By RUSSELL JONES
Otter Valley’s football team is making the move from Division II down to Div. III this season and head Coach Kipp Denis thinks the move will be a good one for the Otters.
“We’ll make some noise,” Denis said on Monday before the second week of practice began. “We’re young. We’ve got five seniors and four juniors, but we’re excited to be back in D-III.”
The Otters battled the last three years in D-II and struggled against larger squads. “We did not belong in D-II,” Denis said. “We’ll have some good competition this year.”
The Otters up-tempo spread offense may be the key to earning wins this season against the more traditional offenses in the division.
“If you look at it, it’s basically Springfield that runs a spread, all the rest are Wing T,” Denis said. “That could be an advantage because those teams are not used to covering it. You practice against the Wing T every day and sometimes you just can’t adjust to the spread.”
That spread offense will be led by senior Alex Polli, who started as the JV quarterback for two seasons before spending most of his playing time as receiver last season.
Polli will try to keep the offense running as quickly as possible in a hope to keep the defense tired and on its heels. Behind him at halfback, Nate Blake will lead the rushing attack.
The Otters have a couple of returning seniors on the front line, though a few of the linemen are in new positions this year.
On the defensive side of the ball, the fact that they are young may turn out to be an asset, according to defensive coordinator Keith Alexander.
“Last year we had a lot of seniors and we stuck with them,” he said. “This year I have the flexibility to put a kid in for four or five plays and then pull them to correct what they’re doing, give them a rest and send them back in.”
That flexibility, he hopes, will offset the youth on the squad. Alexander said they have many promising freshmen and some very strong sophomores who will see time on the field.
“They’ll get playing time,” Alexander said. “They may have come out thinking they would be playing JV, but they’ll see the field this year.”
His defensive line looks strong, Alexander said, but his linebackers, while athletic, don’t yet have the experience at the position he would prefer. The defensive backfield is fairly young, like much of the team, with two brand new safeties and a sophomore cornerback.
While everyone is a playoff contender at the start of any season, Denis is keeping his team focused on setting realistic goals and then accomplishing them.
Denis said an achievable goal for this Otters team would be to host a playoff game. “These kids have come out here ready to work and they all have a great attitude,” he said. “As a football coach, you can’t ask for much more.”
“We want to be competitive,” the head coach said. “If we keep the games close, we’ll have a chance to win them and we’ll get stronger as the season goes on. We want to be a team that no one wants to face in the playoffs.”