FAIRPORT HARBOR, Ohio (WKBN) – Fairport Harding made the transition from the Chagrin Valley to the NAC last fall seem, well, seamless. Coach Cameron Ruff’s team finished 4-3 overall and second in the league standings behind Pymatuning Valley.
In their 4-wins, the Skippers outscored their opponents by 30 points (36.8 to 6.8). However, in their losses, Fairport gave up an average of 40.3 points per contest.
The Skippers were eliminated by the South Central Trojans, 38-7, in their playoff opener.
2020 Record: 4-3 (4-1, 2nd place in NAC)
Coach: Cameron Ruff, 5th season (12-25)
Previewing Fairport Harding’s Offense
Scoring Offense: 24.0 (comparable to 35th in Area)
Total Offense: 273.3
Returning Starters: 9
Key Returnees: Josiah Cooper, SR/RB; Will Fazekas, JR/QB; Ryan Hejl, SR/OL; Dillon Knesebeck, SR/TE; Tai Malone, SR/WR; Andrew Turner, JR/OL
Key Losses: Dominic Knesebeck, OL; Quentin Piotrowski, OL;
Name to watch for: Will Fazekas, QB
Fairport returns nine starters from last year’s offensive unit which generated an average of 24-points per game. The Skippers will welcome back their junior signal caller (Will Fazekas) and featured running back (Josiah Cooper).
“Will and Josiah have been our most consistent upperclassmen,” says Ruff. “They push each other. They have an intrinsic drive to improve. They’re always in attendance with our team workouts and they both do extra on their own time. We’re looking forward to seeing their hard work pay off during the season.”
As a sophomore, Fazekas completed 54.1% of his passes (59-109) for 852 yards and 8 scores. Cooper ran for 604 yards on 110 carries (5.5 avg) while scoring 8 touchdowns. “With all of the improvements that Will has added to his game since last year, we expect him to be a dynamic player in 2021,” points out Ruff. “Josiah will again be the focal point of our offense.”
Senior tight end Dillon Knesebeck also is back after catching 27 passes for 442 yards and 4 scores. Tai Malone, senior wideout, hauled in 14 passes for an average of 16.7 yards – to lead the team.
Coach Ruff states, “Our offensive line returns some size but we must make adjustments, work together to be effective. We’re looking at sophomore Josh Parsons and senior Ryan Hejl to (anchor) the line.” The Skippers graduated a pair of key linemen – Quentin Piotrowski (Marietta) and Dominic Knesebeck (Hocking).
Previewing Fairport Harding’s Defense
Scoring Defense: 21.1 (comparable to 25th in Area)
Returning Starters: 9
Key Returnees: Josiah Cooper, SR/LB; Will Fazekas, JR/LB; Ryan Hejl, SR/DL; Sam Honkala, SR/DB; Dillon Knesebeck, SR/LB; Andrew Turner, JR/DL
Key Losses: Dominic Knesebeck, LB; Quentin Piotrowski, DL
Name to watch for: Dillon Knesebeck, LB
Coach Ruff points out experience as being the Skippers’ strength on the defensive side of the ball. “We have a lot of athletes returning with experience. We have some underclassmen that we expect to have breakout seasons – which includes sophomores James Gadomski, Michael Hess, Josh Parsons and Maverrick Piotrowski. All of them are multi-sport athletes and they’ve been pushing each other this offseason. They’re dedicated to improving themselves. They’ve balanced our training sessions with helping their respective teams win. We expect big seasons from them.”
The pairing of defensive lineman Quentin Piotrowski (6 ½ QB sacks) and linebacker Dominic Knesebeck (65 tackles, 4 QB sacks) gave the Skippers stability and a foundation in their front seven. Both have since graduated so Fairport must find a way to replace the production they received from number 53 and 51 respectively.
Senior defensive back Sam Honkala intercepted a pair of passes a year ago and Dillon Knesebeck returns as the team’s top tackler (34) among those who will be back in camp this summer. Will Fazekas and Josiah Cooper will also be a pair of the unit’s primary contributors on defense as well.
2020 NAC Standings
Pymatuning Valley – 6-0 (8-1)
Fairport Harding – 4-2 (4-3)
Mathews – 3-3 (3-7)
Windham – 2-3 (2-4)
St. John – 2-4 (2-6)
Southington – 0-5 (0-5)
Aug. 20 – Brooklyn
Aug. 27 – at Berkshire
Sept. 3 – Cardinal
Sept. 10 – at Wickliffe
Sept. 18 – at Warren JFK
Sept. 24 – Pymatuning Valley
Oct. 1 – at Mathews
Oct. 8 – Windham
Oct. 15 – Southington
Oct. 22 – at St. John