LaSalle finished 5-5 last season against a brutal schedule and the Lancers are confident in improving upon that mark despite losing some talented players to graduation.
Cincinnati LaSalle (5-5)
PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB/FS Ricky Steele (5-9, 170, Sr.), RB Tim Edmond (5-11, 220, Sr.), WR Eric Watson (5-11, 160, Sr.), LB Ryan Luggen (5-11, 205, Sr.), S Thomas Kent (5-9, 160, Sr.)
After close losses a year ago kept them from playoff action, the LaSalle Lancers led by Steele and Edmond seek to gain on state champion St. Xavier in the always tough Greater Catholic League South.
After a tough season that included close losses to Indianapolis (Ind.) Cathedral, Cincinnati Moeller and Cleveland St. Ignatius keeping them out of the playoffs, this year’s LaSalle squad looks to rebound in a big way.
Quarterback and all-around versatile athlete Ricky Steele will lead the way after playing cornerback a year ago. Steele, a Bowling Green recruit, should give defenses much to handle with his scrambling ability and arm.
Tom Grippa returns for his fifth season as head coach of the Lancers and he is confident that Steele and Edmond can lead the offense.
“We’re hoping he gets 10-20 carries a game,” Grippa said of Edmond. “We need Tim to have a great year, I’m hoping he’s a 1,000 yard rusher.”
Edmond played well last season, racking up 321 yards to go with three touchdowns as a backup to departed starter and 1,000 yard rusher Kendall Owens. His breakout game was against Covington (Ky.) Catholic when Edmond racked up 112 yards on 12 carries and two scores.
Receiver Eric Watson will be Steele’s primary target to offset Ohio State recruit DeVier Posey’s departure. Watson had 20 catches for 290 yards last season.
The defense will have its work cut out for them after end Chandler Burden, last season’s team leader with nine sacks, and linebacker J.K. Schaffer both graduated.
“They have big shoes to fill,” Grippa said. “They have a legacy to uphold.”
Luggen, third on the team with 27 tackles last year, along with Kent will be counted on to stop the potent running attacks in the Division.
Grippa feels up-and-coming junior Keenen Gibbs can also be a difference maker on defense.
“Keenen wants to play like Chandler (Burden) and Ben Martin from a couple years ago.” Grippa said.
With Winton Woods as their opener at Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium and their trip to play Cedar Hills (Texas) at Texas Stadium, LaSalle is not going to get any breaks early.
“We’re excited to take the Texas trip,” Grippa said. “It’s a tough schedule and that’s what we want.”
Their season schedule will be one of Ohio’s toughest with St. Xavier, Cincinnati Elder, and Moeller in the league. Non-league games include Henry Clay (Ky.) and Dayton Thurgood Marshall at home with Cleveland St. Ignatius and St. Francis DeSales on the road.
Keys to success at the start of this season will depend on how Steele directs the offense and if the defense will hold up against the run. The turnover battle should also play a big part.
“We have to protect the football and can’t be a turnover team,” Grippa said. “We have to work on creating turnovers.”
Grippa has emphasized team play over the course of his time at LaSalle. So much that his players have bought in to a unique sports leadership program, which rewards selflessness and team play over focus on the individual.
“The kids have embraced virtue-based coaching,” Grippa said of the program. “Don’t go on how you feel or just what feels good. We hope it leads to improved play.”
After coaching Elder up until the mid-‘90’s and at Fairfield, Grippa knows what it takes to succeed against the big schools in the state.
“It’s not about the name on the back of the jersey,” Grippa said. “But the name on the front of the jersey that you play for.”
8/22 Winton Woods, 5:30 p.m. (Crosstown Showdown at University of Cincinnati Nippert Stadium)
8/30 Cedar Hills, Texas, 2:30 p.m. (Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge at Texas Stadium in Dallas)
9/5 at Lakota East
9/12 at Elder
9/19 Henry Clay (Ky.)
9/26 Cincinnati Moeller
10/3 Cincinnati St. Xavier
10/10 at Cleveland St. Ignatius
10/17 at St. Francis DeSales
10/24 Dayton Thurgood Marshall