Bulldogs in waiting ready to continue team’s winning ways
LAPEL — When you get to the sectional championship game five of the past seven years — including titles in 2014, 2017, and 2018 — hopes are constantly high that the upcoming football season is going to be another good one.
Even when graduation takes away some standout players, there are likely returning stars, as well as those waiting in the wings for that opportunity to make a name for themselves.
That’s the case at Lapel.
The Bulldogs finished 9-3 in 2020 and were runners-up in Class 2A Sectional 36 to Tipton. The .750 winning percentage marked the best for coach Tim Miller, now in his 10th season as the program’s head coach.
“Our expectations remain the same as they do every year,” Miller said. “Take it a game at a time and when we get to the sectional, hopefully we’re playing our best football and are able play well into November.”
Lapel graduated tight end/defensive end Parker Allman, who had 14 sacks and 23 tackles for loss to go with 406 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
Do-it-all receiver Tanner Mroz had 1,011 receiving yards and nine touchdowns has also graduated along with another receiver, Hayden LeClerc, who had 22 catches, 340 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
Other key defensive standouts that were part of last year’s senior class include Jarod Roundtree (12 tackles for loss, five sacks, five fumble recoveries), Jaden Kinsinger (seven TFL) and Will Johnson (six TFL).
They will be missed, but the cupboard is not bare.
Star running back Tyler Dollar is still just a junior. He rushed for 1,722 yards last year and 20 touchdowns. Quarterback Brennan Stow threw for 2,226 yards and 23 scores.
Linebacker Kyle Shelton led the team in tackles as a junior with 115. He was also part of a 1-2 backfield combination with Dollar, rushing for six touchdowns and 358 yards.
Wide receiver Nick Witte got a lot of playing time as a freshman, catching 14 balls for 167 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Noah Hudson also has receiving experience.
Defensive back Brock Harper was one of last year’s top tacklers and had two interceptions. He is back at one cornerback position; Eli Michalek returns at the other.
Others back with plenty of defensive playing experience include nose tackle Anthony Prater, linebacker/end Coleton Kadinger, linebacker Bruin White and cornerback Devin Yeskie.
“We also have a bunch of guys on our team that would have been playing last year, but with our situation they had to sit and wait,” Miller said. “They are chomping at the bit for their turn.”
That’s a lot of good news on the returnee front, but the best news comes up front.
Lapel has a veteran offensive line, accustomed to making running room for Dollar and Shelton and passing time for Stow.
The group of returnees that were either full-time or part-time starters is led by three-year starting tackle Grant Morris. He’s joined up front by senior Clayton McMillan and junior Ethan Hewitt at the other tackle position, junior Keegan O’Connor at center, and sophomore J.J. Baxter and junior Ryan Carpenter at guard.
“It all starts up front,” Miller said. “They might not get their names in the paper as much, but they’re the most important guys on the field.”
Many of those guys will split time on the defensive front.
Miller said along with having a great group of veterans and eager newcomers, the work ethic is very high.
This current group showed, by the end of last season, they were ready to get started for 2021.
“It probably has been the best offseason (since I’ve been here),” Miller said. “Back to December and January, every day after school it seemed like we had 60 guys in the weight room ready to get after it. That shows that when you have to replace (graduated) guys you have guys behind them ready to work.”
Miller’s team will get the season started Friday with a road game at Wabash, a replacement from the originally scheduled opener at Elwood.
The home opener is Aug. 27 against rival Frankton.
The Bulldogs have added former Frankton head coach Bobby Ryan, a former Lapel assistant coach, to the staff to coach the offensive line.
Lapel lost two assistant coaches that are now head coaches at other schools. Jake Stilwell is now head coach at Shenandoah and Ryan Cole is the new head coach at Wes-Del.
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2021 Lapel Football Schedule
Aug. 20;at Wabash;7 p.m.
Aug. 27;vs. Frankton;7 p.m.
Sept. 3;vs. Shenandoah;7 p.m.
Sept. 10;vs. Lutheran;7 p.m.
Sept. 17;at North Decatur;7 p.m.
Sept. 24;at Traders Point Christian;7 p.m.
Oct. 1;at Heritage Christian;7 p.m.
Oct. 8;vs. Jay County;7 p.m.
Oct. 15;vs. Eastern Hancock;7 p.m.
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2021 Lapel Football Roster
5;Alan Michael Buzan;11;WR/TE/DB
Head Coach: Tim Miller
Assistant Coaches: Todd Miller, Alex Boles, Josh Strange, Glenn Humerickhouse, Jason McCalley, Tommy McMillan, Larry Page, Bobby Ryan