GREENFIELD — High school student-athletes participating in multiple sports appears to be on the decline. Multiple studies have shown that for whatever reason – fear of falling behind in one’s preferred sport, injury concerns, collegiate plans – more and more athletes are following the path of specialization.
As a high school football coach, Roger Dodson benefits from this trend. Fewer multi-sport athletes means he gets more time with his players on the field, in the weight room and at film study.
But, the ninth-year Greenfield-Central football coach wishes this trend wasn’t a trend at all.
“I like our kids to participate in as many sports as they can. I like for them to wrestle, play baseball, swim – whatever it may be,” Dodson offered. “Competing is more important than anything. It’s something they need to do if they’re good enough.”
Dodson pointed to lost opportunities that can’t be regained in the future as another reason why he encourages his players to play sports other than football.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m the old guy on the block, but times have changed. There used to be a line drawn in the sand when the season started and ended, but that’s not the case anymore. A lot of kids play one sport year-round,” he said. “That’s fine, but I think sometimes they miss out when they don’t participate in other sports. They won’t get that opportunity again.
“There’s only a few of them that can play Division I or Division II and get scholarship money. I just think that if a kid is good enough to play other sports, he should do that.”
For the members of the Cougars’ football team who aren’t running track, traversing the links or kicking dirt on the diamond this spring, the offseason program is in full swing.
“We’ve been hitting the weights and running, trying to get a little quicker, faster and bigger,” Dodson said. “Basically the same things as what other (programs) are doing.”
Coming of a 2-9 finish last fall (and a 4-7 campaign in 2012), there’s room for improvement. And good fortune.
Logan Addington, Brad Bell, Stephen Dickerson, Drew Dougherty and Jacob Mize were among the key 2013 seniors to miss significant portions of the season with injuries, the second straight year the blue and gold were critically affected in that area.
“The last two years, we’ve been hit hard with injuries. Last year was as bad as all the years that I’ve coached, in particular with the seniors. It did affect us,” said Dodson, in his 22nd year as a head coach. “We have a lot of good, young kids coming up and working hard. I think we can improve and be very competitive in our conference if we can stay healthy.”
Dodson characterized some of last year’s injuries as “fluky.”
“Mize had a wrist injury and his surgeon was a guy I went to college with, and he’s really good. He’s only seen five (wrist) injuries like that in all of his time as a surgeon. It was unique,” Dodson said. “Addington had a stress fracture that was a fluke injury. We had a couple kids that recovered from injuries (in 2012) and reaggravated them.
“I don’t think it’s anything we’re doing or not doing. It’s just bad luck.”
The injuries allowed for some non-seniors to gain substantial playing time. Rising fourth-years Cameron Nuckols, Zach Phillips, Chris Posey and Trevor Taphorn, as well as junior Andy Kim, were the players cited by Dodson as making an impact with their leadership.
G-C also stands to receive an injection of talent from the 8-1 freshmen team, whose only loss came to a Yorktown squad that contained freshmen and junior varsity players. The ninth-grade Cougars downed their Mt. Vernon and New Palestine counterparts by a combined score of 82-20.
Two freshmen, Skylar Gary and Michael Sosnowksi, combined for 13 varsity carries while another, Drey Jameson, caught a pair of passes.
“As sophomores, those freshmen will have the opportunity to contribute on Friday nights. … It’s a big jump going from freshmen to varsity in any sport, in particular football,” Dodson said, whose team will travel to Franklin College in June for a team camp. “Football is a game made for seniors and the physical aspect of it. Some of those guys will help us out. There’s a little bit of uncertainty because it’s just different mentally and physically.”
Junior-to-be Jeremiah Fields was the team’s starting quarterback last season, throwing for 806 yards and rushing for 137. Dodson wasn’t ready to name Fields the starter at this point, but did note that the six-foot-2, 210-pound signal-caller has a leg up on the competition, which consists of rising seniors Griffin Lowe (6-3, 218) and Geordan Stump (6-3, 172), and the QB of last year’s freshmen team, Spencer Hert (6-1, 177).
“Jeremiah was the guy when we finished up. I don’t think anyone is handed a job. He has the advantage,” Dodson said. “He’s really been working on it and is doing everything he can to earn that job. There will be some competition.
“Geordan Stump and Griffin Lowe are back. Spencer Hert, the quarterback of the freshmen team, will be a sophomore. They all will be getting reps. I’m hopeful that the guys that don’t get the job can contribute elsewhere.”
The Cougars’ 2014 schedule deviates greatly from the 2013 version. Games in Week 1 and Week 2 against non-Hoosier Heritage Conference foes Indianapolis Shortridge (Class A) and Indianapolis Northwest (4A) replace non-league forays vs. 4A Lebanon and 3A Rushville. The squad’s Week 5 matchup with Shelbyville is the only game G-C plays against the same opponent in the same week as last season.
“It’s shuffled up a little bit,” Dodson said of the schedule. “It’s not an easy thing to do. You start looking at locality and travel distance as factors. When the (HHC) schedule is changing, it becomes difficult to find opponents. It’s not like you can go and grab whoever you want.”
2014 regular season schedule
Aug. 22 Indianapolis Shortridge (1A)
Aug. 29 Indianapolis Northwest (4A)
Sep. 5 at Mt. Vernon (4A)‡
Sep. 12 Pendleton Heights (4A)‡
Sep. 19 at Shelbyville (4)‡
Sep. 26 at New Palestine (4A)‡
Oct. 3 Yorktown (3A)‡
Oct. 10 at Delta (3A)‡
Oct. 17 New Castle (4A)‡
‡Hoosier Heritage Conference game
* Scrimmage at Mooresville in August. Mooresville replaces Tri-West.
* All games Friday evenings, 7/730 p.m.
* Class A Indianapolis Shortridge and 4A Indianapolis Northwest replace 4A Lebanon and 3A Rushville as G-C’s non-HHC opponents.
* Weeks 3-9 are HHC games.
* New Castle, the Cougars’ Week 1 opponent since 1997, is their Week 9 foe in 2014.