Prep preview '13 -- Multiple changes show up for Railers for 2013 season
By CONOR NICHOLL
ELLIS - Ellis High School has arguably Class 2-1A's most experienced offensive line. The Railroaders return four starters in seniors Nick Gehring, Skyler Tebo and Brody Douglas and junior Brandon Groff.
Gehring, a guard/defensive tackle, is a two-time all-MCL selection who has played in 19 career games with 60 tackles, six sacks, five tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries.
Tebo, a guard/defensive end, collected all-league honors in 2012 and has played in 20 career games with 58 tackles, six sacks, 10 tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries.
Groff has collected 14 games played with 39 tackles and will start at guard/linebacker, while Douglas played in four contests in 2012 and will start at center/defensive tackle. The quartet helped Ellis finish 4-5 and come within a Week 9 road overtime loss to Oakley of a 10th straight playoff berth and sixth consecutive district crown.
"We need all of those guys on the front to have a great season," seventh-year head coach Butch Hayes said.
Past those fixtures, though, Ellis had an eventful summer and multiple changes. The Railers carry a 26-man roster that includes 11 freshmen, including 5-foot-5, 130-pound Dalton Hensley, who will start both ways at wideout and defensive back.
"It doesn't matter how many seniors we have got," Gehring said. "We put on the field who wants to play. That's pretty much how it goes. If we have a freshman out there like Dalton Hensley ready to play at all times, we will put him on the field if he is the best option for the time. Coach Hayes is a great coach. He is one of the best, and he is going to do what's best for the team and what's right for the team."
Freshmen running back/defensive back Clay Feik, wideout/defensive back Brevin LaBarge and lineman Daniel Carbajal could see plenty of time.
"Hensley is fearless," Gehring said. "He will go up against the biggest guy on the team. He will go up against our big center, Brody Douglas. He will go to him and will go right at him. He will try and block and try and escape from him and try to tackle one of our bigger running backs."
Senior Tyus Price was expected to play running back, but suffered a season-ending knee injury this summer. Sophomore lineman Dylan Haas is out with a collarbone injury for at least another five weeks. Another linebacker didn't go out and another one moved back to Hays. Ellis changed its 3-5 defense to a 4-4 look.
"Our inexperience shows at times," Hayes said. "We have some good senior leadership and some juniors that are doing a nice job telling these kids what to do, how we do it. Those freshmen are coming around."
Offensively, no returning player had more than 29 rushing yards or 20 receiving yards in 2012.
Junior Eli Lohrmeyer takes over full time at quarterback after he completed 19 of 38 passes for 179 yards with a 3/7 TD/INT ratio. He helped the Railers capture a big Week 8 victory against Oberlin. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Lohrmeyer showed good ball fakes and runs in the spread-option in last week's scrimmage.
"It helps a lot," Lohrmeyer said his experience. "You sort of have better field vision and you are not so scared about releasing the ball. You kind of know your passing routes more than you would. It just gives you a lot more confidence behind the line and able to see the defense."
Ellis will have a variety of running backs and receivers, including speedy junior Jared Pfeifer, junior Sean Lee and senior Landon Younger, one of the captains along with Tebo, Gehring and Douglas.
"They all know which holes to hit, how fast to take the handoffs and when to pass block and to flare out for passes," Lohrmeyer said. "They all three are really good in the backfield."