To the victors go the spoils. After making three-consecutive appearances in the state championship, winning two and losing one, the Ursuline Irish will be sporting
some new duds this season as they attempt to make it to their fourth
state final in as many years. They still have the same attitude though.
To the victors go the spoils.
After making three-consecutive appearances in the state championship, winning two and losing one, the Ursuline Irish will be sporting some new duds this season as they attempt to make it to their fourth state title encounter in as many years.
Dan Reardon’s squad will be decked out from head to toe, literally, in Under Armour apparel.
“We have a real good situation, we’re one of 57 schools to be a part of their Undeniable program,” Reardon said. “It’s very similar to a college sponsorship contract. There’s certain perks that we get in exchange for wearing their product. It’s really a prestigious thing. From head to toe, we’ll be in Under Armour gear this year and the kids are real excited about it.
“I think it’s a credit to what we’ve been able to do the past few years as a program and where they see our program and what kind of notoriety that we can bring to their product as well.”
Although there’s not any monetary commitment made to the school like there would be at, say, the collegiate level, there is a significant amount of product that’s donated to the school over the life of the contract.
“It involves a set amount of donated product per year,” Reardon said. “And there are things that we can purchase at a very good discount obviously but there was a very significant amount of product donated each season during the course of the contract over three seasons.”
So whether Ursuline makes it to the state title game for the fourth-consecutive season or not, at least they’ll sure look good trying to get there. In Reardon’s seventh season at the helm, the Irish program couldn’t be in any better shape than it is right now.
“I think our kids have done a great job buying into our philosophy,” the coach said. “There were a couple of years when we first got here where we were building our program and we feel like we’re at a level now where our kids understand what we want and what we’re trying to do.
“We’ve had three tremendous senior classes back-to-back-to-back and if you look at our senior class this year it is a very talented class, a lot of them have played a lot of football, and hopefully a year from now I’ll be talking about a fourth senior class that has done tremendous things as far as leadership ability and all those things.
It’s a simple formula for success as far as Reardon is concerned.
“We stress competition every single day in practice,” he said, “and I think our kids know if things aren’t going well, if you keep competing then good things are going to happen.”
And without being affiliated with any conference now, the only real goal on the Irish agenda this year is to make it to the postseason and win another state championship of course.
“I think our senior class would definitely feel like they failed if they haven’t done what we’ve done the past couple of years,” Reardon said. “Sometimes they’re not always fair to kids but I know that that’s their goal, they set it as a team. To win it all, that’s our goal.”
And Reardon certainly doesn’t have any problem with that mandate from his players.
“I’m a big believer in setting goals and I think it’s important to verbalize your goals and I think it’s important to talk about it every day,” he said. “We sure talk about it every day. Our kids break our huddles every day with that. We’re not ashamed to say that that’s our goal now.”
But saying it and actually making it come to fruition are two very different things for certain.
“There’s an awful lot of work that we have to do between now and then,” Reardon said. “But I think the first part of it is setting it as a goal and then trying to do the things every single day in order to be in that position at the end of the year.”
Having someone like third-year starter Paul Kempe under center obviously makes that goal a lot easier.
“I think any time you have a three-year starter at quarterback there’s a certain level of luxury you have as a coaching staff,” Reardon said. “As a sophomore starter, you don’t ask very much of a sophomore starter at quarterback, and he did a very good job for us in his sophomore year. He did what we asked him to do. He took care of the football. He didn’t turn the football over. In fifteen games as a sophomore he threw one interception.
“As a junior we expanded his role. He was much more of a focal point of the offense. His sophomore year he was handing it off a lot and was making a lot of safe, easy throws. Last year we opened it up more with him and I think in the second part of last year he really, really flourished in our offense.
“And coming back a third year, all of those things that you’ve been building on from day one two seasons ago, he knows that stuff. He has great command of the offense at this point in time. It’s to the point where I trust him to check in and out of plays. He knows what we’re trying to accomplish offensively and that is a tremendous luxury.”
Of course Ursuline will have to replace Allen Jones who became the school’s all-time leading rusher last season.
“Allen Jones is the career rushing leader at Ursuline and that is a huge honor,” Reardon said. “There’s been a lot of great running backs come through here and to be the career rushing leader and the career scoring leader speaks volume about him and you don’t just replace somebody like that.”
But the Irish certainly have more than a couple capable candidates to tote the pigskin this season.
“We have some good young guys coming up,” Reardon said. “We have Akise Teague, who is still going to be some receiver and some running back, and we have some other talented guys like juniors Trevor Smith and Jesse Curry but one thing about Allen, I knew every single week that he was going to find the end zone, he was going to run hard and he was going to break tackles and certainly we’re going to miss him this year. But at the same time that provides a challenge for our younger guys to step in and that’s what we need to do.”
Teague had a monster performance for Ursuline in the state title game last season against Coldwater rushing nine times for 112 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught three passes for 19 yards in the game, accounting for 197 total yards of offense.
“Akise will be more of an inside receiver and Jeff Podolsky is more of a slot guy and in our offense those guys move in and out of the backfield,” Reardon said. “And there will be times where Akise will be a true tailback.”
The guys blocking up front will have more size than the group last year.
“This year you’ll see a bigger offensive line than we had last year,” Reardon said. “Last year we three guys under 200 pounds who started and this year we have some bigger guys. Zach Conlan is back, he was an all-state player last year for us. He’s a tremendous football player, he really is. And we have twins Troy and Ty Vasquez-Atkins who are both big guys that have a chance to be really good football players. They just don’t have a lot of game experience this year.”
And freshman signal caller Chris Durkin is the heir-apparent to Kempe.
“He’s our backup quarterback. He’s our number two right now,” Reardon said. “He’s got a chance to be a really good player. He’s a big, tall kid and he has a big arm. The thing about him is that he’s a big, tall kid with ability and he’s coachable. And when you have ability and you’re coachable, the sky’s the limit. You will see him in week one. Expect to see him in the third series of the game getting in there. We’re going to get his feet wet and see what he can do.
“He’s in a good situation. If he does a good job this year, then he’s going to step right in next year and it’s going to be a seamless transition.”
Defensively the Irish are perennially strong and with Smith leading the way from an inside linebacker position, this season should be no exception.
“Trevor is such an active football player and he’s so hard to block,” Reardon said. “He’s so strong. He’s just one of those guys, he’s just always around the football. Him and Jesse Curry, both were sophomore linebackers last year, are going to split time in the backfield this year and they’re both going to be playing linebacker.”
To say that they’re both active on defense is somewhat of an understatement.
“Both of those guys had over 100 tackles last year,” Reardon said. “Both of those guys in the last game they played in the state championship game, Jesse was in on 17 tackles and Trevor was in on 20 tackles and they were sophomores doing that in a big-time game.
“They’re both very similar from a body standpoint, they’re both running backs on offense and they’re both athletic kids that can run and they play with a motor and they’re always around the football. Those kinds of kids are difficult to block on the high school level. So we feel real good about those two kids.”
The D-V Irish have more than a few kids that play on both sides of the ball.
“Akise and Jeff Podolsky will be safeties for us,” Reardon said. “Some of the other kids that will play receiver will be asked to play some corner. Guys like Frank Dundee and Kevin Cylar and Aaron Page are guys we’re real excited about. But we have some holes to fill but we feel like we have some good players and if they keep working hard everyday then we’ll be okay.”
The undersized Podolsky does so many things for Irish. And he does them all well.
“He’s just one of those kids that anything you ask him to do he’s able to do,” Reardon said. “He kicks for us. If we had an emergency he can probably go in and long snap for us, punt, whatever we need him to do. He’s just a very versatile player and he finds a way to do it whether it’s at running back, receiver, safety, corner, linebacker. We feel real good about him. He’s played a lot of different roles for us over the past two years and he’s played a ton of special teams. Again, he’s just a versatile kid and he finds a way to make a play.”
With Podolsky and Kempe, the Irish a very solid kicking game returning.
“Jeff is back and Paul is also a three-year starter as a punter,” Reardon said. “And Troy Robinson is also a very good fundamentally-sound punter and has a chance to be very good. I don’t know that we’ll need him to punt this year but when we do, he’ll be ready.”
All of the ingredients are certainly there for Reardon and the Irish to get to their fourth-straight state title tilt in December.
“We certainly had this has a goal and obviously Ursuline has a tremendous football tradition and football past,” Reardon said. “It’s 10 years now since the first state championship with Coach (Jim) Vivo and when I took the job it was only several years removed from that team. And having coached at Harding and coaching against Ursuline every year, you always knew that Ursuline kids were tough, hard-nose players and you always knew you were going to have a chance (to win) regardless of who you were playing.
“So when I took the job, we certainly had this as our goal but again, setting a goal and actually doing it are sometimes two different things. But I’m real proud of our kids and our coaches, they’ve done a great job, and hopefully we can keep it going another year.”
Reardon, who has a third child on the way that’s due around opening night, is certainly comfortable at Ursuline now.
“I’m very happy here,” said Reardon when asked if he had any ambition beyond Ursuline. “It would have to be a very, very special situation. I think a college situation is always intriguing but it would have to be the right situation. It would have to be a very special situation, let’s put it that way.
“Ursuline is a huge part of my life now. My kids have grown up around the school, this is basically all they know. They’ve grown very close to the players and so has my wife. We live less than five minutes from (YSU’s Stambaugh Stadium) and it’s a real good situation.”
The Two-Time Defending DV State Champion
Ursuline Irish are reloading for a fourth-consecutive chance to play for
a state title in December. Here’s a look at some of Ursuline’s top guns
under Coach Dan Reardon and his staff for the 2010 season. Seniors
Akise Teague and Paul Kempe are expected to play major roles in the
success of the Irish this season.
Photo Gallery: Ursuline Irish –
Ursuline Coaching Staff – 2010
QB Paul Kempe and D-Coordinator Larry Kempe
Paul Kempe and Akise Teague
Paul Kempe and Akise Teague
Ty and Troy Vasquez-Atkins
Paul Kempe and Chris Durkin
Akise Teague and Coach Reardon’s Children
Ursuline Senior Cheerleaders
Ursuline Junior Cheerleaders