By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Nick Griffin is the new man at Skyline and he takes over a program that has won three district championships and just one losing season in the last 11 years.
It’ll be nearly a complete rebuild with just six returning lettermen from last year’s 8-4 team.
Griffin is excited about the challenge ahead and the first thing he’s done since getting the job is trying to establish his culture and the program’s new direction.
“Taking over a program is challenging, but one of the first things that we have tried to establish since taking over is building relationships and showing a commitment to the athletes, the school, and the community,” said Griffin. “Our motto this year is “All In” and that starts with me.
“I am very blessed to be able to follow a legendary coach in Coach (Brandon) Shelby. He has done a tremendous amount for this sport, this program and for this school district. Our goal is to continue building on the foundation of tradition and success that he and his staff have laid down for us.”
While there aren’t many returners, the players who are back aren’t hurting for talent.
Senior Azlen Metscher (6-3, 225) will look to lead both the offensive and defensive lines after earning All-State honors last year.
He’ll be joined up front by juniors Weston Stoner (6-3, 260) and Maddox Moore (6-2, 235). Both Stoner and Moore were All-Area and All-Mid-Lakes players.
“Azlen brings a lot of size and athleticism up front,” said Griffin. “Azlen is one of the best linemen in our area and has become an asset for us as a leader. He is one of the hardest workers on the team and we are glad that he is on our sideline and team and not on anyone we face.
“Weston has put in a tremendous amount of work this offseason on perfecting his craft on both the offensive and defensive line. He has gotten another year stronger and another year faster. Weston is another guy who could be one of the best linemen in our area. Maddox had a great sophomore season and is another guy who has put in a lot of time in the weight room and is another guy who could be considered one of the better linemen in our area. He has added some size over the year and primed for a breakout year up front on both sides of the ball.”
DOWNLOAD THE O-ZONE APP NOW!
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD FOR APPLE
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD FOR ANDROID
They’ll have the pleasure of blocking for All-State senior back Ricky Woodhouse, who rushed for 1,627 yards and 23 touchdowns as a junior.
He’ll be joined in the backfield by junior quarterback AJ Dampier, who will be seeing his first starting action at quarterback.
“Ricky suffered a terrible injury in the district championship game last year and that has fueled his work ethic and drive for the entire offseason,” said Griffin. “Ricky has put in a ton of work and is focused and energized for a great senior season. Ricky has become a great leader for us this summer and is a great team player. He is one of the best running backs in the area, but more importantly he is one of the best teammates as well.
“AJ is relentless in his pursuit to be the best at any position he is asked to play and he has worked tirelessly this offseason both in the weight room and on the field. He is a great team leader and a tremendous competitor.”
Sam Miller returns for his senior season after an All-Area season at linebacker. He will also see time at wide receiver in addition to anchoring the back end of the defense.
“Sam is a guy that does everything that you ask him to do and he does it with 100% effort,” said Griffin. “Sam is another guy who has stepped into a leadership role and has done a great job this offseason. Sam is a tremendous asset on both sides of the ball and is set up to have a great season.”
Their numbers aren’t crazy overall, but Griffin is looking forward to seeing the immediate impact his newcomers make.
Senior Craigen Frazier and Junior Cohen Mashburn will look for reps along the offensive line. Senior Brendan White and juniors Aiden Battles, Josh Botta and Jose Cortes will look for time at receiver and in the secondary.
Junior Dakota Willis and freshmen Wyatt Stoner and Ty Glawson will look for time at running back and linebacker.
Schematically things will look a little different but it will still be a high-octane attack for the Tigers.
“Fans can expect a fast-paced offense that is going to be anchored around our big guys returning up front,” said Griffin. “Our philosophy is going to make teams defend every inch of the field horizontally and vertically.
“Defensively it’ll be a hard-nosed, disciplined defense that flies around the field and is going to make teams earn everything they get.”
Winning and competing for the championship is always the goal but never easy, especially in Year One. Griffin is hopeful Skyline can build a strong foundation that can be a springboard for the program moving forward.
“We have to focus on ourselves and getting better every day,” said Griffin. “We have to focus and fall in love with the process of getting better and the championships and winning will take care of themselves as long as we can look in the mirror and get better than the guy looking back at us each day.
“If we can be “All In” on the process and focus on what we can control, then we have a great shot at achieving our goals.”
Skyline will jamboree at Warsaw with Buffalo and Osage before opening the 2022 season by hosting Agape Boarding School.