GREENFIELD — While walking back from the practice fields and towards the Greenfield-Central locker room, Friday night’s scrimmage against Mooresville came up in conversation.
Starting quarterback Jeremiah Fields couldn’t resist cracking a smile as he strolled past the football stadium.
“It’s finally here,” he remarked. “Finally.”
The senior’s words, just like his reaction to the topic, carried dual meaning. After months of conditioning, weeks of non-contact drills and ramped up preparation in recent days, the season unofficially begins for players and coaches once the lights are flipped on — exhibition or not.
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Friday nights are special, and this week’s especially for Greenfield-Central’s seniors with the Cougars playing host for the first time in their careers.
“It’s always been away,” Fields said. “Not this year.”
Though, merely a scheduling coincidence, it seems a fitting reward for the “Greenfield Nine,” the program’s smallest senior class in recent memory.
In 2014, the Cougars had 15 seniors projected in their starting lineup alone. This season, there are only 10 listed on the roster and nine active.
Among the longstanding elders are Fields, Andy Kim, Bryce Silvers (lineman), Graeme Basey (lineman), Christian Henderson (linebacker), Isaak Tow (lineman), and Austin Clapp (linebacker/tight end).
David Johnson (running back/linebacker) is a transfer from New Palestine, arriving on the first day of practice after being on the Class 4A state championship roster last year.
Factor in soccer standout Enrigue Ferrara (place kicker) pulling double duty, and an injury to offensive lineman Noah Houser, which could sideline the returning starter for an unknown duration, and senior leadership becomes a rare commodity.
“Quality over quantity, I guess,” Kim joked.
What they lose in numbers, however, the seniors make up for in commitment.
“It was a small class as freshmen. I think we had maybe 11 or 12,” Greenfield-Central head coach Roger Dodson said. “The kids we have there, now, they’re good kids. … This is definitely the smallest senior group I’ve ever had, and considering where they were as freshmen, a good number of them have stuck in there and are going to contribute this year.”
Dodson is entering his 10th year at Greenfield, carries a 33-63 record in that span and is 97-122 in 23 seasons overall.
His seniors are 10-22 the past three seasons — 4-6 last year — and just three more wins from getting their coach to the century mark in career victories.
Only one of their many goals, with the first achieved back on those cold winter mornings during voluntary workouts.
“Struggle helps bring people together, and in the mornings in December, we all thought, ‘What are we doing here running?'” Fields said. “But when you’re there struggling together you start to bond, and from it we have a good core group. Guys are starting to latch onto that group.”
A strong number of underclassmen already have joined the club, beginning in the backfield, which will be an area of wealth for the Cougars. Several players are showcasing “extreme athletic ability” at camp and at practice the past two weeks, Dodson said.
The coaches and seniors are eager to see what their depth can generate during their scrimmage.
As expected, Kim (5-foot-8, 250 pounds) will serve as the power back and see time at defensive line and linebacker.
Junior Michael Sosnowski (5-11, 165 pounds) could be a focal point alongside Kim, returning from a broken leg suffered last season. He rushed for nearly 90 yards in around 10 carries before going down.
Junior K.J. Mills (6-2, 205 pounds) is another option along with sophomore Johnny Bowen (5-9, 175 pounds), junior Bryce Ratliff (6-0, 160 pounds), and sophomore Orlando Mojica (5-7, 140 pounds).
“Where we don’t have a senior to step up, we have a junior or in some cases a sophomore,” Fields said. “We try to some them through our example. We’ve really close. We’ve been playing together since we were out here playing youth football.
“We take the whole small senior class thing, not as an insult, but more like we’re the nine that can handle it.”
On Friday night, they intend to prove it by taking their home field for the first time as seniors, determined to finish the year with the program’s first winning season since 2011.
“There were a lot of games last year we felt we should have won. I just wanted to win for my seniors last year, and I’m hoping the guys under us understand that this year,” Kim said. “We’ve been working hard all summer. We’re really excited to see it hopefully pay off and give us a potential preview of how good we’ll actually be this season.”
The Greenfield Nine
* OL/DL;Noah Houser;6-0;215
Note: * injured and not on active roster