ELYRIA — Tracy Sprinkle has taken his record-setting 19 sacks to Ohio State, the offensive line has to be rebuilt and 136 receptions, 1,843 yards and 19 touchdowns from the four seniors on last year’s corps of wideouts must be replaced.
So, of course, Elyria coach Kevin Fell expects big things.
“I think we’re ready to have one of our better football teams,” he said.
Even with the departure of Sprinkle, last year’s Lorain County Golden Helmet winner, and a veteran group of offensive linemen and receivers, Fell figures he’s got players ready to step in. After all, Fell, who has 35 years as a head coach on his resume, has been able to develop depth the past two years by playing a lot of kids.
“Defensively, we may not, man-to-man, be as talented as maybe we’ve been the last year or so, but I think this will be our best overall defense,” he said. “These are 11 kids — or maybe 17 or 18 kids — that will be in the right place at the right time and make the right plays.”
That starts with senior linebacker Connor Kamczyc who, like Sprinkle, earned All-Ohio honors last year after racking up a team-leading 161 tackles to go with nine sacks.
“Tracy was a big help on defense last year,” said Kamczyc, who is getting looks from Toledo and Penn. “He was a big part of it, but this is my senior season and I want to make the most out of it. We’ve worked hard in the offseason. The goal is to make the playoffs.”
“Yes sir,” added captain and senior cornerback Zach Robinson when asked about the goals Kamczyc mentioned. “We want to finish with a better record than we had last year.”
“At Elyria, we’re a big high school and we have a lot of skilled kids,” Fell said. “We have our wideout positions and we don’t seem to have any trouble filling those spots. We have kids waiting to play. We’ve got guys we can plug in year after year offensively.”
Fell knows he has two outstanding backs returning in seniors Jumarr Lewis and Jordan Connell, who combined to rush for 1,750 yards and 31 touchdowns. In addition to running the football, both are dangerous returning kicks and punts and both can catch the ball out of the backfield.
Junior Hunter Parsh, who was just a yard shy of 2,000 passing, returns at quarterback.
“We have a quarterback with a year’s worth of experience and actually three years in the system, and two running backs that would be good in any offense,” Fell said.
“We’re focusing one game at a time for the whole season,” said Connell, who also handles Elyria’s punting duties, averaging nearly 40 yards last year. “We have so much talent. We’re going to be a good team.”
“The only question mark we have is our offensive line,” Fell said. “But we have maybe one of the best offensive linemen we’ve had here in years in Darius Badford and we have a promising junior in Seth Billings. Everyone else is brand new.”
Finding the personnel to fill those holes is up to Steve Hamilton, a veteran offensive line coach.
“He’s definitely had some challenges the last couple years,” Fell said of Hamilton, who had to rebuild the line two years ago, too.
Elyria was one win from qualifying for the postseason the past two years and Fell wants to find a way to get there for only the second time in school history.
“One thing that would really help us,” he said, “is if we could win Game 10. We’ve struggled — not just the last two years — but my last six years I’ve lost Game 10. I think five of those put us out of the playoffs.
“One thing you can say about this team: We’re out of excuses. We can’t blame fate and everything else that’s happened to us. It’s time to shut up and play.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CONFERENCE: Northeast Ohio, River Division
2012 RECORD: 7-3, 3-2
COACH: Kevin Fell, 3rd year (14-6 at EHS, 251-119-2 in 35 years overall)
RETURNING LETTERMEN: 14
RETURNING STARTERS: 10
FAST FACT: This is the 87th season at venerable Ely Stadium for Elyria, which is 572-446-49 in 120 years of football, beginning in 1893.
Aug. 30 at Amherst
Sept. 6 at Elyria Catholic
Sept. 13 Midview
Sept. 20 Valley Forge*
Sept. 27 Mayfield*
Oct. 4 at Brunswick*
Oct. 11 at North Royalton*
Oct. 18 Shaker Heights*
Oct. 25 at Stow*
Nov. 1 Medina*
All games at 7 p.m.
* Northeast Ohio Conference game