Underclassmen play crucial role in football team

Sam H., Writer

With the majority of the starting lineup lost to graduation, Head Coach Mark Solis was forced to reconstruct his squad.  This included a rebuild of his offensive line, extra receivers and a new quarterback, sophomore Ethan Grunkemeyer, who was forced into a varsity role in his second season.  

It certainly has been a challenge which actually started in December, 2020 at the start of our off season strength and conditioning program. We started with identifying those young guys we have felt we needed to develop to be ready to play Varsity football.  We are playing a ton of young guys that should be playing JV, but have had to play Varsity and we love what we are seeing in their development and improvement,” Solis said.  

In his first year as a starting quarterback, Grunkemeyer has thrown for 1,246 yards, nine touchdown passes and six interceptions through six games.  After two seasons of reaching the regional round, Grunkemeyer has high levels of pressure on him for success, and he has stepped up to the challenge.

“I feel like my coaches and teammates made it enjoyable and easy with little pressure because of their help and support.  The coaches put in great game plans for the players to be able to execute, and my teammates put 100% effort in during the week on and off the field to help us be in the best position to win Friday night,” Grunkemeyer said.

Grunkemeyer himself has improved by leaps and bounds since the beginning of the season, with stronger throws and improvements in his accuracy, and his field awareness is much better than what it was at the beginning of the season.  

Ethan gets better every week. He works extremely hard in practice and watches a ton of film off the field. We like what we see in Ethan this year and in his future,” Solis said. 

On the defensive side of the ball, sophomore Defensive End Angelo McCullom has played a major part in the Braves’ defensive line.  McCullom played Junior Varsity last year and was a varsity backup, but was in a backup role and not utilized as main starter. 

“I played varsity a little bit last year so I was ready for it, and I went against guys like Ethan Hand and Jace Middleton last year in practice, and that helped prepare me for a starting role,” McCullom said.

McCullon actually had a bit of a slow start to the season, but managed to quickly turn it around.  

Angelo actually started off slow at the beginning of the year. He’s another guy that continually gets better. He is a great practice player which is why he has improved a lot since Week 1,” Solis said.

McCullom’s sheer size combined with his mobility on the line can be a powerful combination.  At six foot three and 260 pounds, McCullom is regarded as a beast on the defensive line,  and has the speed of a linebacker combined with the size and strength of a defensive linemen, so he will always be in quarterback’s nightmares.  McCullom has also received interest from Penn State, Wisconsin and also impressed college scouts at an Ohio State football camp over the summer.   

With multiple talented underclassmen playing key roles in Olentangy’s football program, there is no doubt that Olentangy football will be a threat in the years to come, and look to go far in the playoffs later this fall.