September 17, 2014

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High school football tournament trail: Mansnerus latest great Avon Lake back

The names change, the success doesn’t. Welcome to the running back position at Avon Lake High School.

Do names like Schroeder, Berner, Doyle and Perretti ring a bell? How about Horton, Pavlovich, Breeze, Strauch and Haddad?

Now add Mike Mansnerus to that prestigious list.

Mansnerus fits the mold of great Avon Lake backs of the past. He’s 6-foot, 185 pounds and fast.

And he’s already in an elite class among Shoremen backs with 3,501 career rushing yards. That puts him second all-time behind Jon Schroeder’s 4,743. Mansnerus has also scored 42 touchdowns in his three years on varsity, tying him for fifth place in school history.

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This season he’s piled up 1,487 yards and 20 touchdowns.

He’ll add to those numbers tonight when Avon Lake travels to Maumee in a Division II, Region 6 playoff game.

“As a kid watching all those guys (at tailback) and how good they were, I never thought I’d be among them,” Mansnerus said. “I never thought I’d be close. Just like those guys and just like me, we always do it with a great offensive line. That’s what is really the key to Avon Lake. We’ve always had the best offensive line.”

Last week’s game at Amherst is a perfect example.

“I think we wore them down as the game moved along,” Avon Lake coach Dave Dlugosz said. “It looked to me like Mike seemed to get a step faster and Amherst got a step slower.”

“We struggled all day with Mansnerus,” Amherst coach Kevin Fell agreed. “They just outmuscled us up front.”

“(The offensive linemen) always open up huge holes,” Mansnerus said. “I barely get touched. Sometimes I don’t get touched at all. The Westlake game, all I had to do was run straight … that’s how big the hole was. Those guys work extremely hard every single year and every single game. They work very hard for me and make my job a lot easier.”

Four seniors and two juniors anchor the line. Center Andrew Wisler, guards Michah Charlton and Rob Nedrich, tackles Christian Pace and Andrew Bohan and tight end Dan Schneider are the players who open the holes Mansnerus blasts through. Charlton and Bohan are the juniors.

“Pace has been on the line for all three years I’ve been at tailback,” Mansnerus said. “I have a lot of trust in him, but all of them are good friends. We have a close bond together as teammates.”

Avon Lake started the season 1-3, including a loss to Olmsted Falls in the conference opener. There was a lot of doubt being cast Avon Lake’s way.

“No one believed in us,” Mansnerus said. “It didn’t matter to us. We weren’t going to give up and roll over. We had to come together as a solid unit. We worked really hard. That’s what we did and here we are — back in the playoffs.

“(After the Olmsted Falls game) we knew we had to win out. From that moment on, every game was do or die. We had to win every single game to get ourselves back to the position we are now.”

The Shoremen did just that, winning six games in a row and sewing up the outright Southwestern Conference championship thanks to their win over Amherst and North Olmsted’s upset of Olmsted Falls.

Mansnerus had three touchdowns — one coming on a 56-yard run in the early moments of the fourth quarter — against the Comets.

Now Mansnerus and the Shoremen have to turn their attention to Maumee. Mansnerus understands the challenge ahead.
“They do a lot more empty sets (on offense),” he said. “They have great speed. They’re more on the smaller side, but they’re still very fast. They’re a different style than what we usually go against.

“I think we’ll be able to attack them. Our line is big, but it’s also very quick and athletic. We’ll be able to handle their speed and should be able to wear them down. When it gets to the third, fourth quarter, that’s where we wear people down and we keep getting stronger and stronger.”

Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.