The Alexander Spartans trudged off the field at Meigs High School last Thursday, muddied from a cold, wet night.
The season didn’t end on a high note for the Spartans. A chance to finish with a .500 overall record went by the wayside thanks to four rushing touchdowns from Marauder junior Abe Lundy, a 30-7 Meigs win on a miserable weather night.
Despite the finish, the Spartans were still able to celebrate a tremendous senior class in 2019, a season that featured some ups and downs.
Alexander started the season on a high note, winning three games in convincing fashion for its first 3-0 start since 2011.
Then came the lows. The Spartans lost at rival Athens, starting a three-game losing streak where they were held to a combined 13 points.
Alexander rebounded for a 35-0 win at River Valley to move to 4-3 on the season. However, a three-game losing streak ended the season, as the Spartans went 4-6 overall, and 1-5 in the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division.
Alexander tied with Meigs and River Valley for the last spot in the league standings.
However, the Spartans know they were close to having a better final outcome. They played Athens tough in the second half, losing 28-6 after trailing 21-0 at halftime. Alexander played right with Division V playoff qualifier Wellston, losing 8-0 in a slugfest in Albany.
Then there was a narrow 13-10 loss to Nelsonville-York. The Buckeyes went on to share the TVC-Ohio championship with Athens, but barely escaped Albany with a win.
Perhaps the closest call was the Spartans’ home finale, a 44-41 overtime shootout defeat to Warren.
Alexander wasn’t far from having a winning record, and competing in the TVC-Ohio and playoff picture. However, costly mistakes at the wrong time — a turnover in the red zone or a dropped pass on fourth down — seemed to keep the Spartans from experiencing that signature breakthrough win.
Despite the up and down nature of the season, the Spartans still put up 22 points a game, up from 17.5 a season ago.
“I was very proud at how our line played this year,” third-year head coach Earich Dean said. “We had some new starters up front and we preached all season that if they play well we win. They responded all year. We averaged almost five yards per carry, which helped us be very balanced on offense. We passed for over 1,200 yards and rushed for over 1,200 yards this year.”
Senior quarterback Kaleb Easley enjoyed a big season in his third year as the starter. He completed 96 of 157 passes for 1,170 yards and seven touchdowns, also adding 581 yards rushing on 171 carries and 16 touchdowns.
Senior Luke Chapman — who started the three previous seasons along the offensive line — moved to a tight end/fullback role and performed well. He caught 25 passes for 172 yards as well.
Both Easley and Chapman were also leaders on defense at the linebacker position. The duo will be missed on both sides of the ball next season.
Easley and Chapman headlined a defense that was also improved from a season ago. Easley led the team with 141 tackles, four fumble recoveries, five forced fumbles, one interception and one sack. Chapman added 98 tackles.
The Spartans gave up 23.8 points per game last season, but lowered that number to 17.7 in 2019.
Chase Siefert was another key senior, catching 18 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns, as well as playing cornerback. Matt Brown led the team in receiving yardage with 388 on 17 catches with five touchdowns.
Tanner MacDowell also stepped into a receiving role as the season went along. Jordan Cantrell (119 carries, 679 yards, five touchdowns) led the team in rushing all season long as well as making key plays on defense.
Michael Kelly was able to catch 13 passes for 157 yards before suffering a season-ending knee injury in week four at Athens.
Anthony Kasler, Tyler Rice and Jacob Collins were also key linemen on both sides of the ball, all part of a senior class that will be missed in Albany.
“This senior class has been amazing to work with,” Dean said. “A lot of them started as sophomores. I had the opportunity to see them mature into very good football players. They had great work ethic which our underclassmen saw. We might of ended up on the low end of the scoreboard a few times, but they showed that you play to the last whistle. Besides being good football players they were outstanding young men. They will for sure be missed by the coaches and the players.”
The Spartans will have a lot of holes to fill next season, but do bring back some players with experience. Junior Drew Harris was one of Alexander’s top offensive linemen last season. Junior Michael Wells, junior Jon Sheridan and Junior Braydon Montgomery can also return along the offensive line. Junior fullback/defensive lineman Logan Neal was able to play in the final five games after suffering a broken leg during August practices.
Sophomore linebacker Landon Hornsby has two years of game experience under his belt, and should be one of the Spartans’ leading returners next year. Sophomore Landen Althouse will return to the defensive secondary and freshman tailback Jagger Cain should see an expanded role on the offensive end next season.
Alexander should also be set at kicker for the next three seasons, as freshman Kyler D’Augustino proved to be a weapon. He made two clutch field goals against Warren, one to send the game to overtime and another in the extra session to give Alexander a lead.
“I feel our foundation on both sides of the ball has been finalized,” Dean said. “We played a lot of smash mouth football behind our offensive line, which we return four of the five linemen. We will look to our line as leaders next year. We will once again depend on them to get us where we need to be. We have to fill a lot of spots next year, but I honestly believe our senior class did a great job getting the underclassman ready. They have showed that if you put in the work good things can happen.”
The Spartans will have to find a new opponent for week one, as Bradford was only a one-year contract. Alexander won that game 48-0, as Bradford went on to go 0-10.
Find a way to compete better in the TVC-Ohio will be a key going forward. Since winning the outright TVC-Ohio title in 2015, the Spartans are just 3-21 in league play the last four seasons.
Dean said there is potential coming up in the junior high ranks to help replace the departed senior class.
“We have a big eighth grade class coming in next year to replace our 13 seniors we lose to graduation,” Dean said. “We need to continue to grow numbers at all levels. We have a big sixth grade group moving into the junior high next year also. Adding numbers to all levels helps with competition at practice. Practice has to be competitive if you want to win. I really like the direction we are going and every senior class I have had since I have been at Alexander has added something to our program.”