By Chris Chaney
A new face will be prowling the sidelines this winter for the Felicity-Franklin Cardinals as Bobby Sandker will be taking over head coaching duties after Damon Smith, the coach for the last five years, vacated the position this summer to coach at the junior high level.
“I’ve coached here before and I went here,” Sandker said about what drew him to the opening. “I played ball here as well. I’ve coached from junior high to JV, and this will be the first time I coach at the varsity level.
“The job came open and I wasn’t coaching at the time, so I decided to put in for it and see if I could get it.”
Sandker did get the gig and has been working with the team in accordance with the Ohio High School Athletic Association guidelines ever since.
“Before the dead month, we ran two-a-days when I could coach them before we had the off month,” Sandker explained. “After that, we went right into open gym and had about four to six weeks of conditioning.”
The Cardinals’ offseason conditioning will be a big factor in their success this season as Sandker wants to incorporate a system that attempts to wreak havoc on the opposing team.
“We want to turn the program around,” he said. “We want to work hard, be aggressive and fast. Basically, we’re going to go nonstop from beginning to end.
“We’re going to be a run-and-gun-style team. We want to outwork the other team. Execution will be important, but mainly, I’m a defensive guy. On defense, we’re going to play a lot of man, a lot of help side and a lot of rotation.”
The new coach has been in charge of a new team for the most part with only one varsity returner on the roster this season.
“I have one guy returning, that’s Jordan Utter,” Sandker said. “He’s going to be our go-to man, but we’re pretty spread out. Other than the one varsity player returning, the rest of the team has stepped up and we’ve got a lot of potential in a lot of different players.”
Coming off of a team that was senior-laden in 2012-13, there will be only two seniors on the 2013-14 edition of the Cardinals. Dillon Utter and Trenden Young will provide that senior leadership that left the program via graduation last year.
Other than those two fourth years, Sandker said that the majority of the team will be sophomores and juniors.
“Trevor Barrons is one of our bigger guys and he’s going to play a role,” the coach said. “We have Louis Quiles as well.”
The young team hopes to improve upon last year’s mark of 6-16 and a 3-7 record in the Southern Buckeye Conference’s National Division. The fifth-place finish isn’t where Sandker wants his team to be, but he’s expecting some of the traditional powers to be in the hunt for the league title come January.
“With me being in the first year back, I didn’t get a chance to see everybody play last year,” Sandker said. “But you’re going to have your normals who are usually up there. Georgetown has been pretty strong lately.
(Across the conference), Bethel, CNE, Felicity and Blanchester all have new coaches, so you’re looking at new programs getting instilled, so I think it’s going to be a game-by-game season and see who (is at the top) as we go.”
Sandker will make his regular-season debut on Friday, Nov. 29 as the Cardinals travel to face Whiteoak for a 7:30 p.m. tip.