Grove head coach Ron Culwell came away satisfied after observing his team in the Grove Red/White scrimmage on Saturday, Aug. 12.
Senior quarterback Davis Dills showcased his abilities as both a passer and a runner behind an offensive line that Culwell said might be the best he’s ever coached.
Dills will be counted on to lead the offense this year after suffering a season-ending ACL injury in last year’s season opener against Claremore Sequoyah. He hasn’t been able to keep the injury bug away, which has sidelined him throughout his first three years.
Dills had a rushing touchdown and passed for a 60-yard score to wide receiver Toby Cearly for the biggest play of the scrimmage.
“Davis is a gifted athlete,” Culwell said. “He throws a great deep ball and he showed that tonight. We just have to protect him. He’s been through some injuries. For as little as he’s played, he’s got so much savy.”
Cearly figures to be Grove’s big-play weapon this season. He replaced Dills at quarterback following the injury. This year he will be filling in for the departed Dylan Miller, who led with 46 receptions for 740 yards and seven TDs in 2016.
There will not be much of an adjustment for Cearly with the move back to receiver.
“He understands where he needs to be,” Culwell said. “He understands the offense so much better after playing a lot of snaps at quarterback last year.”
The guys up front is what has Culwell the most excited.
The Ridgerunners have three returning starters in center Skyler Hernandez, and guards Dawson Tanner and Caleb Jones. Also in the mix are Josh Spychalski, Kalob Jacobs and Wayne Jackson.
“Everything starts with our offensive line,” Culwell said. “They’ve been unbelievable so far. In all of the years I’ve been coaching, this is no doubt one of the best offensive lines I’ve had. They’re just strong, physical kids. They’re going to be able to push some people.”
Culwell also mentioned tight end Matt Amos as a big key into the progression of the offense.
“I like to get into a lot of different formations and give defenses different looks,” Culwell said. “We didn’t do that last year, but we will expand and do more this year. Everybody goes to our tight end or tight wing, and we never got out of that last year. What we’re going to do is start flexing him and moving his around a little bit.”
The Ridgerunner defense didn’t get to go with its full unit since some of the starters were on the offensive side, but it did leaves its mark.
“The front four and our linebackers are going to be pretty good,” Culwell said.
Culwell is most excited about Tanner at defensive end.
“He will be an All-Stater,” he said. “He’s a big kid that’s all over the field and you can’t fool him. He’s going to give quarterbacks fits. You can’t block him and he’s a such a smart kid.”
Hernandez will line up on the opposite side of Tanner to form a solid set of bookends.
“We’re so strong in our front seven,” Culwell said. “We’re good in the middle of the defensive line as well, and at linebacker. I’m really excited about our defense.”
Culwell also mentioned linebacker Dalton Cash, Dills at free safety, and both Cearly and Jonas Chaney at cornerback.
The Ridgerunners will travel to scrimmage Coweta Thursday, Aug. 17. They will also be on the road for a scrimmage against Pryor on Friday, Aug. 25. The season opener is at 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 1 at Claremore Sequoyah.