By PAUL BOGGS
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
- Austin Stapleton
- Current Team
- Coal Grove
- OVC, SEO
- 2019, 2020
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