With stability up front and in the pocket, Olmsted Falls is hoping to climb out of the cellar and back into contention.
The Bulldogs have 11 playoff appearances to their name — most recently in 2011 when they went 7-3 and lost in the first round. Since then, Olmsted Falls has gone 3-17, including a 1-9 mark in coach Tom DeLuca’s first year.
“Our kids are starting to understand our system a little better and we’ve got some good leadership,” DeLuca said. “It’s going to be easier the second year around. They know the system and there is excitement about where we’re going. We’re going to keep getting better every day.”
And it starts up front with an offensive line anchored by senior left tackle Ryan Sosic and senior center Aaron Volle — both returning starters. The left guard and right tackle spots will likely be filled by juniors Chandler Laird and Patrick Simon, leaving three players to battle for the open right guard spot — juniors Justin Peck, Adam Sanders and Austin Stamper.
The Bulldogs also have a senior quarterback, Nick Fritz, who started all 10 games last year. Fritz was 118-for-253 passing for 1,332 yards with seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions and rushed for three touchdowns.
DeLuca said Fritz started to come on at the end of last season, especially in a 21-14 loss to Avon in Week 9. Fritz was 19-of-33 passing for 285 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. He also ran for a TD.
He carried that momentum into Week 10 against rival North Olmsted, going 18-for-33 for 202 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. The Bulldogs lost 28-14.
“Last year was my first year and I don’t think I played to my potential,” Fritz said. “I just want to work on making the right reads and making the right throws. I want to show people I am capable of being a good high school quarterback.”
Fritz will have a big target returning in junior wide receiver Kevin Meehan, who led the team in catches (31), receiving yards (410) and receiving touchdowns (three). At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Meehan should be a solid security blanket for Fritz.
“It’s a good feeling having him at receiver,” Fritz said. “If the play breaks down, which happens a lot, I know I can throw it up and Kevin’s going to go get it for me.”
Meehan will also anchor the defense at outside linebacker. He led the team in tackles for a loss last season with six and had three sacks, 37 solo and 10 assisted tackles with two interceptions and a forced fumble.
“Our front seven is going to be really good,” Meehan said. “Our returning three linebackers who played last year have a lot of experience along that front seven. That’s going to help a lot throughout the season.”
Helping that front seven will be senior Tim May, who Olmsted Falls hopes to have for more than two games this year. The senior linebacker recorded seven solo and 15 assisted tackles before blowing out his knee against Medina Highland in Week 2.
“I’m 100 percent cleared and all ready to go,” May said. “I’m just getting into the mix and trying to catch up from what I missed. I don’t have any soreness or anything, it’s normal and fine just like old times.”
The Bulldogs will have to replace two of their best players in the secondary in safeties Mike Hansinger and Brian Kurz — who were second and third in total tackles. Hansinger led the team in interceptions with five, Kurz added two. The pair combined for four tackles for loss.
“Safety was such a big part of our defense last year,” DeLuca said. “It’s going to be tough to replace those guys.”
Contact Chris Sweeney at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Olmsted Falls Bulldogs
CONFERENCE: Southwestern Conference
2013 RECORD: 1-9 (1-5)
COACH: Tom DeLuca, 2nd year, 1-9
RETURNING LETTERMEN: 11
RETURNING STARTERS: 11 (6 offense, 5 defense)
PLAYOFF APPEARANCES: 11
LAST TIME IN PLAYOFFS: 2011
NUMBERS GAME: 7 — Interceptions by safeties Mike Hansinger and Brian Kurz, both of whom graduated, last season, which was more than half the team’s total.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Kevin Meehan. It will be hard to miss the 6-foot-3, 200-pound wide receiver and outside linebacker on the field. Led the team in tackles for loss last season with six.
Aug. 29 Bedford
Sept. 5 Canton South
Sept. 12 at Mayfield
Sept. 19 at Brecksville*
Sept. 26 at Westlake*
Oct. 3 Berea-Midpark*
Oct. 10 Amherst*
Oct. 17 at Avon Lake*
Oct. 24 at Avon
Oct. 31 North Olmsted*
All games at 7 p.m.