High School Spotlight - Week 3
This week, the Gladiators High School Spotlight Series takes an in-depth look at the Great Lakes Conference with a special focus on the Conference champs from a year ago, the Bay Rockets.
Great Lakes Conference
Head Coach – Ron Rutt (5th season)
2017 Record – 12-1
Key Returners: QB/LB Connor Shell, FB Matt Cover, WR Max Showalter, DB Nick Baerenstecker, TE Francis Sherman, OL Brett Thompson, DB Jared Riess, DL Patrick Nosan
Key Losses: RB/LB Trey Psota, WR/DB R.J. Sunahara, OL/DL Thomas Koss, OL/DL Sean Heideloff, LB Paul Boutros, DL Bryce Jackson, DB Dillon Barry
Last season, Bay enjoyed an historic campaign in their program’s history, posting a 12-1 record and earning a playoff berth for the fourth consecutive year. The Rockets earned playoff victories over Mansfield and Padua Franciscan before falling to Toledo Central Catholic in the Regional Final.
Head Coach Ron Rutt and the Rockets lose star running back Trey Psota, but return senior standout quarterback Connor Shell. With Shell back under center, in addition to the Rockets’ strong senior class, Bay is in prime position to contend for a Great Lakes Conference championship once again, while aiming to make some noise in the postseason.
Bay kicks off its 2018 campaign on the road when they travel to take on Keystone on August 24th.
Elyria Catholic Panthers
Head Coach – Brian Fox (1st season)
2017 Record – 3-7
Key Returners: QB Cameron Engrish, RB Leighton Banjoff, TE/LB Zach Evans, OL/DL Jack Decker, OL Griffin Davies, LB Gavan Hrobat, DB Stephen Ferguson,
Key Losses: RB Jonah Griffin, WR/DB Dan Peacock, WR/DB Donovan Warfield, OL/DL Gabe Hirsch, OL/DL Andre Rodriguez, OL Mike Jessie, DL Nick Pagenstecher, DB Jonah Baker
Elyria Catholic welcomes first-year Head Coach Brian Fox after a 3-7 record led to the Panthers missing the playoffs last season.
The Panthers return senior quarterback Cameron Engrish and senior running back Leighton Banjoff, but lose their playmaking wide receiver and defensive back Donovan Warfield to graduation. Even though it’ll be a year of transition at the head coaching position, on the field the Panthers are looking to compete for a conference title.
Elyria Catholic opens the season at home against Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph on Friday, August 31st.
Holy Name Green Wave
Head Coach – Dan Wondolowski (6th season)
2017 Record – 5-5
Key Returners: RB/DB Evan Nicholas, RB Trevor Dotson, RB/FB Robert Sherod, WR David Boll, DL Brian Adams, TE/DL Ryan Byrne, OL/DL Josh Tait, QB/DB Nicholas Mercuri
Key Losses: QB Joe Carter, WR Andrew Harhalos, RB/DB Marques Thompson, WR/DB Matt Springer, RB/LB Dominic Ambler, WR Mark Lang, DL Andrew Rodriguez, OL/DL Mike Koehn, WR/DB Zak Hahn
After scuffling to a 1-4 record out of the gate, the Green Wave finished last season strong by winning four of their last five games and wrapping the campaign at 5-5. Head Coach Dan Wondolowski will look to use that momentum to push the Holy Name program toward a winning record and a postseason berth.
The Green Wave will have to do it without their quarterback Joe Carter, as well as their top wide receiver Andrew Harhalos, who both depart following their graduations. Holy Name does return running backs Evan Nicholas and Trevor Dotson, as well as tight end/defensive lineman Ryan Byrne.
Holy Name opens their season on Saturday, September 1st when they host Padua Franciscan.
Head Coach – Brian Darden (2nd season)
2017 Record – 3-7
Key Returners: RB/DB Justin Haverdill, QB/DB Matt Ashe, WR/RB Neno Czerwinski, LB/DL Ethan Hughey, DB Anthony Graziolli, WR Corey Penney, DL Darion Greene, TE/DL Tommy Sullivan, OL/DL Alex Nystrom, RB Brendon Rush
Key Losses: QB/LB Ryan Dengler, DL A.J. Leslie
The Normandy Invaders finished with a 3-7 record in 2017 after previously losing 41 consecutive games spanning the entirety of the previous three seasons. Second-year Head Coach Brian Darden is looking for his football program to take another step in the 2018 season as the Invaders return a majority of their starters on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
One of the very few losses is important, however, as the Invaders watched their quarterback Ryan Dengler depart due to graduation. Former backup signal-caller and senior Matt Ashe will be competing to earn the job while also playing a vital role in the secondary on the defensive side of the ball.
Normandy hosts Lincoln West in their regular season opener on Thursday, August 30th.
Head Coach – Dean Lasley (1st season)
2017 Record – 4-6
Key Returners: OL/DL Ryan Madison
Key Losses: DB Andrew Shields, RB Mark Post, WR/DB Dylan Herb, OL/DL Tahfiq Sanders, OL David Quinones, WR/OLB Alex McDaniels
As Parma puts their 4-6 record last season in the rear-view mirror, the Parma Redmen are turning to new Head Coach Dean Lasley to get the program back at the top of the Great Lakes Conference.
The losses are heavy, however, as key contributors Andrew Shields, Mark Post, and Dylan Herb all move on. The team will be counting on returning offensive and defensive lineman Ryan Madison to provide leadership and play an integral role on the field.
Parma travels to North Royalton to take on the Bears when their season opens on Friday, August 31st.
Rocky River Pirates
Head Coach – Josh Wells (4th season)
2017 Record – 7-3
Key Returners: RB/LB Ross Hartman, QB/DB Michael Finnegan, QB/DB Colton Sullivan, RB/WR Jack Ohlemacher, DB/RB Ladarrius Denham, RB Owen Bebie, WR/DB Cristain Dean, WR Ryan O’Donnell
Key Losses: RB Dameon Crawford, RB/DB Matt Popovich, RB/OLB Matt Belsito, TE/OLB Will Sharp, QB/WR Cam Blue, OL Ben Fitzgibbon, OL Jacob Fuchs, WR/DB Antonio Atwater,
Even after a 7-3 finish in the 2017 season, the Rocky River Pirates missed out on the playoffs despite winning the last four games of the season all by double digits.
Head Coach Josh Wells loses stud running back Dameon Crawford to graduation but returns running back and linebacker Ross Hartman as well as quarterback Michael Finnegan. The two seniors will be counted on to replicate the success of last season, while also ensuring that the team returns to the state playoffs.
Rocky River travels to take on Medina Buckeye in their season opener, Friday, August 31st.
Valley Forge Patriots
Head Coach – Marcello DeAngelis (4th season)
2017 Record – 3-7
Key Returners: RB/LB Nick Kugler, QB/DB Mike Pappas, RB/DB Jalen Varner, FB/LB Mbaimba Tunkara, TE Sam Rizzuto, WR/DB Dylan Magda, LB Bobby Benak,
Key Losses: QB John Quinones II, WR Cameron Hager, RB Louis Arena, RB/WR Chris Mayak, WR/DB Ryan Groves
Valley Forge loses quarterback John Quinones, wide receiver Cameron Hager, and running back Louis Arena in the wake of a 2017 season that saw the Patriots post a 3-7 record.
Head Coach Marcello DeAngelis returns running back Nick Kugler, as well as playmaking running back and defensive back Jalen Varner. On defense, junior linebacker Bobby Benak returns to anchor the linebacking core.
Valley Forge opens their season on Friday, August 31st, when they host John Marshall.