“Football is a funny sport,” North Olmsted coach Mike Ptacek said. “You never know what’s going to happen from one year to the next, or even one game to the next. You prepare and you hope things go your way.”
When Ptacek said “funny,” he meant peculiar rather than humorous. One thing that was no laughing matter was the recent defeat of a school levy, which forced North Olmsted into the ranks of the pay-to-play schools. And it’s no consolation to know the Eagles are not the only team in that unenviable situation.
“It’s our first year facing it, and we will deal with it,” Ptacek said. “Depth is down, but we have 60 kids who want to play. We have a lot of good kids. The kids feel good about themselves.”
Maybe the reason the Eagles feel that way is because they won the final four games in 2009, including a 14-6 victory over archrival Olmsted Falls on the last Friday night of the season. North Olmsted went 7-3 and 5-2 in the Southwestern Conference, good for a three-way tie for second place.
“You can’t look at last year and say, ‘We won our last four games, so it will carry over to this year,’” Ptacek said. “You’d like it to carry over. You work to make it happen, playing unselfish football and tough, hard-nosed football.”
The toughness will have to be on both sides of the ball. North Olmsted could have as many as eight two-way starters.
“We have only a handful of starters returning,” Ptacek said. “Our athletes will have to grow quickly to compete in the SWC.”
And it might help the Eagles to remember that they could have shared the SWC championship with Avon Lake had it not been for a 10-7 upset loss to Westlake in Week 6.
“We started to get rolling after the Westlake game,” said Mike Shoemaker, who returns to his starting quarterback position. “It’s going pretty well for us right now. We’re not worried. We believe we’re ready to start the season.
“I see this year as being a lot like last year. We have a strong corps of seniors, just like last year, and that always helps.”
Probably the strongest of that group is Casey Jones, who landed on the All-SWC first team in 2009 at guard. Jones, a 6-3, 240-pounder who will also start at inside linebacker this season, is confident the Eagles will take care of business.
“Our senior class has always been a confident group,” Jones said. “I think we are one of the better senior classes in the conference. We have a good group of returning starters on offense. On defense, we have four core guys. Put six or seven other guys around them and they feed off that leadership.
“I think we’ll have a good year. I know every team says that now, but I feel differently about this team. This is the best I have felt in three years on the varsity. There’s something here.”
Also back on the offensive line this season are guard Dan Hitch and center Tom Piscitello. Joining them are new starting tackles Pat Moran and Trevor Winston, with Gabe Wiles and William Weppler as backups.
Shoemaker and two starting running backs return. Shoemaker completed 73 of 137 passes for 884 yards in ‘09, but threw just one touchdown. His top returning receiver is Alec Neundorfer, who had 10 catches for 80 yards last season.
The running backs are Marc Remy and Joe Lumpkin. Remy rushed for 533 yards (9.19 a carry) and four touchdowns in 2009 almost half of those yards came in a 238-yard effort against Berea. Lumpkin gained 307 yards (3.7 per carry) and scored a team-leading six touchdowns a season ago. Shamir Tomlinson, a junior, is also expected to see time in the backfield.
The receivers will be new starters. Neundorfer, Mike Gessner, Greg Bokisa and Matt Taylor are the wide recievers. Walter Mitchell, Drake Savage and Brian Kozlak are vying for the regular tight end job.
Wiles (nose tackle), Mitchell (outside linebacker) and Gessner (safety) are the returning starters for the 5-2 base defense. Winston and Hitch will be the other tackles, with Moran and Weppler behind, while Kozlak and Savage battle for the other outside linebacker assignment.
Jones and Lumpkin are the projected starters at inside linebacker, with Marc Helderman backing up. Taylor will be the other safety, with Neundorfer, Tomlinson and Brian Brunner competing for the cornerback positions. Remy and Bokisa are the reserve defensive backs.
More high school football previews
- Elyria ready to chase playoffs
- EC has plenty to be excited about
- Midview has depth, confidence, too
- Rangers staying hungry
- Keystone counting on defense
- Wellington plans to throw more
- Avon Lake needs a runner
- Amherst expects to be even better this year
- Oberlin staying positive despite heavy graduation losses
- Lorain has high hopes for Titans
- Clippers feel new guys are prepared
- Columbia thinks this season could be a special one
- Brookside’s comfort level rising
- Are Sailors on the way back up?
- Olmsted Falls relying on excellent senior class
- Firelands’ focus on present, not future
- Avon looks to return to playoffs
- Pay-to-pay hasn’t derailed North Olmsted’s optimism
- Black River loaded with talent
- Lutheran West hoping to stay healthy this season
- Coach thinks Westlake will have big year