ELYRIA — Mike Polevacik is eager to begin his first season as a head coach, but understands the challenge he faces at Elyria Catholic.
He certainly has the qualifications to be the main man. In 10 years as an assistant coach, he’s been in the playoffs eight times. He was Ben Malbasa’s right-hand man a year ago, but that team’s record-breaking senior class graduated in the spring.
Gone will be last year’s Golden Helmet-winning quarterback Danny Reasar and his 3,328 passing yards and 36 touchdown passes.
Zach Rogers’ 1,328 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns are also gone, as are Conor Voreis’ 838 yards receiving and nine touchdowns.
Gone, too, are All-Ohio two-way back Cory Campbell and his 160 bone-jarring tackles along with Buddy Davila and his four interceptions and 87 tackles.
EC’s senior class a year ago will go down as one of the best in school history.
Obviously they’ll be missed.
“Darn right,” Polevacik said. “We had five tremendous seniors. Davila, Rogers, Reaser, Campbell and Voreis all were three-year starters.
“That’s the kind of experience that gets you into the second round of the playoffs. We definitely won’t be last year’s team. We’re definitely different, but the amazing thing is that this team has the expectations because of last year’s success. We want to be at that level year in and year out.”
Even with graduation taking its toll, Polevacik still welcomes back 11 returning lettermen — all with extensive experience from last year’s playoff team — and a solid freshman class. EC has about 45 varsity candidates out this year.
“Our slogan this year is, “All we have is all we need,” Polevacik said.
Polevacik’s enthusiasm alone may be worth a couple touchdowns, not to mention the fact Elyria Catholic is joining the neighborhood West Shore Conference. That gets him pumped up all the more.
“Every week there’s something there,” he said. “There’s a good story every week. Whether it’s a neighborhood rivalry — county team — it’s nice. I can’t wait to see the crowds.
“You’ve got families on different sides. You go here, I go there and we’re going to knock heads on Friday nights. It’s different when you know the kid across from you.”
While Reaser set nearly every county passing mark in his career, strong-armed sophomore Jeremy Holley, who stands 6-foot-5 and weights 210 pounds, is ready to step in to call the signals. He’ll have dependable senior tailback Joe Dempsey in the backfield with him. Dempsey was EC’s leading rusher a year ago and one of its leading tacklers as well.
Also returning are senior receiver/linebacker James Baker, senior cornerback Jeffrey Ross and senior tight end/defensive back Jake Lawler, who had two huge interceptions, returning one 95 yards for a TD in a playoff win over Huron last year.
EC’s offensive line should be its strength this season with seniors Luke Williams, Alex Neilson and junior Spencer George returning. Senior Cole Gorske and junior David Smith return to the defensive line along with linebacker Matt Morgan. In the secondary, junior Joshua Pierce joins Lawler and Ross. Junior receivers Jordan Alpater and Tyler Riddell have also made an early impression.
“We’ll be a big, athletic offensive line,” Polevacik said. “And behind them we have Joe Dempsey who is a tank of a man and a mean, mean football player. He’s everything you’d want in a football player.
“EC kids are tough kids and Joe is the epitome of an EC kid. ‘Yes sir, whatever it takes. If I have to go tackle the guy to win a game or run the ball to win the game, I’ll do what you need.’ There’s not enough adjectives to describe him.”
Polevacik was the heir apparent almost the moment Malbasa made the decision to leave for Benedictine.
“I felt like the whole EC community had my back,” he said. “That felt great. Coach (Malbasa) was tremendous. To lose him and everyone have confidence in me, was so energizing. I just felt great about it.
“I’ve been waiting to be a head coach since my early 20s. I’ve been going after it. I loved working for Ben but I knew my shot would come sooner or later. I’m happy it’s right here.”
Read more high school football previews:
- Elyria Catholic
- North Ridgeville
- Avon Lake
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.