MADISON TOWNSHIP − There is a new energy surrounding the Madison football program.
And that is great news. Madison went out and hired legendary coach Scott Valentine to come in and take over a struggling program that has just four wins and three winless seasons since 2016, including an 0-8 record in 2021.
The expectation isn't for things to just change overnight, but with 12 lettermen back on offense and defense and six starters on both sides of the ball, Valentine has plenty to work with in year one.
Sophomore Cameron Kuhn is slated as the No. 1 quarterback on the preseason depth chart. Senior Zach Glasgo will also see time at QB as the Rams have two solid options in Valentine's dynamic offense. Senior Zane Wynn and junior Zach Dodd will both get playing time at running back along with senior Noah Finley and senior Hunter Hutcheson, so the Rams have a stable of good running backs.
There are four solid receivers for Kuhn and Glasgo to target and they have some experience. Senior Peyton Myers and juniors Grayson Sasis, Damien Anderson and Michael Thomas give the Rams some depth at the receiver position. Senior Tatum Turcott and junior Will Kepple will split time at tight end as safety blankets in the pass game as well as run blockers.
The offensive line is another year older and another year bigger, starting with senior left tackle Owen McGregor. He anchors a line that features three juniors and a senior, with right tackle Ean Davis being the veteran. They are joined by left guard Preston Martin, center Rico Palacios and right guard Michael Shenberger.
Junior Travis Jamieson will do the kicking while Wynn, Finley, Meyers and sophomore Owen Wigton will return kicks on special teams.
"Offensively, we are in the process of getting the players in the right position to fit their skill set," Valentine said. "We want to be a balanced run-pass offense."
While Valentine works on a consistent offense, he has a veteran defense to help ease things along. Turcott, Davis and McGregor will anchor the defensive line while the linebacker corps is loaded. Senior Lucas Warren, Kepple and Dodd join Hutcheson, a second team All-Ohio Cardinal Conference player last year, as a hard-hitting group of players.
Finley and Myers will start at cornerback while Wigton is the strong safety and Wynn starts at free safety. Warren will do the punting and Myers and Wigton return punts.
Junior Landyn Young and sophomore Max Carrol join Martin as rotation players on the defensive line, with Sasis and Anderson in the secondary and senior Dominik Whitsel bringing depth to the linebackers.
"Defensively, we are in the process of getting the players in the right position to fit their skill set," Valentine said. "We want to be a multiple, aggressive defense. Hunter Hutcheson, Peyton Myers, Tatum Turcott, Lucas Warren, Noah Finley, Dominik Whitsel, Zane Wynn, Evan Davisa and Owen McGregor are veteran guys and great seniors who will be relied on to help keep us on track this season."
The Rams are looking to compete in the Ohio Cardinal Conference, a league they haven't won since 2012 and one they have just one win in since 2016.
"The OCC has always been a good league and is no different this year," Valentine said. "You have to be ready to play every week. We want to improve every practice and hope to be in the hunt at the end of the season."
Despite the recent down years, Valentine will never steer away from the same goals he has set for every team he has coached. No matter how high they are or what caliber of team he brings back, Valentine wants every single one of his players to dream big and work hard to achieve those dreams. Why else would you play the game?
"The goals for any team I have ever coached have always and will always be one, win a state championship; two, make the playoffs; and three, win the conference championship," Valentine said. "We talk about them at our first team meeting, then focus on the steps we need to take to accomplish those goals."
The Rams kick off the 2022 season on Aug. 19 at Shelby.
This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: Madison Rams football bringing new energy to program