Bell will cushion loss of Leetsma as Start looks to deploy potent offense

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Toledo Start Bulldogs

Start must replace QB Brad Leestma, who threw for
6,497 yards and 51 touchdowns in three seasons. He set
nearly every passing record in Toledo City League history before
graduating.

“The Spartans need to replace the best signalcaller
in school history,” said coach Pat Gucciardo. “The rest of the offense returns six
starters and should be very effective in executing our ‘Fun-and-Gun
Offense.’


PLAYERS TO WATCH

TB Troy Bell (5-8, 170, Sr.), LB Terry Mitchell (5-11, 195, Sr.), DE Danny Wood (6-0, 210, Sr.), LB Deonte Fuller (5-11, 230, Sr.), WR Devan Stafford (6-2, 185, Jr.), WR Devin Price (5-11, 165, Jr.).

SEASON OUTLOOK

2007 Record: 6-4

The Spartans must replace record-setting QB Brad Leestma, who threw for 6,497 yards and 51 touchdowns in three seasons as the starter. He set nearly every passing record in Toledo City League history before graduating.

“First and foremost, the Spartans need to replace the best signalcaller in school history,” said coach Pat Gucciardo, who begins his seventh season as the Start head coach. “The rest of the offense returns six starters and should be very effective in executing our ‘Fun-and-Gun Offense.’

“Our defense should be the team’s anchor this year as it also returns six starters. We should be much bigger and much more physical than last year’s team.”

The new quarterback will have the benefit of handing the ball off to Bell. Bell earned first-team All-Toledo City League honors by rushing for 1,409 yards on 209 carries (6.9 average) and scoring 12 touchdowns.

“Troy is on pace to break the career rushing record at Start,” Gucciardo said. “He currently has 1,548 yards in his career.”

Mitchell and Fuller were each All-City League picks at linebacker last year. Stafford and Price seem to be the best bets to step in at the wide receiver spots as juniors.

“I feel comfortable about our returning defensive personnel along with some newcomers,” Gucciardo said. “We must be extremely consistent on offense and find a quarterback to replace Brad.”

Gucciardo, 32-32 in six years at Start, and his staff are nine wins away from becoming the winningest coach in school history. The school opened in 1962.

As for key games, Start will host Youngstown Boardman in Week 2. The demanding Toledo City League also includes games at Whitmer and St. John’s and at home against Central Catholic.

“We lost to Whitmer 35-34 in overtime last year,” Gucciardo said. “That is probably the game that kept us out of the playoffs. It would have been Start’s first playoff appearance in school history.”

Start ended up 14th in the Division I Region 2 playoff standings. The Spartans then defeated Oregon Clay 28-20 in the City League playoff game following the regular season to end up 7-4.

SCHEDULE

Aug. 22 at Lorain Admiral King, 7 p.m.
Aug. 29 Youngstown Boardman, 7 p.m.
Sept. 5 at Sylvania Southview
Sept. 12 at Toledo Whitmer, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 Toledo Bowsher, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 Toledo Central Catholic, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 at Toledo Woodward, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 11 at Toledo Libbey, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 17 at Toledo St. John’s, 7 p.m.
Oct. 24 Toledo Scott, 7 p.m.

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