‘Change’ the go-to word at National Trail
September 28, 2012National Trail High School
Adam Bartle has endured the lean times of National Trail High School football.
The Blazers won twice in the previous three seasons the senior running back played. Trail lugged a 2-59 record over the last six seasons into this campaign.
Program morale was low and interest was waning. Cross County Conference rivals routinely pounded the Blazers.
Now, New Paris, a small village tucked just north of Interstate 70 and the Indiana border, is the place to be on Friday nights.
“We’re not the same old Trail that everybody’s used to coming in and walking all over,” said Bartle, beaming.
In a season chock full of unlikely area turnarounds at programs such as Sidney, Stebbins and Oakwood, National Trail’s is hard to beat.
Trail (4-1) not only is resurrecting the football program but is in contention for a rare CCC title and, incredibly, the Division V playoffs.
“It really has gotten the school together,” Bartle said. “People are excited for us. Now, we’ve got people from Richmond (Ind.) and other towns and cities behind us. … We’re a changed program.”
That started with the hiring of former Richmond (Ind.) assistant Tony Sonsini in 2011. He was well aware of area football across the state border. NT athletic director Mick Detmer and others liked what they heard from Sonsini. “He stood out from everybody else,” recalled Detmer.
Sonsini also was encouraged.
“It was definitely a challenge,” he said. “It’s been the biggest task I’ve ever been presented.
“After I met the AD and principal and superintendent and saw that they truly wanted football to be a success and I talked to a few of the kids, I thought it was doable. But I didn’t think it would happen this fast.”
Trail’s success is as unlikely as its main players. Sophomore quarterback Garrett Griffin is a 6 feet 4, 165-pound, pass-happy rookie to football. Said Detmer: “He’s as thin as a pencil, but he’s a really hard-nosed kid.”
Griffin’s two main receivers, senior Corey Harmon and junior Devin Mize, also are in their first year.
Another key backup, senior running back Jarred Foust, also is out for the first time. He would have been a four-year soccer standout had Trail not dropped the sport when eight players showed at the first practice.
Sonsini pulled the plug on Trail’s run-first offense because of its lack of size and muscle. Instead, he concocted a hybrid version of the spread offense that former Richmond coach Eric Gillespie - now at Springfield - ran and what the Schneiders – Lance and Mike – run at Northmont.
The results have been instant. Griffin has thrown for 1,184 yards and 11 touchdowns. Harmon has 22 catches for 578 yards (26.3 average) and Mize 20-530 (26.5).
“The ball is flying all over the place and a lot of kids’ hands are touching it,” Detmer said. “It’s exciting.”
This thanks for you
National Trail is at longtime fellow CCC doormat Mississinawa Valley (0-5) today. Trail’s only loss was a 61-41 shootout with Bradford (also 4-1).
The second half of the season includes games with CCC contenders Covington, Tri-County North and Miami East. Trail is currently No. 12 in the Region 20 computer standings.
That has made National Trail must-see football for its surrounding area. Detmer said the first two home games were packed with spectators. Sonsini said he was high-fived by dozens of well-wishers at last weekend’s New Paris Ohio Apple Fest. He estimated 20 more phone calls from former Trail players “who thanked me for turning the program around. That’s awesome,” he said.
“The main thing we talk about to our kids is change. Let’s change the culture; let’s change the environment. Let’s change everybody’s opinion about National Trail (football). So far, they’ve really bought into that and we’re definitely making a change.”
NATIONAL TRAIL FOOTBALL
2012: 4-1 record;
Defeated Ponitz Tech 19-8.
Defeated TV South 28-12.
Beaten by Bradford 61-41.
Defeated Ansonia 51-28.
Defeated Arcanum 26-20.
2011: 1-9; beat Miss Valley 15-14 to snap 23-game losing streak.
2009: 1-9; beat Bradford 20-18 to snap 32-game losing streak.
2005: 3-7; lost last game.
Notable: 2-59 from 2005-11.