WELLSVILLE - After a nine-year playoff absence, Wellsville slid into the Ohio Division VI, Region 21 playoffs a season ago only to lose to the same team it did in its previous appearance in 2001, Shadyside.
This season, Coach Dave Skinner has a more seasoned bunch, with a whopping junior class, that appears ready to not only improve on last year's 5-6 record and make the playoffs, but also maybe make a little noise.
Headlining the 2012 Tigers are a group of 15 juniors, many of whom have been starting since their freshmen seasons. The remainder of the team is made up of 13 players from the other three grades, including just four seniors.
There are a total of 11 returning starters, including six who are two-year veterans, a pair of juniors who have one year of starting experience, and a pair of sophomores and just one senior.
As far as weapons on offense go, juniors Jordan Sloan (quarterback), Marcus Moxley (receiver), Brendan Carr (running back) and Seth Bradford (receiver) lead the way.
Junior Camden Douglas and sophomore Zack Mellott will be in the slot with classmate Jarin McIntosh anchoring the line for the third consecutive season. The other linemen will consist of senior Seth Martin at right guard and junior Joe Abdalla at left guard, junior Marvin Brinkley at left tackle, joined by sophomore Travis Furbee at right tackle.
Sloan (corner), Moxley (safety), Carr (linebacker) and Bradford (linebacker) are also mainstays on the defense. Junior Jordan Allen starts at corner with Martin and fellow senior Adam Harless as bookends on the line.
Abdalla and sophomore Seth Bloor are the defensive tackles Mellott will be the other safety and freshman Vinnie Giordano gets his shot at middle linebacker.
Junior Cavan Lemasters is slated to handle all of the kicking chores.
The remainder of the roster consists of seniors Tyler Watkins and Alex Rockenhauser; juniors De'Shaun Coles, Greg Beatty, Dakota Barnes, Ryan Bost and Levi Brown; sophomore Jalen Williams and freshmen Daniel Monte, Curt Rosenbaum, Austin Phillips and T.J. Ford.
Skinner, who enters his seventh season with Wellsville, has a 28-23 record at the Columbiana County school and will be assisted by Mark Furda, Roger Bickel, Alan Bergert, Rob Long, Dennis Bowers and Jimmy Malone.
There were a few big losses from last year's squad, including All-Ohio standout Josh Carter at defensive end, Jeff McMahan and Vance Thomas, both at the tackles, and quarterback Jake Reed.
"We have a great group of juniors, a lot of which have been starting since they were freshmen," Skinner said. "And if they do the right things, we are expecting very big things from them.
"We play in a very strong league, with a bunch of teams really coming in looking like title contenders, and we also have some real nice tests with our non-league schedule.
"I guess we will just have to go out and see how we stack up."