October 1, 2014

Elyria
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High school football: Amherst ready to return to winning ways

AMHERST — Amherst is hoping to bring its football program back to where it was just a few years ago, perennially contending for the Southwestern Conference crown.

The Comets have a plan in place to accomplish the goal.

“‘Comet Pride’ is our motto … we say it every break, and it isn’t about just saying the words,” senior fullback/linebacker Derek Eibon said. “We feel that. We want to take our place in the Comet tradition.”

Senior offensive lineman Matt Gross feels the same way.

“Comet Pride is about winning,” he said. “That’s what we expect and that’s what everyone that has come through this program expects. Winning is what it’s all about.”

Head coach Chad DiFranco just wants to see his team get better … looking for consistent improvement and realizing the wins will take care of themselves.

“Every time we come out on the practice field our expectation is to get better,” he said. “We’ve been preaching ‘team, family, finish’ and figuring out how we can get better each and every day. Our expectation is when we have our first scrimmage we are better than we were when we started, and when we have our first game we’re ready to roll.”

The Comets looked to a former rival to help get things turned around. After winning three games during the last two seasons, Amherst went to former Avon Lake and Ohio State linebacker Mike D’Andrea at his TRAQ Performance Institute in Avon.

D’Andrea’s T3 Performance program — an individualized training regimen — has the Comets ready for the 2013 season.

“We had a high participation rate in the winter and did TRAQ-3, which helped out with our footwork and our strength,” Eibon said.

“We really look good … a lot stronger than we have been and definitely a lot quicker.”
Gross agrees.

“The T3 training gave us better footwork, it gave us different lifts and I think it improved every aspect of our game,” he said.

DiFranco thinks the program helped with more than just the physical gains his players made.

“TRAQ-3 has helped our team because it brought us together as a family in the offseason,” he said. “The team has worked really hard together and it has developed a good chemistry. It has also helped improve our overall athleticism as a team.”

The Comets will have to be vastly improved if they hope to turn around last season’s 2-8 record that included a five-loss finish. They open at Elyria before a home tilt with Midview and a road game at Clearview.

Then they begin Southwestern Conference play.

“The Southwestern Conference is one of the best around … one of the best in Ohio,” DiFranco said. “On top of that we open with Elyria, play Midview and then Clearview.
That’s two playoff teams last year and one that was playoff-caliber.

“I would put our schedule up against anybody’s and in order to have the success we want, we have to do the little things and come out of the gate strong. We’ve had an
excellent camp and offseason, so I feel really good about it.”

The Comets struggled on defense last season. They gave up 341 points (34.1 per game), including 63 points at home to Elyria in the season opener.

DiFranco has a goal for his defense this season … make teams throw the ball.

“Defensively we’re going to stop the run and control the pass,” he said. “Even though we play a lot of spread teams and teams that throw the ball 60 times a game, you have to stop the run. You have to take something away. We’ll look to run the ball on offense and stop the other team from running the football on defense. If we can do that, we’ll have a chance to be successful.”

When the Comets have the ball they will look to move the chains on the ground.

“We live in Northeast Ohio, and if you are going to win consistently here my belief is that you are going to have to run the football,” DiFranco said. “We’ll be a multiple-formation offense that is going to run the ball. We’re going to look at our opponent and figure out how we’re going to be able to run against them and set up our play-action passing.

“We want a ball-control offense that will move the chains and keep the defense off the field.”

Amherst has several options when it comes to running the ball.

Eibon was the starting fullback last season while Jacob Schirrada, Logan Mahar, Donte Dower and Brian Scheuneman will all see significant carries this season.

“I feel very good about our running back situation,” DiFranco said. “We have a lot of guys that can make plays for us and we’re pretty deep at both positions.”

Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.