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Preppers seek rhythm, consistency
Preppers seek rhythm, consistency
By TONY LANGE
A 5-yard gain followed by a 10-yard loss doesn't get first downs, much less touchdowns, in football.
Inconsistency is an obstacle the University School football team has to overcome this season, said head coach Jim Stephens, who is 72-55 in 12 seasons with the Preppers.
"In scrimmages, we've had some encouraging moments and some not-so-encouraging moments," he said. "We're up and down. Consistency is an issue I think we need to work on. We are inconsistent. We'll have one good play, and then we'll have a no-so-good play."
The Preppers are returning from a 9-2 record with a season-ending loss, 27-14, to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in the first round of the Division III state playoffs.
They graduated 22 seniors and brought up 15.
With a large turnover of players and some minor injuries during the preseason, the Preppers also seek rhythm, Stephens said.
"We've had injuries, illnesses and family issues, but we're hoping to be in full strength sometime soon," he said about his players who have had a groin strain, mononucleosis and matters that supersede the gridiron, among other things. "So, if key players are missing, then the rhythm is not fully established."
Also not fully established during the preseason is the Preppers' quarterback position. Three candidates have been vying for the starting position, and it has been a close race, Stephens said.
Senior Jack Weber, junior John Ganon and sophomore Simon Vadas are the top contenders. "They all have a shot, and it all depends on who's going to come through, which also means that, if one is not having a good day, then we will probably insert the another," Stephens said.
Carrying out the ground game will be senior running back Kevin Smith, who is 5-foot-8, 190 pounds. He shared responsibilities with former University School star John McKelvey the past two seasons. In 2011, Smith rushed for more than 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Joining him in the backfield, junior Andrew Dorogi, 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, also will take some carries this season. "He has really emerged as a good running back. So we have some options with what we can do," Stephens said.
Returning as a standout wide receiver is senior Luke Vadas. who was able to catch a lot of teams off guard last season off the Preppers' loaded split end offense that included an experienced quarterback, Tyler Eden, who threw 1,500-plus yards for 23 touchdowns.
"We have to get him the ball," Stephens said about Vadas. "He's going to stand out, and now that he has been seen, we have to find different ways to get him the ball."
The other leading candidate to start at wide receiver is senior Alex Taylor, but he's been sidelined by mono during the preseason.
With his absence, sophomore James Forbes, 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, has stepped up, Stephens said. Forbes also is expected to start at safety on defense for the Preppers.
Leading the offensive nucleus up front, senior tackle Hunter Wasser, 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, and junior guard Kostas Parrish, 6-foot-2, 265 pounds, will push and shove their way up field for the Preppers.
Wasser returns as a starter, while Parrish, a heavyweight wrestling standout, primarily played defense last year.
Also stepping up will be junior tackle James Johnston, 6-foot-3, 225 pounds.
Those three guys, Wasser, Parrish and Johnston, will be two-way starters this season, Stephens said.
Specializing on offense, senior Anson Howland, 5-foot-10, 215 pounds, will play center, and sophomore Jay Bullock, 6-foot-1, 245 pounds, will likely start at guard.
Specializing on defense, sophomore Micah Balogh, 5-foot-11, 225 pounds, will likely start at tackle.
The Preppers will stay with their 4-2-5 formation, Stephens said, but that could change with the depth of linebackers on the roster.
Returning at linebacker will be junior Desi Filey. Top senior candidates for linebacker roles are Joe Aveni, Dom Monaco and John Althans, while top junior candidates are Tyler Moran and Ethan Barham.
In the secondary, senior Frank Calo returns at cornerback, and junior Alex Hall will likely play opposite him.
At safety, Curtis Black returns, but he also could play linebacker and wide receiver -- as long as he's healthy.
He had a minor injury in the preseason, and, when he's out, he is really missed, Stephens said.
A big loss for the Preppers is Cory Pearson who played as a freshman and sophomore but transferred to Cleveland Heights this year.
A nice addition is sophomore Ryder Bell, a kicker, who also plays soccer at University School.
The Preppers kick off their season at 7 p.m. Aug. 24 at Massillon Jackson, which replaces Hawken as University School's week-one opponent.
"They're a Division I team with about 90 kids," Stephens said. "It's a very successful program. We think our good players are as good as their good players. They just have a lot more of them."
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