PREVIEW: ‘There’s a tenacity within this group’ — Ross ready for first season in SWBL

ROSS TWP. — The Ross High School football team begins the 2023 season in the Southwestern Buckeye League on Friday.

But the traditional work ethic will still encompass the Rams.

“It’s the same thing every year — our goal is to outwork whoever we play,” sixth-year Ross coach Kenyon Commins said. “I say it every year. We’re just going to be a blue-collar team that represents a blue-collar community. When people show up on Friday night, they better see a team — win or lose — that worked as hard as possible all the way and fought to the very end.

“I think this 2023 team is smaller, but there’s a tenacity within the group — a toughness, a grit that I think is special. That grit is going to pay dividends for us down the line.”

Ross left the Southwest Ohio Conference after going 6-6 and losing to Division II regional semifinalist Winton Woods in the second round of the playoffs last season.

“The focus needs to be on us, not ‘Oh my gosh, we’re playing the Bellbrook’s and the Franklin’s of the world,’” Commins said of joining the SWBL Southwestern Division along with Edgewood. “The focus needs to be on how Riley Caldwell can get better today — how Justin Pence can get better today. It’s about making sure they’re getting better and the person next to them is getting better. That’s where the focus needs to be.

“I’m sure they can recite all my clichés — Be better today than what we were yesterday and better tomorrow than we were today,” Commins added. “… That’s our mentality. It’s just about us.”

Caldwell, a senior running back, said despite the program being hindered from filling up the sidelines because of the school district’s levy failing which forced participation costs to elevate, the Rams are still in good shape with their smaller roster.

“We’re not going to give up,” Caldwell said. “I’ve been with this class since first grade at Ross. I know what this team has in store in our senior class, and the juniors and the sophomores. We’re all classes that want to win and do not want to quit. We will play through the fourth quarter.

 “We’re smaller, but we will work and get through anything,” Caldwell added. “… Every single person on this team is willing to want to make everyone better.”

Ross hosts Wyoming on Friday to kick things off.


The triple-option is still going to be the offensive forte for the Rams.

Leading the scheme under center is junior quarterback Emory Severance, who had 101 rushes for 568 yards and seven touchdowns last season.

Caldwell is in the backfield again after rushing for 628 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior.

“You’re so excited because of all the work the guys have put in starting back in December and January,” Commins said. “All those lifts and all those things get to this point. You’re always excited to get going and see what you got.”

On the offensive line are seniors Justin Pence, Trace Kirby and Mason Shaw, along with junior Blake Holmes. 

Others to keep an eye on are senior Ivan Ramirez (OL/DL), junior Andrew Gettler (RB/DB), senior Derrick Rack (RB/ILB), junior Mason Smith (RB/DB), sophomore Lucas Kunkel (RB/DB), senior Austin Farris (FB/LB), senior Robbie Reiners (OLB), junior Ashlen Schmidt (RB/DB), junior Kellan Wright (TE/LB), sophomore Brady Gillespie (TE/LB), senior Noah Nichols (FB/OLB), junior Peter Hinkle (WR/DB), senior Carson Adams (RB/DB) and senior Brayden Bastin (RB/DB).


“We talked about it with the kids. Each day you have a choice that you can make when you get up,” Commins said before elaborating on what the team’s motto “Win The Day” means. “The first thing when you get out of bed — whether the mood you’re in or how you treat your mom, your dad, sister or brother in the morning or if you’re in the class room front or back, each rep. Are you going to win each rep? As the day goes on, those little individual battles are going to determine whether you’ve won the day or if you lost the day. For us, that’s what we’re focused on is the individual day.”



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