Summers can be filled with distractions for a football team trying to come together before August practices and September games.
Veteran Alexandria coach Pete Gast found a gap in the busyness of summer basketball, summer baseball, summer vacations and other challenges, and he took his football players out of town for a couple of days after the team had participated in a couple of scrimmages with other schools.
“We took 37 or 38 of our boys to Trine University for an overnight camp,” Gast, set to begin his 14th season leading the Tigers, said. “We worked out on their game field, we used their weight room and it was just really good. We did it right at the end of July, and a lot of the travel ball had slowed down by that time. But it was still a big commitment for them, to give up that time, and they had to pay for it, so to have all but a few of our guys go, it was a really good time. We got to know each other, and we feel like we got way ahead of ourselves.”
Gast hopes the bonding from that trip pays dividends for the 2022 Tigers, 4-6 a year ago.
And Gast brings high hopes to his team’s line play this season. The Tigers will be anchored on offense by senior Truman Alholm and junior Eli Diruzza.
“We’re really excited about our line play on offense, especially those two tackles,” Gast said. “Both are good athletes and have a good balance. Alholm started every game last year, and Eli started about half.”
Joining them will be Isaac Scott and Xander Groce, who both also bring varsity experience.
They will provide protection for a backfield that is getting a bit of a makeover from last season.
Junior Carson Cuneo is moving from H-back to tailback, and junior Gabe McGuire is moving from receiver to quarterback.
“Cuneo is one of our most special players,” Gast said. “He’s got above-average speed and is real physical. He jump-cuts, he provides great leadership and he had one of the best summers out of all of our kids.”
McGuire was the Tigers’ only All-Central Indiana Conference player last year as a receiver. He played quarterback as a freshman and is now needed back in that role.
But Alexandria has a wrinkle that might create some flexibility and shifting of players, and that’s freshman quarterback Brady Gast, the coach’s son.
“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do,” Coach Gast said. “We’re still in that feeling-out stage to see how we want to use him, but we can put him in at quarterback some and then McGuire can move to slot and let him catch some passes.”
Alex also has a stable of capable receivers in Abram May, Jay Dillmon, Kaed Abshire and Collin Johns.
Those four will also play key roles in the secondary on defense. Linebackers will include Cuneo and Jason Keeley, who started just about every game last year.
The defensive line will include James Watson, who started every game a year ago, and Austin Devore on the ends, and a pair of 300-pound guys on the interior: Trevor Martin and Connor Etchison.