ELYRIA — Anticipation.
That word best describes Elyria Catholic's football team as it prepares for the 2010 season.
Anticipation as EC enters its final season in the North Coast League before heading to the West Shore Conference next year.
Anticipation about playing six home games and eight of its 10 games in Lorain County.
"It wasn't by design," fourth-year coach Ben Malbasa said, "but in the bigger picture - our players are quite excited playing teams they know."
Anticipation about renewing its rivalry with always-tough Clearview as well as a first-ever meeting with Elyria High.
"The players are excited to play Clearview week one," Malbasa said, "Buckeye week two and obviously they're excited about Elyria week three. That should be a very exciting event. Clearview's been a game - from what I understand - was a huge rivalry traditionally. We haven't played them in five or six years. That's really exciting also."
Listen to coach Ben Malbasa talk about the season with WEOL's Jim Allen:
There's also anticipation about playing an ambitious schedule with the hopes of qualifying for the postseason after a just-miss 7-3 season a year ago when the Panthers didn't get the help they thought they'd get from their opponents.
"Last year, going in, Collinwood had never lost more than four games in the (Cleveland) Senate but they ended up changing coaches in the offseason," Malbasa said of Collinwood's 0-9 season. "Shaker (1-9 but with four losses of 14 points or less), we figured for four, five, six wins, but they had a rough year.
"This year, week in and week out, we're going to be playing very competitive games. From a playoff prospective, it prepares you mentally to be a playoff-caliber team. This is the best schedule we've had since I've been here."
The players should be pretty good, too, beginning with third-year starting quarterback Danny Reaser, a polished senior who is getting plenty of looks from Division I colleges. Reaser is coming off a near 1,500-yard passing season that included 14 touchdowns. For his career, he's thrown for over 3,500 yards.
"By any measure, Danny had a good junior year," Malbasa said. "The amazing thing is, I have a feeling people that aren't familiar with the jump players make between their junior and senior years will be surprised at his next jump. It's really exciting to me."
Reaser and Panther fans alike will certainly miss Cincinnati-bound All-Ohio first-team wide receiver and defensive lineman Josh Russ along with second-team all-state offensive lineman Jared Schuster and third-team all-state running back Alex Alicea.
Russ hauled in 39 of Reaser's passes a year ago for a half-dozen touchdowns including a record-setting 94-yarder. Alicea rushed for over 1,000 yards and Schuster anchored the offensive line.
However, the cupboard isn't exactly bare. In addition to Reaser, senior wideout Connor Voreis along with juniors James Baker and Zach Rogers look to replace Russ' production. Voreis caught four touchdowns and accumulated over 400 yards last year.
Rogers and Baker combined for 15 catches and 200 yards last year. Up front, junior tackle Alex Nielsen and junior guard Luke Williams stabilize an otherwise inexperienced offensive line.
"At a skilled position, Connor Voreis and Zach Rogers are as good as any high school receiver," Malbasa said. "We have two seniors who both played three full years of varsity football. They have very good chemistry with Danny and they can make outstanding plays."
Rogers — with eight career interceptions — and juniors Joe Dempsey (99 tackles or assists) and Jeff Ross head the defensive backfield. Rogers and Dempsey are at safety, Ross at corner. Senior outside linebacker Buddy Davila, who had 19 tackles for losses last year, and senior inside linebacker Corey Campbell, with 77 tackles and five sacks, also return to a solid defense.
EC will need to stay healthy and have its unproven junior varsity players step up, but certainly the nucleus is there for a good season.
"Right now the focus is on Clearview," Malbasa said. "We'll play one week at a time."
More high school football previews
- Elyria ready to chase playoffs
- EC has plenty to be excited about
- Midview has depth, confidence, too
- Rangers staying hungry
- Keystone counting on defense
- Wellington plans to throw more
- Avon Lake needs a runner
- Amherst expects to be even better this year
- Oberlin staying positive despite heavy graduation losses
- Lorain has high hopes for Titans
- Clippers feel new guys are prepared
- Columbia thinks this season could be a special one
- Brookside’s comfort level rising
- Are Sailors on the way back up?
- Olmsted Falls relying on excellent senior class
- Firelands’ focus on present, not future
- Avon looks to return to playoffs
- Pay-to-pay hasn’t derailed North Olmsted’s optimism
- Black River loaded with talent
- Lutheran West hoping to stay healthy this season
- Coach thinks Westlake will have big year
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or email@example.com.