Opposing teams will be thrilled not to see Gary Strain in the backfield for the Mogadore Wildcats this season. Mogadore coach Matt Adorni and his staff will not be so happy.
Opposing teams will be thrilled not to see Gary Strain in the backfield for the Mogadore Wildcats this season.
Mogadore coach Matt Adorni and his staff will not be so happy.
The third-leading rusher in school history, Strain added 2,205 yards to his resume last year, second best in school history, alone despite missing a game due to injury. Now that he has graduated, the lead role in the backfield belongs to his understudy, junior Brandon Berry will have to follow.
Berry, rushed for nearly 1,000 yards last year despite missing the final two playoff games with a sprained ankle.
Adorni, who has led the Wildcats to the Division IV to nine straight playoff appearances and two state semifinal games (2010, 2012) knows the post-Strain transition will be challenging.
"We might have to pound it a little more on the ground this year and be more patient," Adorni said. "Gary was so explosive, you could draw up a play and know that he might see something and improvise, make something happen and break it down the field."
Berry is more of a straight-ahead runner than Strain, who possessed plenty of power and threatened to score any time he touched the ball. Adorni likened Strain to a Barry Sanders-type runner, with elusiveness, speed and breakaway ability. Berry, on the other hand, more resembles the pounding style of another Hall of Famer: Emmitt Smith.
"Brandon is a classic downhill runner,” Adorni said. “He's not a big strider.”
Four of the Wildcats' five starting offensive linemen graduated, leaving senior Kenny Vechik as the lone returning starter. Adorni believes the 6-foot-1, 235-pound senior was one of the team's best blockers last season, but his spot for this year is still to be determined. Junior Danny Sentelik made two spot starts last season and will move into the starting lineup.
The other three spots on the line are up for grabs as camp opens and scrimmages start. Adorni hopes that scrimmages against Lisbon David Anderson and United Local provide clarity for the line as it works to replace First Team All-Ohio tackle Joe Callihan and All-PTC center Sam Graska.
The Wildcats will also have to replace their top four receivers, including Jake Cramer, who played a hybrid position as both a running back and receiver. The team's top three receivers are all gone and tight end Jonathan Miller is the top returning receiving threat.
"We have about a month and a half to figure out who we are," Adorni said. "It's not just Gary. We lost our top receivers and four offensive linemen. Offensively, we do have a lot of holes to fill."
Berry will have support from seniors Austin Kerr and Bryce Huth, both of whom saw limited time carrying the ball last season. The same trio carried the load in last season's opener when Strain was sidelined with a foot injury and played well. The result was a 21-9 win over Crestwood that spurred an unbeaten regular season and fueled a run to the state semifinals that ended with a state semifinal loss to Newark Catholic.
Page 2 of 2 - Quarterback Anthony Ricci will be the team’s offensive anchor. He started in the team’s last 25 games and will look to be a steadying force under center in 2013.
The new elements of the offense will need to gel quickly. Mogadore’s schedule tests the team early with three Portage Trail Conference Metro Division opponents in Norton, Coventry and Springfield from the league's big-school division in non-league games.
"We're going to be tested right away," Adorni said of the first week game against Norton. "Our guys just have to be themselves."
Reach Andy at 330-899-2872 or andy.harris@TheSuburbanite.com.
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