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Local teams look to challenge for PAC title

Patriot Athletic Conference

By Ryan Kaczmarski and Joe Ostrica

Last season was a year of firsts for the Lutheran West High School football program. The Longhorns had first-year head coach Dave Stupka brought in to return the team to prominence as Lutheran West made several renovations to its athletic fields, including adding an artificial playing surface to the football stadium.

The Longhorns improved from a 2-8 record in 2011, to an even 5-5 record last year, but Stupka would like to see his boys win a Patriot Athletic Conference-Stripes Division championship, which the school had won in the 2002 and 2005 seasons.

“This is the second year of our program,” Stupka said. “Our team should continue to improve daily.

“The challenge is for our coaching staff to get our players in the right positions to maximize their talents.”

The Longhorns lost 13 players from last year’s team, but still have 10 starters returning for the 2013 campaign.

The key returning offensive players are seniors Aaron Geye (tight end/wide receiver), Sam Shick (offensive lineman), Chuck White (offensive lineman), Greg Kunze (quarterback, 1,000 passing yards in 2012) and Brad Warnkin (wide receiver).

The key defensive returners are senior captain Derek Naim (corner back), and juniors Andrew O’Hara (linebacker) and Nick Kessel (defensive lineman).

Thom Lesiecki is back for his third season as head coach of the Brookside High School football team. After going 0-10 last season, the Cardinals are already looking at improvements it’s made before the season even kicks off.

“We return nine starters on offense and nine on defense,” Lesiecki said. “The players have worked extremely hard this past offseason. We have also improved with the return of Arin Pruitt and Brandon Bellman. Arin played in Florida last year, and Brandon missed last year from knee surgery.”

Pruitt, a running back and linebacker, started for the No. 1 ranked team in the country last year at Manatee High School in Bradenton, Fla.

“Arin is a quick and a strong runner and was the leading rusher in 2011,” Lesiecki said. “Brandon is a defensive back, wide receiver, place kicker and punter. He made the All-Ohio third team as a punter in 2011. He’s the best kicker I’ve coached in 32 years.”

Other key players hoping to make an impact for the Cardinals include Jake Morgan (running back, strong safety, punter), Bryan Decato (offensive tackle, defensive end) and Ian Standen (offensive guard, nose tackle). Morgan was a first team All-Ohio punter last year.

“Jake was our leading rusher last year,” Lesiecki said. “Bryan is a very smart player. Ian is a team player. He was a running back and outside linebacker last year.

“Senior Nathan Kaleta should do well for us at tight end and defensive end. He’s tall and athletic.”

Lesiecki said the Patriot Athletic Conference will be very competitive with all of the teams returning a lot of talent.

“Our team’s strengths are team speed, the skilled positions, our work ethic and determination. We have good experience returning. We played a lot of kids last year. We just have to watch our depth and find out what it feels like to win.”

The Fairview High School football team finished with a record of 5-5 last season, going 3-7 in the PAC. Fifteen lettermen are returning this year for third-year head coach Tom Narducci, including 11 seniors.

Key returners include seniors Amin Awad (offensive/defensive lineman), Richard Davis (linebacker/wide receiver), Austin Fox (defensive back/running back), Cortez Harris (defensive/offensive lineman), Iraklis Ikonomi (offensive/defensive lineman), Justin Krehel (offensive/defensive lineman), Patrick Kilrain (wide receiver/defensive back), Jason Kish (quarterback/defensive back), Anthony Kerrigan (running back/defensive back), Sean Lewis (wide receiver/linebacker) and Matt Mears (wide receiver/defensive back).

The key newcomer for the Warriors is junior Elyria Colin McNamara (quarterback), an Elyria Catholic transfer student.

“McNamara is a prospect, who will be in the running at quarterback,” Narducci said. “Both Kish and McNamara will be used as a receiver once the (starting) quarterback question is answered.

“The expectations are to improve on defense and continue to build on the spread offense we installed last season. Fairview has a number of skilled players, but linemen are scarce. If the offensive and defensive lines can stay healthy and underclassmen step up, we hope to win five or more games in 2013.”

As for the PAC-Stripes race, Narducci knows his team will need a few break to go its way.

“Don’t be surprised if teams from Lutheran West on down make a run for the title,” he explained. “The league has some good coaching and a few breaks could turn the tide.”

 

 

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