BEALLSVILLE - Paul Kanzigg had the tall task last season of replacing a legend. His job became tougher this fall.
Kanzigg assumed the Beallsville High helm and followed in the footsteps of Dave Caldwell who enjoyed tremendous success in his 29 years at the school.
Kanzigg directed his initial squad to a 5-5 mark, finishing on a roll by winning five of its final six games. Beallsville, however, may be challenged to reach that break-even mark this season.
The Switzerland of Ohio School District's financial woes are taking their toll on athletic programs at all three high schools (River and Monroe Central).
A pay-to-participate policy is thinning roster numbers, with Beallsville football feeling the effects as much as anyone. Many potential aspirants either opted not to play or transferred out of the district to neighboring schools.
Compounding matters, teams will not have busing to their away games.
''We lost three or four boys to other schools and a couple of others opted not to come out," Kanzigg said. "No busing to games is a major concern. You have to worry about all your players making it there safely and then being focused for the start of the game."
As a result, Kanzigg has 21 players to work with. That is down from the 29 who dotted the roster in 2012.
That is a sizable, and potentially painful drop.
Kanzigg realizes such things are out of his control. Rather, he is focused on getting his Blue Devils ready for an acid test in tonight's opener. Beallsville is facing Madonna in the second game of the McDonald's Kickoff Classic at Robert Kettlewell Stadium in Wintersville.
Beallsville must replace some quality performers. None more so than quarterbacking great Teryn Jarrett, who rewrote the school's record book in numerous categories.
As a senior, Jarrett tossed for a little less than 2,500 yards and 23 TDs. He surpassed 6,000 yards in his career and concluded his prep days by playing for Ohio in last month's OVAC Rudy Charity Football Classic. He is continuing his academic and basketball careers at Muskingum University.
"Losing Teryn, we lose a big part of our offense. We knew we were going to score points with Teryn on the field," Kanzigg said. "He was also a great leader on and off the field. We take a big hit.''
His exodus leaves a massive void in the Beallsville attack.
Also lost to graduation was Gage Steele, Drew Tubaugh, Devin Lippencott, Kyle Groves, Tanner Kurtz, Cody Mellott and Dustin Norris.
Despite all the hurdles the Blue Devils must clear, Kanzigg is optimistic. With 11 returning starters and 15 lettermen back in the fold, Kanzigg's has foundation for his upbeat tone.
"We have great size, especially for a small school. We also have some nice speed," he said. "We have the chance for a good season, but with just 21 players, staying healthy is obviously important."
"Offensively, our line with be a strength. We are also breaking in a sophomore quarterback who is dual-threat."
That is Chase Mercer (5-foot-10, 150 pounds). The athletic letterman has the tools to be the latest in a long line of stellar Beallsville quarterbacks. He will put pressure on defenses with his arm and legs. The quicker his maturation under center, the quicker the Blue Devils will return to offensive explosiveness.
Sophomore Levi Phillips (5-11, 155) will be another quarterback aspirant.
Versatile Mikey Palmer (5-9, 145) will be the starting tailback and a quarterback insurance policy. Palmer was a backfield regular last season and provides big-play capabilities.
The fullback is Bruce Sefert (5-8, 160), a senior bruiser who is another returning regular who can churn out tough yardage between the tackles.
Backfield depth is supplied by junior Kris Palmer (5-8, 150) and promising freshman Joe Cunningham (5-8, 160). Another hopeful is freshman Garrett Brown (5-9, 171).
Senior returning starter Derek Lucas (6-0, 150) is the two-back, which Kanzigg notes is a position heavy on receiving. Juniors Zack Raines (5-7, 120) and Zac Daughtery (5-8, 130) will see duty at the other slot.
Kris Palmer will be the tight end and will be a nice target for Mercer. Junior letterman Robert Valentine (5-11, 150) will also see some time here.
Kanzigg has only one concern when it comes to his offensive front. That being the health of star tackle Val Wallace (6-2, 290). He is a three-year regular, but was nursing a knee injury incurred early in camp. When healthy, he can be dominating.
Should Wallace be unable to go, Beallsville still has two quality book-end tackles in Aaron West (5-11, 165) and Tristan Palmer (6-4, 240). Both were starters on the offensive line last season.
Senior Dalton Secrest (6-2, 270) is one of the premier guards in the valley and is a three-year letterman. His running mate at guard will be classmate Cole Beckett (5-8, 190) who also saw quality time.
Cole Susac (5-10, 180) rounds out the front at center.
Depth on the line will be delivered by junior Mark Shaffer (5-10, 180), sophomores Weekley Dawson (5-9, 170) and freshmen Cody Potts (5-7, 179) and David Taylor (5-9, 252).
Beallsville will employ a 5-3 look on defensive.
Phillips will be a cat-quick noseguard and will be flanked by two horses at tackle in Secrest and Tristan Palmer. Sefert and West will be the terminals.
Susac will handle the all-important middle linebacker post. Lucas and Kris Palmer are active and exceptional as outside linebackers.
Mikey Palmer and Valentine will man the cornerback slots while Mercer cast in the role of safety. Daugherty will be be the sub at all the DB spots.
"I think our defense will be better than last year. We are much more experienced," Kanzigg said. "Our linebackers are an exceptional trio. Plus we have good size up front and our corners are veterans."
The Blue Devils will be nomads to start the season. After the Kickoff Classic, they travel to Strasburg, Paden City and Cameron before playing their home opener in Week 5 against Frontier.
"I like opening up in the Kickoff Classic. Financially it is a nice deal," Kanzigg said. "We also go against a super team in Madonna. But we are heading to Wintersville with the full intent on winning that game."
Kanzigg is supported by a quality staff. Franklin Holley is the club's offensive coordinator. Other assistants are Dave Wiles, Noah Atkinson, Rusty Lucas, Josh Pittman and Larry Deem, a newcomer from the Magnolia staff.
Secrest, Lucas and Sefert are Beallsville's captains.
"With all the injuries we went through last year, I am satisfied with how the season ended. We started five different tailbacks out of necessity," Kanzigg said. ''But we ended the year playing real well, winning five of our last six.
"All those injuries mean younger kids got a lot of experience which should pay dividends this season.
"The players and coaches have had to deal with so much, but we aren't making excuses. We believe we can have a winning season."
Cole Beckett, Derek Lucas, Bruce Sefert, Dalton Secrest, Val Wallace, Aaron West.
Zac Daugherty, Kris Palmer, Mikey Palmer, Tristan Palmer, Zack Raines, Robert Valentine, Mark Shaffer.
Chase Mercer, Levi Phillips, Cole Susac, Dawson Weekley.
Garrett Brown, Joey Cunningham, Cody Potts, David Taylor.