2012 varsity football preview
By Ryan Kaczmarski
The fall high school sports season is upon us and it could be said that this year’s football season is one of the most anticipated in the Westshore area’s recent history.
FAIRVIEW High School is coming off a 2011 season in which the team was 5-5 overall, and were Patriot Athletic Conference Stripes Division champions with a conference record of 5-2 (5-0 in the Stripes Division), the school’s first league title since 1953.
Second-year head coach Tom Narducci has 27 returning lettermen on this year’s squad, and expects to build on last year’s success, be in contention for the league title and possibly make a playoff appearance.
“The foundation has been laid, and now it’s up to the staff and team to keep moving in the right direction,” Narducci said.
The Warriors are an upperclassman-heavy team this year, with 10 seniors and seven juniors as returning lettermen on the roster.
The returning seniors are defensive back and wide receiver Cody Caja, linebacker and running back Noah Carpenter, linebacker and wide receiver Josh Elenniss, defensive back and wide receiver Connor Kerrigan, defensive and offensive lineman Tyler Keating, offensive and defensive lineman Geno LaValle, offensive and defensive lineman Joe Parasci, tight end and linebacker Corey Schmidt, offensive and defensive lineman Brandon Thomas and offensive and defensive lineman Chris St. John.
The returning juniors are linebacker and wide receiver Richard Davis, defensive back and running back Austin Fox, defensive and offensive lineman Cortez Harris, defensive and offensive lineman Iraklis Ikonomi, quarterback and defensive back Jason Kish, wide receiver and linebacker Sean Lewis and wide receiver and defensive back Matt Mears.
The strength of the returning team will be its defense. Elenniss led the defense last season with a team-high 93 tackles, including 11 tackles for a loss. Elenniss was followed by Schmidt with 57 tackles, Carpenter with 43, Kish with 27, Keating with 25, Harris with 22 and Ikonomi with 20.
The biggest hit from graduation is the loss two-year starting quarterback David Lansu, and running backs Anthony Santos and John Doherty.
Look for Kish to step up and lead the ‘Fairview Spread’ offense as a change from the smash-mouth power running game the Warriors have run in the past few years. The main target for Kish will be Schmidt, who had 19 catches for 332 yards in 2011.
The Warriors start the season at home against Rocky River on Friday at 7 p.m.
LUTHERAN WEST High School is looking to turn around its football program, which had an overall record of 2-8 (2-5 in the PAC Stripes Division) in 2011.
First-year head coach Dave Stupka will be fielding a team that has lost 12 starters from 2011, and returns 10 lettermen, five each on offense and defense.
The key offensive returners are senior tail back Ryan Mordaunt (who ran for 521 yards and scored eight touchdowns last year), senior running back Chris Ranc (who ran for 508 yards, and had 13 receptions last season) and senior wide receiver Kyle Masek (who had 21 receptions with a 15.1 yards per reception average in 2011).
The key returning starters on defense are seniors Kameron Bremer (second-team All-PAC), Ryan O’Connor and Izaak Zrnich.
The projected starters are Greg Kunze (QB/WR/DB), Brad Warnkin (WR), Masek, Nash Hagen (QB/S), Aaron Geye (TE/LB/DE), Dan Hillenbrand (QB), Mordaunt, Ranc, Kyle Hayes (RB), O’Connor, Matt Glowacki (OL/DL), Pat Hofener (OL/DT), Sam Shick (OL/LB/DE), Bremer, Chuck White (OL), Jake Pierse (OL), Derek Naim (WR/DB), Zrnich, Chris Scott (CB), Andrew O’Hara (LB) and Tyler Cerney (DE).
“The team is responding well, thus far, to the implementation of our new system in all three phases of the game,” Stupka said. “Our team should continue to improve daily.”
The Longhorns start the season on the road at Firelands on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
After winning the Southwestern Conference in 2010, OLMSTED FALLS was knocked off the top of the SWC by Avon Lake, giving the Bulldogs their only conference loss in 2011, finishing in second place to the unbeaten Shoremen.
The Bulldogs come into this season losing 11 starters from last year’s squad, including star quarterback and defensive back Brennan Laird. The key returning starters on offense are wide receivers Drew Meketa (first-team All-SWC and first-team All-District in 2011) and Turner Jones; and offensive linemen Jeremy Polcar and Jack Grimm. The key returning defensive players are linemen Tyler Lucas and Jordan Lee; linebacker Logan Ballard; and defensive backs Jones and Meketa.
“(It’s) an exciting year to look forward to, as the next senior class gets its chance to maintain the tradition established by previous players before them,” Olmsted Falls head coach Jim Ryan said. “(We) have seven starters returning on defense, and hopes are, that experience pays off on Friday nights.
“With the loss of quarterback Brennan Laird, the team must develop a new quarterback to run the offense,” he added. “Candidates include senior Drew Meketa, junior Brian Kurz and sophomore Nick Fritz. Experience remains at receiver with the return of Jones and Anthony Colozza.”
The Bulldogs will hang their hats on the team’s unity and work ethic this season, while overall depth will be a concern.
Olmsted Falls opens the season Friday night at home against Bedford High School at 7 p.m.
The NORTH OLMSTED Eagles improved on their 2010 SWC record of 2-5, to go 4-3 in the conference last season, and hopes are to contend for the SWC crown this season.
The key returning starters are quarterback Brad Novak, running back Tom Sutton, defensive tackle Rayshawn Robinson, tight end Jimmy Ahern, nose tackle Chester Connolly, running back Mike Starcovic (All-SWC in 2011), wide receiver Tommy Rodriguez (All-SWC in 2011) and center William (Beau) Bilinsky.
Other returning lettermen are Brandon Dickey, Charles Gray, Luke Janik, Zachary Jones, Midhat Kordab, Dylan Maxwell, Mahmoud Mustafa, Jeffrey Rotheram, Michael Shackleton and Tyler Truax.
A key newcomer to the varsity squad will be Ben Kurcsak.
According to head coach Michael Ptacek, the Eagles have a strong core of seniors, with outstanding skills position players returning, and the key to this season will be playing unselfish, hard-nosed football.
“Just like all previous seasons, we will look to win a SWC championship this year,” Ptacek said.
The Eagles will host Valley Forge High School in the season opener on Friday at 7 p.m.
WESTLAKE is looking to bounce back from a 2011 season in which the Demons finished with a 2-5 record in the SWC (4-6 overall).
“Last year’s team fought hard every game for four quarters,” Demons head coach Mark Campo said.
The Demons will have to overcome the loss of last year’s senior stars: quarterback Phil Brusk, running back Jonathan Brick and starting wide receiver Kyle Perkins.
The team returns six lettermen on offense and five lettermen on defense. The key returning players are seniors Bryan Mackenzie (DB/WR), Shawn Turk (WR/DB), Daniel Strodtbeck (LB/RB), Logan Paul (LB/RB), Alex Massad (LB/WR) and Daniel Misenick (OL/DL); and juniors Alex Busser (OL/DL), Quinn Bari (OL/DL), Adam Sandor (OL/DL) and quarterback Kent Axcell.
“Every player is key,” Campo said. “They all have to do their jobs and make plays.
“The entire senior class needs to be leaders,” he added. “Danny Misencik, Shawn Turk, Logan Paul and Daniel Strodtbeck are great role models.”
Campo sees each and every game as being important to achieve the overall team goal.
“We feel we can compete for a conference championship,” he said. “Our players have worked hard in the offseason to get stronger. We have good team chemistry and depth, and if we play physical football, we should be in every game.”
The Demons open the season at home against North Ridgeville on Friday at 7 p.m.
LAKEWOOD High School is entering the West Shore Conference this season, and will bring in fifth-year head coach Ron Lewis’ 3-3 stack defense to the table every Friday.
The Rangers are coming off a 2011 season in which they went 6-4 overall, and Lewis expects to compete immediately in the tough WSC.
“(We’re) new to the WSC, but I know that Avon, North Ridgeville and Midview are good teams,” he said.
Lewis has some experience coaching in the WSC, as he was the Rocky River High School varsity head football coach from 2002-07.
The Rangers have five returning offensive starters, and two returning defensive starters. The key offensive players this year are seniors Ricky Dill (OL), Capriese Jackson (WR) and Tommy Fuller (QB). The key defensive returning players are seniors Marquise Tyus (DB), Jacob Supinski (LB) and Dyland Bruening (DB).
“We have an experienced offensive line and receivers, good linebackers and good defensive backs,” Lewis said. “But we need to replace (last year’s) talented defensive line.”
The Rangers will host Lincoln West High School in the season opener on Friday at 7 p.m.
BAY is looking to move up the ladder in the WSC, as the Rockets finished with a conference record of 3-4 (3-7 overall) in 2011.
The Rockets do have 16 returning starters (eight on offense, and nine on defense). The key offensive players this year are quarterbacks Chris Brajdic and Jake Best; running backs Ryan Voiers, Andy Barbour (captain) and Zach Baumgard; wide receivers Luke Rohlke and Patrick Hoke; and linemen Jake Peters (Captain) and Max Lamb.
The key defensive players this year are Scott Rapps (captain and 2011 team MVP), Steve Burns, Best, Sam Strauss, Matt Spies, Jack Sullivan, Barbour, Voiers, Jack Blake, Tyler Campbell, Matt Bruno and Patrick Hoke.
Senior Jack Creech returns as the team’s punter and kicker.
The young players to watch for are Jake Fowler, Joey Perrault, Jacob MacMillan, Cody Wright, James Dudek, Joe Bitonti, Chris Francoti, Danny Heideloff and Keenan Accorti.
The Rockets start the season on the road at Orange High School on Friday at 7 p.m.
ROCKY RIVER is also looking to improve this season. The Pirates had an overall record of 3-7 in 2011, and are looking forward to getting the taste of last year’s home loss to Bay out of their mouths.
The Pirates have 15 returning lettermen, including Michael Dickey (LB/FB), Martin Finnegan (RB/CB), Keelan Boettcher (QB), Bill Pelger (C/DT), Jon Hinson (OT/DE), Luke Lowery (TE/DB), Michael Poe (RB/LB), Austin Kelly (WR/DB), Alex Theiling (WR/QB), Alec Hallal (WR/LB), Xhuljo Harunaj (WR/DB/K), Enli Hamzaj (FB/LB), Matt Kadlec (WR/DB), Rob Hendricks (WR/DB) and Klaudio Merizaj (OT/DT).
“We have many returning players with varsity experience, either as a starter or as a key substitute,” Rocky River head coach Rick Adams said. “We have a very good senior class that has shown great leadership and discipline. We will be a good running team this year.
“We are down in numbers this year, so we will have many two-way starters who won’t get much rest,” he added. “I really believe that we are a much better team this year over last, but we do have a tougher schedule with the addition of Lakewood in the conference and Parma as a nonconference opponent.”
The Pirates start the season on the road at Fairview on Friday at 7 p.m.