The Urbana football program has been at the top of the hill of the CBC Mad River Division for the last three seasons. If the aptly named Hillclimbers plan on retaining that title for a fourth season in a row they’ll have to do so with a new captain at the helm.
The team took a hit this offseason when former head coach Geron Stokes took his clipboard and left for the open head coaching position at Minster High School. Stokes had a very successful four-year stint with the Hillclimbers. He tallied a combined record of 29-13 and took the team to the playoffs in his last two seasons. Filling in the shoes for Stokes will be first-time head coach Nick Marino. Marino was an assistant coach with the program for four seasons before taking over as head coach. He was also a standout player for the Hillclimbers in high school and went on to play college football at Wittenberg. Helping Marino will be an experienced staff that has a few new additions to replace those that left in the offseason.
Last season the Hillclimbers finished the regular season with a 9-1 record and their third straight CBC Mad River Division title. Their season came to an end after a 42-14 loss to Sandusky Perkins in the first round of the playoffs. Marino spoke on why Urbana has been so successful recently saying, “It has nothing to do with X’s and O’s, it’s all about getting a lot hard work out of our kids. Our kids work hard and we try to get them to play hard and fast. That’s the most important thing we’ve done in the last three or four years here.”
Marino wasn’t left a bare cupboard in his first season calling the shots though. The team returns three First-Team CBC Mad River Division players and two Special Mention CBC Mad River Division players from last year. Urbana will need their senior leaders to step up if they want to be successful this season. Marino talked about his seniors saying, “I like that several of our seniors are great leaders. We have multiple good leaders we need to develop into great leaders and we have other guys that are average leaders that we’re trying to develop them into great ones.”
Offensively, the team will be back in the spread formation. They had an aerial assault of a passing attack last year and lit up scoreboards as they put up 437 total points. Junior quarterback Nathan Mays is entering his third season as starting quarterback and in his two years as an underclassman he took the CBC by storm. Mays has thrown for over 4,000 yards and 58 touchdowns in his first two seasons and has solidified himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the area. Also returning for the Hillclimbers will be senior running back Shane Ware and senior fullback Drake Frost. Between the tandem of Ware and Frost they had a total of 13 touchdown receptions last season.
Defensively, the Hillclimbers will be running a 3-5 formation. Some players to look out for on Urbana’s defense include Frost who will lead the linebacking core. He had 82 tackles last season. Ware will oversee the secondary unit. He snatched six interceptions last season. Urbana had 18 team interceptions last year to lead the conference and will look for similar results from their secondary this year. On the defensive line Marino mentioned defensive end Ryan Prince as another player that has performed well during camp.
Urbana will start their 2013 campaign at home against London. The Hillclimbers have come out on top of this traditional Week One matchup for the last three seasons and the team will try to continue that streak on August 30th. Marino discussed what his team needed to do from now till Week One to come out with the victory saying, “We have to clean up a lot of little details. In our scrimmage, we did not have a great offensive line series in the scrimmage. We didn’t have a great performance by several guys defensively. Our tempo has to pick up a little bit and we have to make sure we hit a little bit more.”
It’s a long journey to reach the top of the hill. The journey gets even harder when you have five hungry teams that have been waiting all offseason so they can claim the top spot. That is the challenge Urbana must face yet again this season. It’s a hard task to be the best, but it’s an even harder task to stay the best. If this team can rally behind their first-year head coach and put up the same eye-popping numbers that they did last season, than perhaps Urbana can stand on top of that hill for another year.
Urbana’s schedule is the following.
8/30 H London
9/6 H Dixie
9/13 H Bellefontaine
9/20 H Tecumseh
9/27 A Stebbins
10/4 H Greenon
10/11 A Benjamin Logan
10/18 H Northwestern
10/25 A Indian Lake
11/1 A Graham
Listen to the full interview with head coach Nick Marino.