ANGOLA — The Angola football team hasn’t lost a regular season game in two years. It also made two trips to the regional round of the state tournament in that time, despite a number of talented players leaving the program.
The Hornets answered most of the questions posed to them before last season with their play on the field, but those same inquiries are back stronger than ever after the team graduated a who’s who of playmakers on both sides of the ball.
Gone is the offensive production of quarterback Jarrett Gibson and backs Chase Schnepf and Joel McCurdy, along with defensive standouts such as Luke Honer, David Frank and Marques Tagliaferri. And we haven’t even mentioned kicker Eric Cockroft.
While Purdue-bound safety/linebacker Ryan Brandt returns for his senior season, 2018’s group of graduates leaves a lot of question marks.
Regression has been a popular word surrounding the team. The Hornets have heard it. But they also aren’t giving any credibility to it.
“What got us here is a lot of hard work and that hasn’t gone anywhere,” said Angola coach Andy Thomas. “We just have to remember what got us here, and worry about ourselves.”
Junior 6-foot, 185-pound quarterback Tucker Hasselman takes the reins of the team this season while Antonio Luevanos and Finley Hasselman will run the ball out of the backfield. H-Back remains an area to keep an eye on after McCurdy’s graduation, though Thomas said Brandt will, at times, get some snaps there as well.
Defense is where the losses may hit the hardest, though. The Hornets had one of the best-ranked units in the state last year, led by players with a lot of experience, and a lot of talent. While talent may still be present, will it be enough to continue the trend?
Of course, having Brandt anchor the unit is huge, and defensive end Kyle Trick also returns as a senior. But with so much lost, can last year’s role players become this season’s stars?
Despite the talk, though, Angola is still a clear favorite in a Northeast Corner Conference Big School division that has ultimately failed to provide a worthy challenger two years in a row. The Hornets will still get everyone’s best shot every week, though, a fact that Thomas said is important to remember.
“It’s something (the players) need to remember,” he said.
Added Brandt: “We just can’t take anything for granted. We have to have a championship mentality every day in practice and in the weight room. We have to make sure we push ourselves every day because that’s what it takes to win games.”