GLOUSTER — It began with nearly 7,000 seniors to be, and featured a pair of high-pressure, combine-style workouts over the summer in front of scouts and coaches.
But in the end, Ian Joyce made the cut. It’s not a surprise to those who have watched him dominate the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division over the last two years.
Joyce, a senior defensive end with the Trimble Tomcats, has been invited to participate in the annual Blue-Grey All-American Bowl on Jan. 20, 2020 at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas. It will showcase more than 100 of the top high school football seniors in the country (55 per side).
“It seems like a pretty big deal,” said Joyce, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound edge defensive player and a key part of Trimble’s ferocious defense. “I’m pretty excited about it.”
That goes double for long-time Trimble head coach Phil Faires. He’s coached the Tomcats for more than 25 years, and has never had a player picked for the marquee event.
“It’s an honor for him, it’s an honor for our program just to have him in it,” Faires said. “They’ll see his potential. He’s got a lot more than what we’ve been able to tap into.”
Joyce’s path to the All-American Bowl began during the summer. He tested and worked out for game organizers at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. After making the cut there, he returned for ‘super regional combine’ event at the Hall of Fame field in Canton.
A short time after that, he learned he would be one of those 55 players representing 22 ‘Eastern’ states in Dallas.
What got Joyce noticed was his build, reach and his natural ability to elude those trying to keep him from the quarterback.
“It’s just hard work and dedication,” he said. “Mainly there was no one that could really block me there. That really puts you over the edge.
“Speed. You’ll see me one way, than I’ll go the other (snap) like that.”
Joyce, and his parents Scott and Sara, could use help securing funding for the bulk of the trip to Dallas in January. The cost of the weekend-long event is roughy $3,300 per player. Those interested in donating should inquire at the First National Bank in Glouster where the family has set up an account to help fund the trip. Any funds donated that result in an excess of the amount needed for the trip will be donated to The Trimble Athletic Facilities Improvement Fund.
Faires said Joyce could play virtually any position on the field for Trimble, but he’s currently slotted where he helps the most. Joyce is a play-making defensive end — he had 22 sacks and 40 tackles for loss in 10 regular-season games with the Tomcats a year ago — and doubles as a guard on the offensive line.
“He’s just an athlete. And we’re lucky to have him on the offensive line. He could be a heck of a fullback,” Faire said. “I’m sure we could put him at tailback and he’d do a decent job.”
But Joyce stands out at defensive end, and it’s the position he hopes to play in college. For Trimble, he’s a vital part of a defense that has posted 12 shutouts since the start of the 2018 season.
If teams double him, then pursuit from the inside by linebacker Sawyer Koons and others is able to run free. If teams run away from him, he’s fast enough to run down most ball-carriers. And if teams pass, he just attacks the pocket.
“Oh he’s a natural defensive end,” Faires said. “And he should be just a junior. I still think he’s going to grow a couple more inches.”
Joyce dropped serious weight last winter as a wrestler to compete as a 195-pounder and earned a state qualifying spot. This spring and summer, Joyce bulked up again. He wants to play college football, and wants to go into bio-mechanical engineering where he can one day hopefully work on building prosthetics.
At this point, he’s been in contact with Ohio University — which has the engineering degree he seeks — and Bobcats’ DE coach Pete Germano. It’s far from a done deal. But he figures the Blue-Grey game can only help him pursue an opportunity at the next level.
“It’s looking like the lines are starting to get straighter, but there is a lot of work to do yet,” Joyce said. “I’m getting there.”
For now, however, Joyce is happy to continue to work on shutout after shutout with the Trimble defense. The goal is a state record 11 shutouts this season.
If the Tomcats get it, it will be because they play as something more than the sum of their parts, he said.
“We’re all like brothers,” Joyce said. “You can tell someone’s emotion just by looking over at them. Even if they got a helmet on, or eye black, it doesn’t matter.
“That’s what really pushes us to being as great as we are.”
And Joyce is going to keep pushing until he ends up on a college roster.
Trimble (3-0, 2-0 Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division) continues its season on Friday night when South Gallia (1-2, 1-1 TVC Hocking) comes to Glouster for a 7:30 p.m. start.
The Tomcats’ ferocious defense has been on point so far in 2019 as no Trimble opponent has yet dented the scoreboard. The ‘Cats combined score through three games is 129-0.
The Tomcats showed up at No. 8 in the first state-wide Associated Press Top 10 poll for Division VI this week.
Trimble has posted 15 straight wins in league play, and will be expected to make it 16 in a row on Friday.
South Gallia opened the season with a close loss against Symmes Valley (14-12), but was hammered in week two by TVC-Hocking foe Waterford (40-8). The Rebels got on track last week with a 44-0 win over visiting Federal Hocking.
But it’s hard to see Trimble losing this one. In fact, the Tomcats have never lost to South Gallia since the Rebels joined the TVC-Hocking (2010). The Tomcats are 9-0 in league games against SG, and the bulk have resembled last year’s 32-0 win in Mercerville.
— Senior tailback Conner Wright had a rarity in last week’s 48-0 win over Eastern. He finished with 78 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries; it was his first regular-season game as a starter where he didn’t rush for at least 100 yards. Wright (506 yards, 7 TDs in 2019) has gained at least 100 rushing yards in 15 of 18 games since the start of the 2018 season.
— Senior quarterback Cameron Kittle is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes this season. It’s a huge jump up in accuracy compared to his two previous seasons. With 294 yards passing and six TD passes, Kittle is well ahead of last year’s pace (756 yards in 15 games, 7 total TD passes).
— Trimble’s defense is checking all the boxes right now. Opponents are picking up less than 2.0 yards per carry, and the Tomcats have a +3 turnover ratio after three games. Trimble has allowed a combined 254 yards in three games, or about half of what Wright has gained on the ground himself this season.