July 31, 2014

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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL 2010: Falls relying on excellent senior class

OLMSTED FALLS — There is an excellent senior class at Olm­sted Falls this season, making the Bulldogs a strong contender to win their first Southwestern Conference title since 2002.

There are 28 seniors on the Olmsted Falls roster, including two All-SWC first-team choices. Bill Budosh, an all-conference guard, and Jeremy Ortiz, who got the honor at running back, return to help the ’Dogs try to reach the summit, improve on last year’s 6-4 record and possi­bly get a postseason berth.

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It is a good thing the senior class is strong, because Olm­sted Falls is going to get scant help from non-starters in the junior class. Only 13 members of the Class of 2012 are on this year’s edition of the Bulldogs.

“It means lots of sopho­mores are going to have to step up in backup roles that nor­mally would go to juniors,” said coach Jim Ryan.

Ryan could give no reason for the shortage of juniors on the team, saying “it was just one of those things.”

There are 22 sophomores on the team.

“We need to stay healthy,” Ryan said. “That’s one key. We are not as deep as we have been in the past.”

In the meantime, Olmsted Falls looks solid. Seven starters come back on offense. Ortiz rushed for 919 yards (5.77 per carry) and nine touchdowns in ’09. The offensive line returns four starters, led by Budosh (6-foot-3, 317 pounds), tackles Tyler Newton (6-5, 306) and Jordan Bohlen, and guard Ben Coyle. Khoury Lewis and Nolan Brandt, both juniors, are vying for the job at center. Ian Martney (6-3, 281) gives the starters a breather.

“We have good experience back on the offensive line,” Ryan said. “Our running back returns after a good year. We have to find wide receivers — kids who can block and catch the ball.”

Brennan Laird, another junior, returns at quarterback. In five games last year, before an injury put him on the sideline for the second half of the season, Laird completed 36 of 63 passes (57.1 percent) for 440 yards and three touchdowns. Nate Ferster, a junior who took over for Laird, will likely be one starting wide receiver. Connor Cantrell is back at tight end. Denton Sagerman will likely take the fullback position. Zack Ferster, Brian Pongallo, Zach Stevens and Chris Clark are going after the other wide receiver job. Backups who will see ample time on the field are Eric Meehan at tight end and Alan Binggeli at running back.

Three starters come back on defense. Bohlen, who led the Bulldogs with seven tackles for loss in 2009, returns at a tackle spot. Sagerman, second on the team with 90 tackles, is back at linebacker. Zack Ferster, tops on the team with 10 passes defensed, returns at cornerback.

Competing for the other starting spots on defense are Cantrell, Nick Bockmore and Evan Rieke at linebacker, Coyle, Brandt, Jacob Hodge and Mike Sauvey on the line, Michael Atkinson and Nate Ferster at cornerback, Binggeli, Alex Kobasic and Matt Sokol at strong safety, and Laird and Ortiz at free safety.

One thing that might motivate Olmsted Falls is the way the 2009 season ended. The Bulldogs were 6-2 and in first place going into Week 9. A victory over one of the final two opponents, Amherst or North Olmsted, would have secured a playoff spot.

Olmsted Falls lost both games. The Bulldogs couldn’t stop Amherst from fashioning an 89-yard, 12-play drive for a touchdown with 34 seconds left in a 17-16 Comets victory. The next week, Olmsted Falls dropped a 14-6 decision to archrival North Olmsted.

The losses left Olmsted Falls No. 9 in the Region 6 computer rankings, one spot out of the playoffs.

The loss on the final Friday night gave the SWC title to Avon Lake, a team the Bulldogs downed in Week 4, and left Olmsted Falls in a three-way tie for second with Amherst and North Olmsted.

“It stuck with us,” said Bohlen, one of this year’s cocaptains. “When that last whistle blew, it left us with a bad taste. We were determined to come back stronger this season, start preparing right away and build a better team.”

“We have to win each play,” added Coyne, also a co-captain. “If you win most of the plays you will win most of the games. We see how important it is now.”

The roughest part of the schedule is the beginning.

All three non-conference foes — Padua, Highland and Mayfield — reached the playoffs and had a combined record of 22-8 in 2009.

The conference opener is against Avon Lake, also a playoff team last season.

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Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7315 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.