By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — PENDLETON — There still will be a Furrow in the heart of the action, but just about everything else is new for the Pendleton Heights football team this year.
Except the expectations.
The Arabians have posted a 28-9 record and won two sectional titles in the past three seasons. And head coach John Broughton has similarly high hopes this fall.
But there are enough new faces in the mix — especially at the offensive skill positions — to add a little intrigue ahead of Friday's kickoff against Muncie Central.
"It's hard to tell right now," Broughton said when asked how his team is coming along. "We need a ballgame to find that out."
Pendleton Heights entered last year in a rebuilding mode after graduating a large and highly successful senior class. The biggest shoes to fill were on the offensive and defensive lines, where just one starter returned.
The Arabians expected to have all five starters back on the offensive line this fall, but injuries will sideline left guard Trey Green and left tackle Mason Loman at least for Friday's opener.
Then there's the void left by versatile Jon Furrow, who did a little bit of everything for Pendleton Heights in 2012. He was the team's leading rusher with 1,109 yards and 17 touchdowns, earned all-state honors as a defensive back with 52 tackles and one interception and might be most difficult to replace on special teams.
As a placekicker, he made eight of 10 field goals and 45 of 49 extra points last year. He also averaged 36.2 yards per punt.
Freshman Payton Huth will get first crack at the kicking duties, and senior Jim Arney (who rushed for 762 yards and six scores in 2012) will take over in the backfield.
But much of the offensive load will fall on the shoulders of junior quarterback Jesse Furrow. Jon's younger brother completed 80 percent of his passes for 1,794 yards with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions in his first year as a starter.
He should benefit from his own added experience and that of his offensive line. But the Arabians lost last year's top two receivers — Kurt Talbert and Austin Coffel — to graduation. Senior Chandler Wilson (11 catches, 167 yards, one touchdown) is the leading returning pass catcher, and he will be joined by varsity newcomer Brandon Riggs and Anderson transfer Eren Davis.
There are plenty of new faces at running back as well with Chris Clemons, Nate Grile, Noah Etchison and Huth joining Arney in the rotation. With big things expected from Furrow under center, it'll be up to that group to put the "run" in Broughton's run-and-shoot attack.
"We've rushed the ball really well the last two or three years," Broughton said. "That's been the real staple of our success."
There also are big shoes to fill on defense where Herald Bulletin Player of the Year Peyton McCardwell is among the graduation losses.
He takes with him 151 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Seniors Matt Goff — who started next to McCardwell at inside linebacker — and Cody Cochran will be asked to pick up much of that production.
Cochran finished second on the team with 150 stops last year and added two interceptions. Goff, meanwhile, has emerged as a vocal leader on a team still looking to establish its identity.
And that role could be as important as any to this team.
"Senior leadership, that's what it takes," Broughton said. "You've gotta get a group that leads together. That's what we've had the past couple years, and that's what it takes."