July 25, 2014

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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL 2010: Amherst expects to be even better this year

AMHERST — The Comets have a bunch of pass-catchers back from last season, includ­ing a hybrid receiver/running back who landed on the All-Southwestern Conference first team.

They have another talented running back as well, one who averaged 5 yards a carry as a sophomore in 2009. There’s also a junior tight end the coach believes is a more-than-ade­quate replacement for a graduated second team all-conference player.

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The questions facing Amherst this season are: Will the new quarterback be able to get these guys the ball and will a rebuilt offen­sive line be able to keep the tacklers away from them?

If those questions are answered in the affir­mative, the Comets should have a banner season.

Kevin Fell, the fourth-year head coach, thinks his team is going to be better than the 7-3 squad of last year anyway. The reason is defense.

“They are invincible,” Fell said about his defenders before adding, with a smile, “they won’t give up a point all year.”

Listen to coach Kevin Fell talk about the season with WEOL’s Jim Allen:

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Exaggeration aside, the Comets do look tough on defense. Eight starters return to a team that, if you take away the 34 points SWC champion Avon Lake pinned on them, didn’t give any team more than three touchdowns and yielded an average of 13 points per game.

“The whole front line’s back, and they’re all good,” Fell said. “They were good last year and they’ve worked hard in the offseason. The defensive backs are good, too.”

The best of them all is likely a linebacker, Marty Thomas, a first-team All-SWC choice in ’09 who is on his way to becoming the school’s career leader in tackles. He had 136 tackles (105 solo) and four sacks as a junior. His work ethic, according to Fell, defies measurement.

“He’s like a crazy man on the football field,” Fell said. “He has worked like a dog all four years. He lifts weights, like, 24 hours a day. He wants to be a great player now and wants to be a good college football player, too.”

Thomas has yet to pick a college, as he’s waiting to see if a scholarship is coming his way or a good deal from a Division III school is in his future. Meanwhile, he shares his coach’s optimism.

“Most of the defense is back, so it’s not like we have to start over,” Thomas said. “I am feeling good about this. Everyone knows their responsibilities by now.”

Also back on defense are strong safety Matt Malloy and his younger brother, Ryan. Matt was second team All-SWC in 2009 and led the Comets in interceptions with three, while finishing second with 112 tackles (82 solo). Ryan, a defensive end and an All-Lorain County pick (as was Matt) totaled 61 tackles and was second on the club with five sacks.

Bobby Szucs (six sacks in ’09), Zac Papay and Jacob Pena complete the veteran defensive line. The cornerbacks, David Purcell and Robby Jancsura, are also returning starters. Newcomers expected to start on defense are linebackers Andy Dito and Billy Ressler and safety Joe Beno.

The offense will miss Andrew Basinski, the first-team all-conference quarterback who completed 62 percent of his passes (141-of-229) for 1,586 yards and seven touchdowns and gained a team-leading 550 yards (3.9 yards a carry) with 11 touchdowns. Replacing him will be junior Brennan Hosier (5-of-9 passing, 42 yards in ’09). Jason Stump was All-SWC at wide receiver after catching 24 passes for 392 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 471 yards on 66 attempts (7.1 yards a carry) and four TDs. Zach Kelley gained 204 yards on 40 carries (5.1 a carry) as a sophomore. Brad Block had 37 receptions and 412 yards in seven games last season. Also in the receiving corps are tight end Adam Herbert, who is getting his shot after backing up all-conference player Scott Ferris (41 receptions for 444 yards), and wide receivers Tyler Parrish and Jeremy Sanchez, who combined for seven catches and 82 yards last year.

As for the interior line, all five starters from 2009 graduated. Fell indicated the surefire starters are senior Ryan Ritter at center and sophomore Gino Cioffi (6-foot-4, 271 pounds) at tackle. The others in that starting group will likely be guards Jimmy Malloy (Matt’s twin) and junior Alex Bookshar and tackle Alex Rodriguez.

“I think this will be one of our better teams,” Fell said. “Last year we were quite young. We actually were surprised by how well we did. We were battling to the end. This season will see a better SWC than last season, but we have a bit more experience so we expect a bit more out of our team.”

More high school football previews

Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.