South Adams' first day back on the football field was cut short when the OPS Summit City 7v7 Shootout at Homestead on Wednesday was interrupted by rain and thunderstorms, but the Starfires' two games were enough to remind coach Grant Moser of why he should be excited for the upcoming season.
On the one hand, South Adams returns nearly all the key pieces from a 2018 team that went 7-3 and lost by a touchdown to an 8-1 Churubusco team in the first round of sectional play.
“In sectionals last year against Busco, we started seven sophomores and quite a few juniors,” Moser said. “We lost four seniors from last year's team that played, so we're excited for this season, the experience. The question is going to be leadership stepping up and how we play as one unit instead of being selfish.”
But the Starfires' apparent starter at quarterback, junior James Arnold, and star running back Nic Stuber are each coming off ACL tears. Stuber, who suffered his knee injury in Week 3 last season, came back in time to play baseball this spring, but Arnold, who was hurt during basketball practice, was competing for the first time in any sport since the end of last football season.
“He's doing a good job so far, first game rusty, but the second game he looked a lot better,” Moser said of Arnold. “So we're just going to keep a close eye on that. That's the key for us this year, is staying injury-free.”
The Starfires lost their first game of the Shootout 14-12 to Eastside, but won their second pool-play game 27-16 against West Noble. The Chargers beat South Adams in the Small School Division final at the 2018 Shootout.
“Second game, got back into it,” Arnold said. “Just my ball felt better coming off my hands. I felt a little tight in the first game, but I was more loose in the second game and threw better.”
Moser said that just about every aspect of his 7-on-7 squad seemed to click against West Noble.
“Our receivers played better the second game, our defense played better as well,” Moser said. “Our defense should be pretty tough. We bring back 11 guys that played last year on varsity, so defense should be a strong point this year.”
Several South Adams' linemen were on hand at the tournament because they play multiple positions, but Moser said the Starfires' offensive line is still a question mark.
“We have three to four starters back from last year who played varsity O-line,” Moser said. “We probably have eight to nine guys who could play varsity football, and we have to figure out who those five guys are that work together. Again, we still have two months to figure that out, but it's going to be big for us.”
Arnold, who threw 17 touchdowns and averaged 164.5 yards per game as a sophomore, said he is still rehabbing his knee.
“I'm still going through mine, but it's just tiring,” Arnold said. “You do it every day, and you've just got to work hard through it.”