Hilltop football

Members of the Hilltop football team are (front row, from left) Shane Poe, Hayden Brown, Carson Mahlman, Kaiden Clendenin and Dan Shilling; (second row) Griffin McEwen, Evan Schoonover, Adley McNeal, Josh Fugate and Zavion Eckenrode; (third row) Jadyn McClary, Chase Whitman, Isaac Baumgartner, Connor Schlosser and Ty Creamer; (fourth row) Wyatt Beltz, Hunter Leupp, Andyn Haynes, Alex Swaney-Richmond and Tyzon Pelfrey; (fifth row) Trenton Funk, Levi Houser, Lance Bauer, Dylan Eisel and Shane Spires; (back row) coaches Andy Schlosser, Bill Boyer, Nathan Massie, Phil Fogle, Corey Eisel and Football Operations Manager Katie Geis. JOSH EWERS/Staff

WEST UNITY — The 2018 season was a step back for the Hilltop football program. One year after a 2017 season in which the Cadets went 8-2 in coach Nate Massie’s first year at the helm, the team slid back to just 4-6 a season ago.

Offensive struggles were at the root of a lot of it, as the Cadets were shut out three times and held to only six points in two other games.

Massie says he’s attempting to reverse that trend by instituting bits and pieces of an air-raid offense this season. It’s what he’d like to eventually transition the entire offense to, but he realizes it’ll take time.

“I’m going to run a two-back offense at times and sometimes we’ll spread them out,” he said. “I’d like to say we’re transitioning into more of an air-raid type of team, but we’ll see how it goes. It’s a big learning curve for everyone involved. ... We’re actually grasping it pretty well, but we’ve still got to work on the intricacies.”

A team of 25 players and 10 returning lettermen is what the Massie will have to work with this season.

At quarterback, the Cadets will be going with junior Connor Schlosser. Schlosser starter three games as a sophomore last year and Massie said he’s hoping to see him take a step up.

“I think a lot of offense is going to hinge on Connor Schlosser taking a step up from the three games he started last year to now, and being more confident in his throws and making the right reads,” Massie said.

As far as pass catchers, Massie said he’s liked what he’s seen from newcomers like freshman tight end Tyzon Pelfrey and junior Grffin McEwen, a transfer from North Central playing his first year of football.

Senior running back Hayden Brown will be back, along with senior fullback Dan Shilling, forming a duo in the backfield Massie said he has a lot of confidence in.

The offensive line is young, however, so Massie says the Cadets will have a ways to go in that area.

“We’ve got to improve there,” Massie said. “Our blocking in the scrimmages looks nice, but it is just a scrimmage and we are still getting used to it, so we’ll see how it looks coming out of the preseason and going into Week 1.”

Wyatt Beltz, Adley McNeal, Kaiden Clendenin and Andyn Haynes and Alex Swaney-Richmond are all expected to contribute at the skill positions as well.

Sophomores Carson Mahlman and Hunter Leupp are another pair of players Massie highlighted, both of whom are expected to contribute on the offensive line and at linebacker.

In terms of goals, Massie said he’s hoping to see his guys continue to improve and compete with the top teams in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference.

“I’d like to see us be competitive in every single game,” Massie said. “I’d like to see us get better and I hope to compete for a TAAC title. I know it’s a pretty good league this year with Northwood and Edon, so we’ve got to execute and get better every week to get to that point.”

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