It happens every off-season.

Every off-season in the Tivy football program, junior varsity players begin the transition to varsity, and then in the fall, immediately make an impact in their first varsity season with the Antlers. 

Just look at last year’s. The Antlers over achieved last fall — winning their first district title since 2015 and advancing to the regional semifinals for the second straight year — largely because they received contributions from first-year varsity players

Cole Miears went from the starting quarterback on the undefeated 2017 JV team to the starting varsity quarterback in 2018, claiming offensive newcomer of the year. Cole Mixon transitioned from the starting MIKE linebacker on the 2017 JV team to one of the best middle linebackers in District 26-5A in 2018, receiving the defensive newcomer of the year. In 2017, Kirkland Connally was a junior varsity offensive lineman. During the 2018 off-season, he worked hard to earn a starting spot on the varsity’s offensive line. I could provide more examples, but I think you’re starting to get the picture.

And while the 2019 Tivy team will be laden with veterans, the Antlers will still have to rely on first-year varsity players if they hope to reach their potential this fall. This Tivy team could be great; several football experts have told me they think this Tivy team has a chance to advance to the state semifinals for the first time since 2009. But for that to happen, several 2018 JV players will have to evolve into good varsity players this fall. Here are five former Tivy JV players who I think can make an immediate impact this fall. (Of course, these five aren’t the only former JV players who have worked hard this off-season, or the only ones who will contribute on varsity this fall. I will probably have to compile a similar list later in the summer).

GARRETT KLEYPAS — DEFENSIVE END

Tyler Jenschke’s graduation represented one of the biggest defensive losses for Tivy this offseason. Jenschke used his 5-foot, 10-inch, 165-pound frame to wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines, leading the Antlers with 12 sacks and 22 tackles for loss. 

That type of production is hard to 

replace. Fortunately for Tivy, Kleypas is more than capable of filling Jenschke’s void. In the fall, Kleypas was a JV defensive end. In the off-season, he was posting freakish numbers in the weight room, maxing out at 380 pounds in the back squat and 270 pounds in the power clean. Such numbers are typically harbingers of success in the fall. The Antlers certainly hope that’s the case.

HADEN POE — DEFENSIVE END

Kleypas isn’t the only former JV player having a good off-season. According to defensive coordinator Jeremy Hickman, Haden Poe labored to increase his speed in the off-season. Poe’s emergence this off-season gives the Antlers a chance to have two dangerous defensive ends this fall — an opposing offense’s worst nightmare.

ETHAN PESCHEL — OFFENSIVE LINEMAN

Perhaps the biggest concern for Tivy entering the fall is the offensive line, considering the Antlers lost four starters from last year’s O-line. (Andres Castillo and Eric Moore are the only returning linemen with any starting experience)

There is some good news. Ethan Peschel has logged time in the weight room, giving himself an opportunity to help Tivy’s O-line in the fall. He’s increased his bench press to 225 and raised his squat to 325. Expect him to be a contender to earn a starting job this fall.

AARON ORTEGA — OFFENSIVE LINEMAN

Hickman also praised Aaron Ortega’s effort this off-season, commenting that he toiled to improve his strength and speed in the off-season. That’s good news for the Antlers, considering the offensive line might arguably be the most important position group in football. The Antlers really needed some junior varsity players to step up after graduating four seniors. Ortega and Peschel have so far answered the call.

HAYDEN BARNETT — DEFENSIVE LINEMAN

With defensive tackles Dominic Jefferson, Brad Beaty and Gonzalo Hernandez all returning for their senior seasons, the Antlers should be pretty stout on the interior of their defensive line.

But you can never have enough depth at defensive tackle. Hayden Barnett has positioned himself to become a major contributor on the defensive line, improving his strength, speed and agility.

“He’s had a great off-season,” Hickman said.

As a result, the Antlers could have a salty defensive line this season. And salty defensive lines usually result in great defenses.

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