Heading into the 2013 football season, Jay Hoskey isn't sure what he has this fall, but he knows his South Tama County squad has potential to be good.
Early into last year's season, it was well known what South Tama had and who the star player was for the Trojans. Kyle Stephenson, a 2013 graduate, led the Trojans with more than 2,100 yards rushing. He was one of 17 seniors who graduated from last year's roster.
The 2013 Trojans will have a much different look when they take the field this fall. On the field will be a youthful, but talented squad ready to leave its mark on the Trojans' school history.
"We have a good mix," coach Jay Hoskey said. "Last year, most of the yardage and the touchdowns came from that senior squad. We have a lot of guys that grew up in the last year and I feel very good about the sophomore class coming in. They are good athletes and they're already matured to the point where they can play at this level and play pretty well."
South Tama has 10 seniors on the roster, but only a handful of them are expected to start the game on either side of the ball. STC will also have several juniors and even a few sophomores taking the field Friday night.
The Trojans are expected to have three seniors and two juniors on the offensive line. The seniors are Dalton Vest, Garrett Hoskey and Drew Lacina. Juniors Ian Slagle and Damon Whitebreast will fill the other spots, with senior Tyler Martens taking the tight end position for the Trojans.
Hoskey, Vest and Slagle return as starters from a year ago. Lacina is back on the team after a two-year hiatus from football, while Whitebreast transferred from the Meskwaki Settlement School in the spring. Most of those five linemen will also see playing time on the defensive line this season.
"Offensive line wise, I think that first group could be all right," Hoskey said. "We will be pretty good sized. I think we are going to be on average about 6-2, 247 pounds. But size isn't everything. You have to move and get off the ball. So much of it is making sure you have the right technique and getting to the right places. It might take these guys a few games to hit our stride, but we did that last year."
In the backfield, South Tama will look tremendously different than last year's team. Gone are the three starters and playing this year will be two juniors and two sophomores.
Junior Dalton Doyle will be the starting quarterback after leading the junior varsity squad in 2012. Doyle has been the Trojans' top quarterback during the summer and preseason. Doyle, who came off of a baseball season where he was an all-conference pitcher, is expected to do big things for the Trojans this fall.
"He did a really good job at 7-on-7," Hoskey said. "He's making really good decisions. He's a good-sized kid, but not tremendously fast."
Joining him in the backfield will be a trio of running backs, one of which has varsity experience. Junior Bo Blocker is the Trojans' leading rusher with 194 yards on the varsity team a year ago, as he filled in for Stephenson during the waning minutes of a few games last fall.
"We're definitely going to be more diverse in the backfield this year," Hoskey said. "Last year, Stephenson probably got 70 percent of the carries. This year we'll have a good rotation with a few guys. I can't see anybody getting 30 carries like Stephenson did. It's going to be more like 10 or 15 here and 10 or 15 there. Hopefully we can keep guys fresh and ready to go."
Blocker will be joined by a pair of sophomores in Jerry Lowe and Peyton Craun. Lowe will be the other halfback for the Trojans with Craun taking the primary duties as fullback. Both players helped the 2012 freshman team finish its season with one loss a year ago.
"We're just scraping the top of the surface with Jerry," Hoskey said about Lowe. "If he gains as much in this next year as he gained last year, you'll be talking big time. He's nearly 180 pounds after coming here 145, deadlifts over 400 and ran a 4.5 last spring. And he's just learning the game.
"He's probably the toughest kid on the team," he added about Craun. "He'll be our Lux type of guy. He's a guy that's put his time in the weight room and we can't get him out of there. He's going to be fun to watch for a couple more years."
Several players will take their turn at wide receiver this fall. Seniors Zach Morris, Dylan Kalinay and Tristan Beyer will be three of the primary targets. Blocker might also see time as a wide receiver this season, too.
"He's gotten a lot stronger," Hoskey said of Morris. "He's also learned a lot in the last year. He's going to have to step up and take over for what Erik Lux did on the strong side. Kalinay was on the state championship relay team and he's maybe the second or third fastest guy on our team. Tristan Beyer will play, too, but we're just not sure where he'll play."
Morris, Kalinay and Beyer will also play defensively for the Trojans. Morris is expected to be a linebacker with Martens, Craun, sophomore Justin Suchanek and others. Meanwhile, Kalinay and Beyer will join Blocker and others in the secondary.
"One thing is we're not very deep," Hoskey said. "We drop off in quality after the first reserve. That happens at this size of the school, but we'd like to increase that and not play as many two-way guys."
South Tama will once again be in the same Class 3A District as a year ago. The other district teams will be Grinnell, Boone, Newton, Dallas Center-Grimes, Ballard and Saydel.
"It's a lot like last year," Hoskey said. "You have a lot of teams that are pretty good. Grinnell is the clear cut favorite and everybody else is thinking they could be right in there."
"The team that I think has a big upside is Dallas Center-Grimes," Hoskey said. "They have a very good freshman and sophomore classes. In that neck of woods, you can get some move-ins. They were better than what their record was last year. That could be a team that really improves this year."
As far as goals for the season, Hoskey joked the main goal remains the same from a year ago.
"If we play Grinnell twice and beat them once," he said. "We'd have a good year if that happens. Making the playoffs with this squad and being in the mix of things is our goal. I think it's realistic, but we can't afford to stub our toe on too many things.
"I think our upside is pretty good," he added. "It's just a matter of keeping away from injuries. I really think we could be right up there as one of the top teams in the district."
The Trojans opened at Nevada on Friday.
South Tama will play its home opener Friday against Vinton-Shellsburg. STC will play four of its nine games at home this fall.
"In football, you just show up and play," Hoskey said. "That's (road games) never been much of a problem with these guys. As long as we get the right focus, the field is still the same."