Mentor Lake Catholic eying fifth straight postseason despite tough road ahead

Image

Mentor Lake Catholic Cougars

Lake Catholic took its lumps in the regular season last year against a formidable schedule finishing 6-4.

But the Cougars were battle-tested come playoff time and reached the state semifinals bowing out to state runner-up Newark Licking Valley 27-21 to finish the 2007 campaign 9-5.



PLAYERS TO WATCH

RB/DB Randy Greenwood (6-0, 180, Sr.), LB/RB Darin Nulick (6-3, 215, Sr.), QB/S Matt Lender (5-10, 170, Sr.), TE/LB Tim Erjavec (6-2, 215, Sr.), TB Matt Bryan (5-7, 165, Sr.)

SEASON OUTLOOK

There is a lot to be said for playing a tough regular season schedule and Mentor Lake Catholic is a testament to just that.

Lake Catholic took its lumps in the regular season last year against a formidable schedule finishing 6-4.

But the Cougars were battle-tested come playoff time and reached the state semifinals bowing out to state runner-up Newark Licking Valley 27-21 to finish the 2007 campaign 9-5.

“Our regular season didn’t go as we hoped but well enough to get us a first round home game,” head coach Mike Bell said. “I really feel the team gelled and came together through those four weeks in our playoff run.

“There were a couple of times where we had to put together some late-game drives to go ahead or tie it up and we were able to do that stuff. I think that just shows the guts and the determination that the young men on the team had.”

With three state titles in hand (1991, 92, 2001), Lake Catholic is hoping that trial by fire and extra postseason experience will lead them to their annual goals.

“We want to win the league, we want to make the playoffs and we want to win a state title. If we can go undefeated doing all those things, that is even better,” Bell laughed.

Leading the pack this season for the Cougars is Greenwood, who earned all-state special mention recognition last year with 1,107 yards rushing on 186 carries and 16 touchdowns. He also reeled in 23 catches for 300 yards and four touchdowns. On defense, Greenwood had 40 tackles, four interceptions and 13 pass break-ups not to mention 611 return yards on special teams.

“He certainly does just about everything for us – from punting to quarterback to receiver to running back to defensive back,” Bell said. “He is a very talented, very athletic young man and very exciting to watch.

“We’re expecting him to be a leader and to take over games and help us win. He’s got to be good out of the box Week 1 – immediately.”

Greenwood, who is ranked No. 85 amongst the top seniors in the state by Ohio High magazine, is hearing from the likes of Cincinnati, Iowa, Northwestern, Penn State, Pittsburgh and Midwest Athletic Conference schools. He is being recruited at the defensive back and wide receiver positions, according to Bell.

Nulick is another dynamic player for Lake Catholic filling in several positions on both sides of the ball.

“(He) was very versatile for us last year,” said Bell. “He’s extremely athletic which allows him to do several things and allows us to use him in many different ways.

“When we put him in the backfield with Randy, he runs pretty well and when we line him up in the slot he catches the ball pretty well. He is a talented young man and we’re expecting things out of him as well.”

Lender took over in Week 6 last season following an Alex Kurowski knee injury and threw for over 1,000 yards with five touchdowns and eight interceptions.

“I really thought Matt stepped in and did a great job. You’re going to have to be pretty decent at that spot to get to Week 14 of the playoffs,” said Bell. “I think he did a really great job for us and also filled the void for us that Alex left at safety, too. He’s been a great leader for us in the off-season and is a very bright and intelligent young man.”

Tackle to tackle, MLC started all seniors last year so the Cougars will have a new look in the trenches this season on offense. Erjavec on the end is the only player returning up front with significant experience.

The defensive line was decimated by graduation as well.

“I think we’ve got young men in our program that can fill those voids but they have limited playing time and experience,” Bell said.

Like in years past, Lake Catholic faces another tough schedule this fall, which includes two state runner-up teams from a year ago.

“There really is no break on our schedule at all. We’ve really got to play our ‘A’ game every single week,” Bell said. “I think our non-league schedule is as challenging as anyone’s in the state and I think the North Coast League is more competitive than it has ever been. We’ve got to be ready to go – no question about it.

“My belief is that kind of schedule gets our young men prepared for those kinds of games week-to-week,” he added. “For the teams that don’t have that kind of schedule, they can get to the playoffs and win a game here and a game there but it makes it more challenging for those teams put those types of performances back-to-back.”

SCHEDULE

8-23 Euclid

8-29 Benedictine

9-6 Youngstown Ursuline

9-12 at Walsh Jesuit

9-19 Youngstown Cardinal Mooney

9-27 Padua Franciscan

10-4 at Parma Height Holy Name

10-9 at Akron Hoban

10-17 at Chardon Notre Dame Cathedral Latin

10-24 Bedford St. Peter Chanel

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *