Story by John Blake
Photos by Larry Bennet
Change is on the horizon at Lutheran West as the Longhorns are preparing for a season with a new head coach.
However, what may seem like a drastic shift and turnover shouldn't be that bad of a transition after all. Taking over the squad for the 2014 season is head coach Frank Petroff, who served as the Lutheran West defensive coordinator for the last two years.
That familiarity should be beneficial for the players as Petroff plans to keep things the status quo from a team which went 6-4 last season. The Longhorns tied for second in the Patriot Athletic Conference Stripes Division and just missed out on the Division V playoffs. They finished ninth in the Region 15 playoff standings.
Petroff replaces Dave Stupka, who took a position with Elyria Catholic.
"The attitude has been great since the transition took place," Petroff said.
"The players are familiar with some of the present coaches. The transition has been really smooth. The players know what is expected of them in the Lutheran West football program.
"During the preseason the players have come to realize that we are not taking any steps backwards. They have also gotten to know the new coaches on the staff," he said.
Furthermore, this isn't Petroff's first rodeo. He was the head coach at Holy Name from 2006-09, so he brings a wealth of experience.
"It does feel good to be a head coach again," said Petroff. "I learned many valuable lessons over the years of coaching, and Iwant to bring that overall experience to Lutheran West."
Now, it's full speed ahead. After their best season since 2008, the Longhorns hold all the momentum and don't plan on looking back anytime soon.
"Our theme this year is to "Raise The Bar" in everything that we do on the field and in the classroom at Lutheran West," said Petroff. "We are expecting to improve in all are areas and to take each game as they come on our schedule.
"We are not looking ahead toward anyone we play and to improve each week," he added.
Petroff will have a few holes to fill but returns a good chunk of key players.
Senior Mr. Everything Andrew O'Hara (6-4, 220 pounds) earned first team All-Ohio honors last season as a junior. He had 143 tackles from his linebacker spot and 23 catches as a tight end. "We expect a big season from Andrew this year," noted Petroff.
Also returning are a pair of first-team All-PAC selections in senior lineman Nik Kessel (6-4, 240) and senior center Kristian Bremer (6-1, 250). Kessel recorded 64 tackles last season, including 11 tackles for loss, and should be part of a formidable defensive line next to Bremer and fellow seniors Eric Hillenbrand (6-5, 215; 42 tackles) and Travis Spillane (6-5, 300).
An added bonus this season, senior running back/defensive back Adam Felton, returns after missing four games in 2013 due to injury. Felten (5-10, 180) had 730 rushing yards and 28 tackles.
Other returning letterwinners include senior quarterback/defensive back Nick Knudsen (6-0, 170), senior linebacker/wide receiver Collin Lowry (6-0, 170) and junior linebacker/wide receiver Adler Vasiloff (6-1, 170).
Newcomers to Petroff's squad looking to make an impact this season are sophomore running back/linebacker Chris Jones (5-8, 175), sophomore wide receiver/defensive back Josh Ranc (5-9, 180), sophomore linebacker/running back Josh Cales (6-0, 180), sophomore linebacker/offensive lineman Logan Denn (5-11, 190) and junior lineman Dominic Paoletta (5-11, 220).
Making up Petroff's coaching staff includes assistants, Mike Lewis, Ed Novinc, Bryan Wagner, Dave Geye, Jeff Vasiloff, Mike Graves and David Krieger and Director of Football Operations Ken Meder.
Lutheran West opens the season at Firelands Aug. 29 at 7 p.m. The Longhorns follow that with three straight home games against Hawken, Independence and Black River.
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