BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Boardman football team is coming off back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in school history. But this year, the Spartans are a much younger and inexperienced team after graduation.
Last year’s playoff team was led by offensive stars Mike O’Horo, along with Joe Ieraci and Che Trevena, with a total of six 1st Team All-League selections.
Fast forward to August 2019 and all of those faces are now gone.
“We have to be able to flush it and that’s from play to play, day to day,” said Head Coach Joe Ignazio. “We don’t sit here and dwell on too many things. So our guys know the expectations, know those guys are gone and they’re part of the tradition now, and it’s your chance. You’ve got a blank page to write your tradition.”
Coach Ignazio returns just seven starters from a year ago and said many of the skill positions are still wide open.
That includes O’Horo’s replacement at quarterback, which is a battle between Wrentie Martin and Zach Ryan. Both are seniors with plenty of upside.
But the big key is developing young talent on both sides of the line.
“You kind of have to watch how you handle the kids,” Ignazio said. “We don’t change the way we run our program whatsoever but we realize real quick that a lot of the technique stuff and those things are going to have to be taught from the ground up.”
“We definitely want to embrace the new challenge but also carry on what they brought to the program last year,” said David Merdich, senior lineman. “Just keep the leadership up with our new senior class.”
“[Last year’s seniors] always stayed focus…always focused,” said Nathan Thompson, senior running back. “Never once messed up but this is Boardman. We have high standards here.”
What’s more, the Spartans also graduated their top seven tacklers from last year’s team, including stars Tino Arcuri, Alex Huzicka and Kareem Hamdan — all players that set the tone for this program.
It’s something Coach Ignazio hopes this year’s team embraces.
“Well they better….if not, they’ll get exposed real quick,” he said. “We wanted to build consistency. We think we’ve done that. We’ve been in the playoffs three out of the last four, but haven’t gotten a win the first round so, obviously, that’s a goal we want to achieve.”