SHEFFIELD TWP. — Year One of the Keenan Leichty era at Brookside went pretty much as expected. The rebuilding Cardinals struggled as Leichty and the players became acquainted with one another on and off the field.
A pair of wins was the end result, but judging the Cardinals’ season just on their record would be short-sighted.
The Cardinals made huge strides from Week 1 to Week 10 as the players became more comfortable running Leichty’s system. Mistakes that were made in the beginning of the season were distant memories by the end. While progress didn’t always show up on the scoreboard, it did show up in films and at practice.
“We were a much better team by the end of the season,” Leichty said. “The players bought into the system and the program. By the end of the season we were where we should have been at the beginning. This year we have a much better grasp on what we’re doing and where we want to go.
“The foundation is there, we just need to start building things up.”
Listen to coach Keenan Leichty talk about the season with WEOL's Jim Allen:
One of the building blocks of Leichty’s Multipl-I offense is the quarterback position. At the moment, senior Josh Bender and junior Cody Shinsky are battling for the job. Both have had their moments of glory and Leichty said it’s still a dead heat.
Whichever player comes out on top, Leichty expects the winner to handle the weight that comes with the position.
“It’s a critical spot for us,” Leichty said. “The quarterback is the leader of the offense and helps the coaches dictate the movement down the field. Plus, they need to get us out of tough spots that we might find ourselves in.”
Fortunately for whomever earns the job, they won’t have to go it alone.
“Skill wise, the running back spot is a position of strength for us,” Leichty said. “We have a pair of players back in Austin Tackett and Art Howe who will be called upon heavily. We have a couple of players that will get into the mix as well.”
The receiver position is a work in progress although a “decent core” is coming back, according to Leichty. Last season’s leading receiver, Luke Ackerman, returns but is moving to tight end. All the other receiving spots are up in the air as Leichty and his staff are looking to create mismatches for opponents.
With a couple of players standing 6-foot-4, Leichty is also looking forward to moving players around during games.
The offensive line is another work in progress, primarily due to injuries. The first couple of weeks of practice took a toll on the players and left them part of the walking wounded.
Defensively, the Cardinals will have some key parts returning to their 4-4 scheme. Tackett, an all-state selection at linebacker in 2009, returns along with defensive end Gio Taw, inside linebacker Robert Taw and outside linebacker Daniel Bentley.
“We are leaps and bounds ahead of last year defensively,” Leichty said. “One of the problems we had last year was tackling and we have harped on it all offseason. The player s know that we need to tackle better than we did last season.
“We also need to minimize some of the other mistakes we made on the defensive side of the ball. I was a little concerned after our first scrimmage, but our second one against Bay went much better.”
Leichty isn’t predicting a league championship just yet, but is expecting the team to continue to improve from last season.
“We’re going to be better and be more competitive,” Leichty said. “We are going to go into every week believing that we can win. We are in a tough conference but we aren’t going to make any excuses. If you want to be at the top, you have to work your way up there.”
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 Hans Schneider at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.