Walsh Jesuit reached the regional semifinals last season against a brutal schedule before being upset by Region 9 surprise Cortland Lakeview. The Warriors lose some key players from last year’s team but return a good core of players to build on last year’s success and will contend for the region title.
Walsh Jesuit 2007 Record: 9-2
PLAYERS TO WATCH
OL/DL Pat McShane (6-5, 285, Sr.), RB/DB Armand Dehaney (5-8, 180, Sr.), OL/DL Brian Smith (6-8, 280, Sr.), QB Kyle Snyder (5-11, 180, Sr.), LB Jon Haught (5-11, 220, Sr.), OL/DL A.J. Rosati (6-0, 285, Sr.), OL/DL Evan Stanger (6-1, 250, Sr.), TE/DE Matt Redmond (6-3, 220, Sr.), LB Mitch Supan (6-0, 215, Sr.), RB/SS Cameron Ontko (6-0, 210, Jr.).
Walsh Jesuit reached the regional semifinals last season following a brutal regular season schedule before being upset by Region 9 surprise Cortland Lakeview.
The Warriors lose some key players from last year’s team but return a good core of talent to build on last year’s success.
“We have a lot of work to do but we have some promising scenarios,” said head coach Gerry Rardin, who enters his 28th season at Walsh Jesuit.
Experience on the offensive and defensive lines will be a strength early on. McShane is an Indiana recruit and Smith has a scholarship offer to Northwestern.
“(McShane) is a very athletic, aggressive big man,” said Rardin. “He is big but he is trim. It is his aggressiveness that makes him stand out.
“We’re really anxious to get (Smith) on the field,” he added. “His development has been outstanding and he moves well. He is going to get a great opportunity this year and we are really excited about his progress.”
That size up front on offense will be critical for opening the holes for Ontko out of the backfield. He boasts 4.5 speed and rushed for 1,000 yards in five games as a sophomore last year before getting sick with mononucleosis.
“He is probably the fastest kid on the team and if he can stay healthy Cameron is a just a great, great tailback. We really missed him the second half of the season,” said Rardin.
He will share the ball toting duties with Dehaney, who filled in last year after Ontko got sick.
He issued a verbal commitment to Ball State in late July.
“(Dehaney) will be running out of the backfield some this year and he will be a wide receiver,” Rardin explained.
Snyder returns under center after throwing for 1,000 yards and rushing for 1,000 more.
“The kid is very versatile,” Rardin said of his signal caller. “With a year of experience under his belt, we are looking for big things from Kyle. He’s just an intense leader and that is why he’s been voted captain and that’s what makes him so good – his intensity. He brings a lot to the field.”
Rardin is optimistic in the potential tight end/defensive end Redmond has.
“I think he’s going to be darn good. He’s got the size to play in tight yet we can split him out wide and he can be very effective there, too,” said Rardin.
On defense, Haught is the leader but the there are holes that need to be filled around him at the linebacker positions and in the secondary. Suppan played well last year and has the early nod at inside linebacker but the outside position is wide open, according to Rardin.
“We’ve got a handful of seniors and a couple under classmen that could fill in and do well,” he said.
Ontko is one of those candidates.
Dehaney is solid at the corner position and Rardin said there are several other seniors who are working at the safety and corner positions that look promising.
Special teams are a concern for the veteran coach coming into the 2008 campaign.
“We lost three great kickers last year that split up the kicking duties, so we’ve got to replace three good ones,” he said. “We’ve got a handful of kids from the soccer team trying out and a handful of our kids trying out so we will see how successful our kicking is.”
As usual, Walsh faces a meat grinder of a schedule with some of the top teams on the state on the docket.
The Warriors open the season against 2007 Division III state runner-up Newark Licking Valley on the road.
“That is a great opener,” an excited Rardin said. “That is going to be a heck of a challenge. They’ve got a great football team and you can tell they are coached well. From what I hear, they are pretty tough (at home) and we have our work cut for us.”
D-III state semifinalist Mentor Lake Catholic visits the Walsh Week 4. The Warriors also face traditional Northeast Ohio foes Akron Hoban, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, Cleveland Benedictine and Warren Harding.
“We’ve got a tough schedule and a lot of challenges ahead,” Rardin said. “We’re playing some of the top programs around the state. We’ve played these kinds of schedules before and we can’t worry about later games. We’ve got to play each game as they come and the kids are going to have to be at the top of their game to be successful.”
Walsh Jesuit has qualified for the postseason 14 times, reached the regional finals eight times, made the state semifinals four times, played in championship game twice and brought home the trophy in 1999.
With the team the Warriors will field this season, Rardin is looking forward to continuing that longstanding success.
“We’re excited about the upcoming year,” he said.
8/22 Newark Licking Valley
8/29 Akron Hoban
9/5 Cuyahoga Falls
9/12 Mentor Lake Catholic
9/19 Parma Padua Franciscan
10/3 Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary
10/10 Cleveland Benedictine (Homecoming)
10/17 Buffalo (N.Y.) Canisius
10/24 Warren G. Harding