Story by Ryan Kaczmarski
Photos by Larry Bennet
Last season, North Olmsted's varsity football team had all the parts needed to make a serious run at the Southwestern Conference championship, and even a postseason berth.
The Eagles had the senior quarterback-center battery of Brad Novak and Beau Bilinsky, respectively, running a quick-strike offense which powered the team to an overall record of 7-3 (3-3 in the SWC). North Olmsted also graduated starting wide receiver Brandon Dickey, linebacker Luke Janik and offensive tackle Jeff Rotheram.
Head coach Tim Brediger, now in his second year at the top spot in the program, knows there will be some hard work to be done to get back to the top of the conference.
"We had a very good offseason, starting in the weight room, where we had good numbers all winter," Brediger said. "By the summer time, the numbers grew. We took 55 kids to an overnight camp at Ohio Wesleyan, and part was great.
"Now is the hard part, where we have to identify the team leaders. We've been a little banged up at camp, with a few of our captains out, so it's been hard to identify who those seniors and juniors are going step up and lead," he said.
Brediger has named three-year lettermen Jake Jones, Matt Starcovic and Benny Kurscak as this year's team captains.
Jones is a 6-1, 200-pound fullback and inside linebacker, while Starcovic (6-1, 175-pounds) and Kurscak (5-10, 190-pounds) are going to be two of the main weapons lined up in the wide receiver position.
One question mark for the Eagles this year will be the starting quarterback position. Right now, there is a fierce competition between junior Christian Ammons (6-1, 180-pounds) and sophomore Brandon Maximovich (5-9, 165-pounds) for that spot.
"We've been switching it up in practice, with one kid getting more reps day by day," Brediger explained.
"We also have some skill guys taking reps at quarterback, who might be lining up back there in certain sets. There might even be more than one lined up back there at the same time," he said.
There are two seniors returning to the offensive line, in Andrew Rigda (5-10, 225-pounds) and Abdul Jabr (6-5, 275-pounds), along with 12 juniors who will fill in the the rest of the offensive and defensive lines.
"Those 14 kids are battling for the O-line spots, and we're trying to teach three kids the center position," Brediger stated. "We're trying to teach each of them two positions, just in case of injury."
North Olmsted will stick with its attacking-style defense that Brediger installed last season.
"These kids have grasped the defense a lot better than last year," he said. "This is the second year running it. So whether the kids were on junior varsity last year, or were a backup or starter, the defense has really clicked."
Brediger also knows there is no easy week of the season, and he likes to focus on the next game at hand.
"The biggest game is the first game," he said. "We need to show up and play sound, physical football each week, one step at a time.
"We will face three great running backs in the first three weeks, starting with Valley Forge's Richard Worship (Purdue University commit), then Lakewood's explosive tailback and North Ridgeville's Demario McCall. We are not looking ahead of any of those guys."
Brediger sees his talented skill players as the biggest asset for North Olmsted this year. He will rely on his explosive wide receivers and running backs to carry a big part of the load.
"We want to play fast, aggressive and attacking football," he explained. "I'd love to say that I hope we're going to surprise some people.
"Just talking to some people, obviously Berea-Midpark is going to be a really special team this year, and Brecksville has a ton of their team back from last year. Avon Lake is doing some new things over there, and Westlake has a really special tail back.
"So Berea-Midpark is the one that has to be knocked off the top, and everyone else will be battling it out for that next spot," he added.
(You can follow us on Twitter @BeAFanatic. We're also hanging out on Facebook: BeAFanatic.com
Click on the camera below for Larry's photos: