Graduation can be cruel.
After going 14-6 the last two seasons, and barely missing out on the playoffs both times, North Olmsted will need to look to a wealth of new faces to keep that momentum going. The program welcomes in 38 new players and will need to replace a total of 13 starters from its 2013 squad.
“For a bunch of the new kids stepping up, it’s going to take some time,” said senior linebacker Jake Jones. “Every day we’re getting better and they’re learning. Assignments are getting better. We’ve played well in our scrimmages and we’re getting better every day.”
North Olmsted loses its entire offensive line for 2013 and most of the defensive front. The only returning starter in the defensive front six — North Olmsted plays five defensive backs — is Jones, who will shoulder the responsibility of leading the defense.
He is a strong choice, at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds with three years of varsity experience under his belt. Jones recorded 102 tackles in 2013, with four sacks and three caused fumbles.
“I love the fact that I’m going to be able to run the defense this year and be the leader,” Jones said. “I think we just need aggressive people. The front six needs to be aggressive, play fast and pursue the ball.”
One such aggressive person is Brian Ham, who is a senior linebacker at 6-1, 185 pounds. Coach Tim Brediger thinks he will play a crucial role on defense and Jones praised Ham’s ability to bring pressure off the edge.
Over on offense, seven guys are battling for the five open spots on the line: juniors Tyler Digges, Phil Pyros, Jack Lowry, Owen Johnston and Spiros Rommell along with seniors Abdul Jaber and Andrew Rigda. Brediger said the unit is starting to gel together in practice.
“I’d have to say the line has been doing pretty good in practice,” said senior wide receiver Matt Starcovic. “If they just keep doing their assignments and knocking people down, we’re going to be looking really good.”
Starcovic is one of the many strong returning skilled position players for the Eagles. Joining him is senior running back Ben Kurcsak. The 5-10, 190-pound back brings three years of varsity experience to the table and is coming off a season where he accounted for 1,500 total yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns, which earned him first-team All-Southwestern Conference honors.
Junior wide receivers Kyle Wapshott and Ryan Coleman also add depth to the passing attack, with Coleman starting both ways as a sophomore in 2013.
“Ryan is unique in that he has great liner speed, but is also hard to bring down,” Brediger said. “In our scrimmages he’s really stood out as far as being physical after catching the football. With him and Matt Starcovic we feel we can really spread the field.”
North Olmsted will also have to find a replacement for three-year starting quarterback Brad Novak — who went 19-11 over the last three seasons. Brediger said the competition is down to junior Christian Ammons and sophomore Brandon Maximovich. Ammons has minimal varsity experience while Maximovich played on the freshman team last year, which could give Ammons the edge.
“They are both putting a ton of time in,” Brediger said. “They’re both natural throwers and get rid of the ball very quickly. Christian is a year older and has been in our offense longer. They’ve competed well and are buddies, so it’s not a negative thing. They know that they’ll both probably see some time during the year.”
The strongest point of the Eagles’ defense is likely going to be the secondary, highlighted again by the foursome of Kurcsak, Starcovic, Wapshott and Coleman — Kurcsak and Wapshott at the corners with Starcovic and Coleman at safety.
“We have a lot of talent in the secondary,” Kurcsak said. “We have a lot of experience. We’ve been playing together since the sixth grade team. We trust each other. We know what we’re going to do.”
Contact Chris Sweeney at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
North Olmsted Eagles
2013 RECORD: 7-3 (3-3 SWC)
COACH: Tim Brediger, 2nd year, 7-3
RETURNING LETTERMEN: 15
RETURNING STARTERS: 9 (4 offense, 5 defense)
PLAYOFF APPEARANCES: 1
LAST TIME IN PLAYOFFS: 2005
NUMBERS GAME: 38 … Number of new kids in North Olmsted’s football program.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Ben Kurcsak. With 1,500 total yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns, this versatile senior will not only be a focal point in North Olmsted’s offense, but likely be asked to cover the opposing team’s top wide receiver on defense.
Aug. 29 Valley Forge
Sept. 5 at Lakewood
Sept. 12 North Ridgeville
Sept. 19 Westlake*
Sept. 26 at Brecksville*
Oct. 3 Bay
Oct. 10 at Berea-Midpark*
Oct. 17 at Amherst*
Oct. 24 Avon Lake*
Oct. 31 at Olmsted Falls*
*Southwestern Conference game
All games at 7 p.m.