For the second year in a row, the Rovers will open the high school football season under the leadership of a new head coach.
"That's not easy on kids, having three different coaches in three years," said Harry Caruthers, a 33-year-old former Tallmadge assistant who was hired in May to take over the reins of the Rootstown football program. "Change can be hard, but I don't want these kids to feel sorry for themselves."
From the first impressions of preseason workouts, Caruthers likes the demeanor of his new team.
"I don't think they pity themselves," said Caruthers. "I'll tell you, we have some pretty tough kids on this team."
The disposition the players have displayed in the weight room is just one reason Caruthers is enjoying his new surroundings.
"I really like the overall toughness of the kids," he said. "I like the history of the program. I like the idea of community that Rootstown has. I like the feeling that they want to win, and that people are disappointed if we don't win. I like that Rootstown puts first things first when it comes to education. That is most important."
Caruthers, who played baseball and football at Cuyahoga Falls High School, received his undergraduate degree at the University of Akron and completed his masters in education at Kent State.
He has served as an assistant football and girls basketball coach at Cuyahoga Falls, a baseball coach at Copley and _ for the last five years _ as a football and baseball coach at Tallmadge.
In his first season as a head coach, Caruthers will take over a team that finished last year 0-10 under then first-year coach Mark Morris, who left Rootstown for a coaching job at Berlin Center Western Reserve.
"I've always been more of an offensive coach," said Caruthers. "I want our offense to be unpredictable, to keep the defense off balance. We want to score points, but the real philosophy is to improve daily.
"I think my belief in an offensive and defensive system will benefit the kids, along with my ability to teach and help them to learn the game. I think this team has some good skill-position players and good team speed. Obviously, we have a returning quarterback (Ronnie Lewis) with a lot of varsity experience and pretty much everybody who is coming back has seen varsity experience."
Caruthers said he is excited to work with a coaching staff that includes defensive coordinator Joe Mackle, top offensive assistant Todd Meyer, defensive backs coach Todd Taylor and offensive line coach Dave McIntyre.
Todd Caruthers, the coach's older brother, will also help with special teams.
"It's hard to believe this coaching staff came together the way it did," said Caruthers. "These are guys I've known for a while. It's going to be great to work together with them as a staff. It will be easier for us this year because we already know each other so well.
"I think their overall character, the way they care about kids, and the fact that they are all good teachers of the game of football and the game of life will be good for the kids."