anybody in the world that’s a bigger advocate for high school football and a guy that’s better to be around kids. He is phenomenal about teaching life lessons and trying to do things right.”

The Hornets hope to improve this season and do those right things, starting with their season opener against visiting River Valley.

Coal Grove 2019 Roster & Stats

1Morgan Schultz20215-071500000000000000000
2Malachai Wheeler20225-0815538033032148311123100000
3Cory Borders20205-1017062135897695988100000000
4Justin Hicks20206-0217000000645017230100000
5Jarren Hicks20226-021700000000022160100000
7J.C. Damron20216-021700000000000000000
8John Turner20235-081400000000000000000
9Braylen Stuntebeck20235-111500100011000000000
10Austin Stormes20205-1117500000112708322380400000
12Andrew Fields20225-091500000000000000000
14Clay Ferguson20225-1117011040724000000000
15Nate Woodyard20235-081450000000000000000
20Justin Newcomb20225-101600000000000000000
21Chase Hall20235-081550000045000000000
22Trey Hunt20215-102100000020112017000000
23Landon Johnson20225-081500000012000000000
24Joe Abrams20206-021700000032209116000000
27Brayden Wilson20235-081450000000000000000
30Austin Stapleton20215-1022500000180933828000000
32Ethan Short20206-011700000000000000000
33Joe Pommell20215-081400000000000000000
34Dylan Goad20225-091450000000000000000
35Graham Hanshaw20225-081400000000000000000
44Steve Easterling20225-091650000000000000000
50Tucker Meadow20216-042550000000000000000
51Logan Short20235-101700000000000000000
52Brad Wheeler20235-101900000000000000000
53Reece York20205-092450000000000000000
54Logan Sizemore20225-101700000000000000000
55Elias Bazell20235-081550000000000000000
56Justin Castle20205-092200000000000000000
57Kye Robinson20216-002200000000000000000
58Ben Compliment20216-022400000000000000000
60Chris Wilson20215-092500000000000000000
62Jeremiah Rice20215-102100000000000000000
63Dustin Lunsford20235-091850000000000000000
70Cten Sparks20206-002150000000000000000
71Chris Lowe20236-002200000000000000000
72Ty Byrne20235-111750000000000000000
75Landon Webb20235-091650000000000000000
84Perry Kingery20226-001700000000000000000

See Coal Grove Roster, Schedule & Results Here

Start a Conversation