AMHERST — Consider Amherst the typical Southwestern Conference team for 2009. The Comets have some talented starters returning, but none of them play in the offensive backfield.
That's no reason to fret. Not this year. Every team in the conference will go with a new quarterback and all but one club will have to replace its top rusher. With the exception of Avon Lake's standout running back, Mike Mansnerus, no first-team or second-team All-SWC offensive backs and wide receivers are playing.
But caautious optimism is running high at Amherst. The Comets, in Kevin Fell's second season, made the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Amherst won its first eight games before falling to SWC co-champions Brecksville and Avon Lake on back-to-back Fridays.
But that was then, this is now - and Fell thinks now is looking fine for the Comets.
|Avon Lake Shoremen|
|North Ridgeville Rangers|
|Elyria Catholic Panthers|
"We'll know how good we are after our first game," Fell said, referring to an anticipated tough challenge at home from an Elyria team that should be better than last year's 2-8 record.
"I think we'll be a good team," Fell said. "We have a young team, but we have some good skill position players and good overall team speed. We have enough players to two-platoon, and we had a great junior varsity season. We're going to surprise people."
Alex Basinski will step into the quarterback position held last year by Andrew Eliopoulos. Basinski started at cornerback the last two seasons, so he's only inexperienced as a quarterback.
Basinski will have the luxury of operating behind a veteran offensive line. Center Jim Atkins, guard Andrew Brumenschenkel and tackle Cody Balko were starters last year. Cody Wilson, another senior, will be the other guard and senior Ross Waldron is facing a big battle - literally - with 6-6, 340-pound junior Patrick Griffith for the other tackle position.
Three others with experience as starters return on offense. Charlie Davis is the fullback, Brad Block is one wide receiver and Scott Ferris will be the tight end.
Replacing the running backs will be key to a strong season. All-Ohio candidate Brandon Kish was on his way to a 1,000-yard rushing year when he suffered a season-ending injury in Week 6. Brandon Morgan was All-SWC first team in 2008 after gaining 1,005 yards.
The starting job will go to sophomore Zack Kelley, but Fell says to watch out for junior Jason Stump, whom he considers his most intriguing offensive player.
"Stump is going to be exciting," Fell said. "He can play running back or wide receiver. He's fast, strong, a really good player."
All three starting linebackers - Marty Thomas, Tyler Glowacki and Tommy Davis - are back for another season, but the Comets must rebuild on the defensive line and the secondary.
"We were a good defensive line last year, but we were all seniors," Fell said. "Maybe we'll take our lumps for a while, but we have good kids who were waiting to play. They need to be ready real soon and we think they can be."
Will McGuire looks strong at one defensive end. Ryan Malloy and Aaron Brown are competing to start on the other side. The defensive tackles will likely be Zac Papay and Jacob Pena. McGuire is a senior, Brown is a sophomore and the others are juniors.
Senior Marcus Rivera and junior David Purcell look to have the cornerback jobs. Junior Matt Malloy takes over at strong safety and senior Kyle Jones is the top free safety.
Amherst must replace its all-conference kicker/punter, Matt Elbert. His brother, sophomore Luke Elbert, is a leading candidate for the job.
- Coach: Kevin Fell, 3rd year
- Conference: Southwestern
- 2008 record: 8-3, 5-2
- Fast fact: Fell has been a head coach at five Ohio high schools — Delphos Jefferson, Sidney, Lakewood, Wapakoneta and Amherst — and has taken all five to the playoffs.
- Aug. 28: Elyria
- Sept. 4: at Midview
- Sept. 11: Vermilion
- Sept. 18: at N. Olmsted
- Sept. 25: at Westlake
- Oct. 2: Berea
- Oct. 9: at Midpark
- Oct. 16: at Brecksville
- Oct. 23: Olmsted Falls
- Oct. 30: Avon Lake
Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7135 or email@example.com.