POLAND, Ohio (WKBN) – The Bulldogs’ program was flying high last November when the team won the Region 13 Championship over Perry – 17-13. Poland was unable to hold off Licking Valley’s late rally as they fell in the State Semifinal round by a single point (25-24).
Coach Williams – entering year #5 at the helm but year #1 with the Coronavirus pandemic looming – says, “We’ve been meeting through several of these virtual platforms, just as everyone has. We’ve had several Zoom calls with the team. I know the guys are communicating with their positions through Google classroom. They’ve been recording some of their workouts and trying to stay in communication with each other.”
2019 Record: 11-3 (7-0), 1st place in NE8
Head Coach: Ryan Williams, 5th season (29-16)
Scoring Offense: 30.1 (15th in Area)
Scoring Defense: 10.7 (3rd in Area)
Total Offense: 290.5
Rushing Offense: 232.5
Passing Offense: 58.0
Total Defense: 199.9
What you need to know about Poland’s offense
-Junior QB Jack Fulton returns along with senior wide out Andrew Centofanti and First-Team All-League lineman Karter Kellgren. Fulton, a year ago, completed 50.7% of his passes (39-77) for 679 yards and 12 touchdowns. Fulton also scored 11 times on the ground and gained 496 yards on 95 carries. Centofanti led the team in catches (22), receiving yards (417) and touchdowns (5).
With that said, the Bulldogs did lose a lot to graduation this past spring. The team’s top two rushers are both gone in Josh Alessi (1266 yards, 14 TDs) and Jake Rutana (730 yards, 7 TDs). Zach Ellis (224 rushing yards, 137 receiving yards) and Mike Voitus (153 receiving yards) were key the Bulldogs success as was Alex Feliciano (2nd-Team lineman).
Joining Kellgren up front will be Nate Williams and Ethan Frank to help anchor the line. Will Davies, Bronson Bilkie, Dom Sabrin, Joe Macejko and Steve Solic will all compete for those final roles. At tight end, senior Carmen Pagano and juniors Michael Gordon and Don Parker all should contribute this upcoming season.
“The depth of the offensive line is always first priority,” indicates coach Williams. “Finding a couple starters to replace graduating seniors and developing quality backups at those positions are paramount. We need to develop a good balance of run and pass to utilize the talents of the team.”
Poland’s offense improved from the previous year by an average of 10-points (20.2 to 30.1) and by 41-total yards (249.1 to 290.5).
What you need to know about Poland’s defense
-Over the past 6 years, the Bulldog defense has held the opposition to less than 14 points per game five times. The defense lost four All-League players in Mike Voitus (51 tackles, 13 TFL, 6 QB sacks), Zach Ellis (66 tackles), Jared Tucker (66 tackles, 18 TFL, 7 QB sacks) and Jacob Kountz (50 tackles).
“Replacing 7 starters, including 3-year 2-way starter (Mike) Voitus will be key,” says Williams. “We need to develop some young guys to play key roles, as well as ask some veterans to play some expanded roles. Really need to find three linebackers.”
Poland welcomes back their leading tackler from 2019 in linebacker Peyton Mrakovich (84 tackles). In the secondary, they will also bring back Andrew Centofanti (3 INTs) and Dean Gessler (42 tackles). “Peyton and Dean are both two-year letter winners,” Williams states. “They’ll do a great job of leading this defense and helping with the replacement of seven new starters.”
Look for underclassmen Dom Parker, Jeff Muslovsy and Steve Solic to receive opportunities along the defensive line. Carmen Pagano, Michael Gordan and versatile senior Jake Caudle – who can play both defensive back and linebacker – to all contribute at linebacker. Gavin Weiss and Dom Detoro should each see time in the defensive backfield.
Poland’s Key Player(s)
Junior QB Jack Fulton is back after rushing for 11 touchdowns and throwing for another 12 scores. Of his 77 pass attempts, he threw for only 2 interceptions. “I’ve been as impressed by his off-season workout habits as I was with his success last season,” points out coach Williams. “He has all the tools to be very successful in this sport for many years to come.”
Aug. 27 – Canfield, 7
Sept. 4 – at Boardman, 7
Sept. 11 – Howland, 7
Sept. 18 – at South Range, 7
Sept. 25 – Niles, 7
Oct. 2 – at Girard, 7
Oct. 9 – at Lakeview, 7
Oct. 16 – Jefferson, 7
Oct. 23 – Hubbard, 7
Oct. 30 – at Struthers, 7
The Big game on the schedule
August 27 – vs. Canfield
…The Canfield-Poland rivalry begins once again after a season off. The Cardinals had the last laugh on October 26, 2018 (34-7). Now, Canfield comes calling to Dave Pavlansky Field.
Since 2011, Bulldogs’ 1,000-yard rushers
2019 – Josh Alessi, 1266
2015 – Dylan Garver, 1325
2013 – Ross Gould, 1436
2011 – Jerry Lawman, 1010