Finally … Football Season is here!
The Westlake Demons were eliminated from playoff contention in the final game of the season last year. Rocky River closed out the 2010 campaign with a six-game winning streak, but fell short of the eighth and final playoff spot. Lutheran West was a long shot to make the Division V playoffs last year. They were holding the 11th spot, but lost their final game against Columbia to be knocked out of the equation.
Olmsted Falls was the only local team to make the playoffs last year after sharing the Southwestern Conference crown with Avon Lake. The Bulldogs went on to beat Cleveland JFK and Maumee before losing to Maple Heights in the regional title game.
Right now, every team is in first place with a 0-0 record. There is hope and anticipation for a championship season on every practice field and in every locker room. Here is a look into the 2011 squads of some area teams.
Olmsted Falls High School-
The Bulldogs are looking to continue last year’s success while turning over half of their roster. Twenty-six seniors graduated from their SWC Championship and Elite 8 squad of a year ago. They will be replaced by a group of players who had a successful 7-3 junior varsity campaign in 2010. Captains Eric Meehan and Mike Sauvey have led off-season preparation.
The returning defensive starters are Nate Ferster (DB), Sauvey (NG) and Evan Reike (LB). There are four returning starters on offense, including Ferster (WR), Brennan Laird (QB), Nolan Brandt (OL) and Meehan (TE).
The top candidates in other positions include Ryan Dieckman (OL), Bobby Saylor (P/WR/DB), Jake Hodge (DL), Drew Mekeeta (WR/DB), Kenny Hanna (WR/DB), Mike Gib (WR/DB), Chris Fox (WR/DB), Brandon Fredriech (RB/LB), Tyler Lucas (LB/C), Matt Gib (OL/DL), Cody Rinas (LB/OL) and Anthony Colozza (TE/LB).
“Being the SWC champions is always our No. 1 goal,” said head coach Jim Ryan. “As we worked throughout the offseason in the weight room and conditioning sessions, that is what we gear our team up for. We have enough senior leadership to get us to that point. We need to improve every single day. We cannot accept anything but our best effort.”
The Bulldogs open the season at Bedford on Aug. 26.
North Olmsted High School-
The Eagles not only will be battling teams on the gridiron this season, they are still battling the failure of last year’s school levy. In 2010 the failed levy and the addition of “pay to play” depleted the overall number of boys participating. The program looks like they are on the path to recovery. Even though they lack depth, they are looking to improve their 2010 mark of 4-6 (2-5 in the SWC). They will do that by playing unselfish, hard-nosed and tough football. They are inexperienced on the offensive and defensive lines, but have a strong core of seniors and offensive starters.
They have seven key returning starters, including Marc Remy (All-SWC), Joe Lumpkin, Pat Moran, Trevor Winston, Shamir Tomlinson, Brian Brunner and Brian Kozlak. The other returning lettermen are Jacob Carlton, Sammy Ibrhim, Thomas Sutton, Sean Keller and Rayshon Robinson. The key varsity newcomers are Mike Starkovic, Tommy Rodriguez, Brad Novak and Beau Bilinsky.
Just like all previous seasons, North Olmsted is looking to win a SWC championship this year. North Olmsted opens the season on the road at Valley Forge High School on Aug. 26.
Westlake High School-
The Demons had a winning season last year with an overall record of 6-4, but they are looking to improve within the SWC where they went 3-4 and ended up in fourth place. It will be a daunting task, as they lost 25 lettermen to graduation.
They have five returning letter winners, including seniors Jonathan Brick (S/RB), Carl Laux (OL), Kyle Perkins (DB/WR) andAnthony Zappone (LB), and junior Logan Paul (RB).
The team as a whole is a young squad with mostly junior varsity experience. They are counting on the techniques they are learning in practice to carry over into the varsity game.
“I think that we are truly a team,” said head coach Mark Campo. “I have some scrappy, aggressive and smart kids that understand how we need to practice to get better each week.”
Even though Coach Campo is stressing that his program is “team” first, there are a couple of players to keep an eye on this year.
“I don’t think we have too many standouts this year, but Anthony Zappone did get a (scholarship) offer from Eastern Michigan,” said Campo. “Jonathan Brick has done a great job separating himself from the other (running) backs in the SWC.”
Westlake starts the season on the road at North Ridgeville High School on Aug. 26.
WEST SHORE CONFERENCE-
Bay Village High School-
The Rockets look to improve on last year’s record of 3-7 (3-4 in the West Shore Conference). They have 10 returning letter winners, including seniors Ryan Kana (QB/DB), Timmy Alteri (WR/CB), Evan Campbell (TE/SS), Spencer Uram (OL/DL) and Nathan Notarberardino (OL/DB). The returning junior lettermen are Matt Bruno (RB/ILB), Jack Sullivan (OL/DL), Steve Burns (RB/LB), Luke Rohlke (WR/FS) and Ryan Voiers (RB/SS). Other returning juniors are Patrick Hoke (WR/CB), Andy Bourbor (RB/SS) and Jack Blake (WR/CB).
Some notable newcomers are seniors Brian Comisky (WR/SS) and Matt Gulak (RB/DL); juniors Max Lamb (OL/DL), Jake Peters (OL/DL), Matt Spies (OL/DL), Sam Strauss (TE/DL) and Jack Creech (K/P); and sophomore Tyler Campbell (RB/CB).
“This season we have some new challenges as well as some new opponents,” said head coach Ryan Gorius. “We are going to have some new faces in our lineups on both sides of the ball, so we are going to have to gain game experience in a hurry. Depth is always a concern. We have some very athletic players and our team speed has improved over this past offseason. This is a very exciting time for our program. Our kids are very excited and can’t wait to start playing.”
Bay opens the season at home against Orange High School on Aug. 26.
Rocky River High School-
The Pirates finished the 2010 campaign behind only Avon High School for second place in the WSC with a 6-1 record (7-3 overall). If they plan on winning the conference this year, they will have to do it without three main fixtures in last year’s offense. Robbie Plagens, Kyle Dunne and Zak Echols were three of the 26 seniors lost to graduation. They will surely be missed.
The key returning defensive players are Michael Dickey (LB) and Klinti Gjino (DT). The key returning offensive players are Andreas Tjotjos (RB), Conor Milner (OG) and Austin Kelly (QB).
They will have five co-captains this year including, Dickey, Gjino, Max Sawyer, Brennan Koklauner and Eric Oster.
The team will be relying on the running game to spark the offense. Many of the players on this year’s squad will be making varsity career debuts in week one at home against Fairview High School on Aug. 26.
PATRIOT ATHLETIC CONFERENCE-
Fairview Park High School-
The Warriors have a new coach this year in Tom Narducci. He began his coaching career as an assistant at Padua High School (1972-1981). His first position as a head coach was at Fremont St. Joseph Central Catholic High School (1981-1993). From there he made the jump to coaching as an assistant at Ohio University (1993-1995) and from 1995-2011 he was the head coach for Hudson High School.
Fairview has 19 returning lettermen this year. Nine of them are seniors including, Mahmoud Awad (Rec.), John Doherty (RB/DB), Trevor Fox (OL/DL), John Haney (OL/DL), Kevin Joyce (OL), David Lansu (QB), Jeff Mortensen (RB), Anthony Santos (DB) and Chris Tsashin (Rec.). The five returning juniors are Noah Carpenter (LB), Josh Elenniss (LB), Geno LaValle (OL), Corey Schmidt (TE/LB) and Brandon Thompson (OL). Remaining retuning lettermen are all sophomores, including Austin Fox (RB), Iraklis Ikenomi (OL), Jason Kish (DB), Ed Martin (WR) and Matt Mears (DB).
Expectations are to build on last season’s record of 5-5 (4-3 in the PAC) and to be in contention for the conference title and a possible playoff berth.
“The foundation has been laid by the previous staff, and now it’s up to the new staff and team to keep moving in the right direction,” said coach Narducci. “The orchestra is the same; there is just a different director.”
The Warriors start the season at Rocky River High School on Aug. 26.
Lutheran High School West-
The Longhorns broke even last year, finishing with a record of 5-5 (5-2 in the PAC). With the loss of most of last year’s starters, they are looking to “re-load” and not rebuild.
They have six returning lettermen, including seniors Larry Oldenburg (FB/ILB), Art Schwandt (G/ILB), Andrew Samoson (G/DL) and Zachary Zupancic (C/ILB). The two junior returning lettermen are Kyle Masek (SE/DB) and Kameron Bremer (T/DL).
“We are young, but we are very athletic in the backfield and at receiver,” said head coach Dave Geye. “Our quarterback is junior Dan Hillenbrand. He’s a big, tall kid, going about six foot four, who can really throw the ball. My goal is to be pretty even between the pass and run offenses this year. We are struggling defensively with all the youth on our team. We have kids that know what to do, but they aren’t doing on the field yet.”
The Longhorns begin the season at home against Firelands High School on Aug. 26.