LEAVITTSBURG, Ohio (WKBN) – LaBrae began 2020 with a 1-2 mark before winning their next 5 games including their first two playoff contests.
“I thought we showed a lot of growth through the season,” says coach John Armeni. “There’s no better example of that then how we were able to turn the tide against Brookfield in the playoffs.”
In week two, Brookfield dominated LaBrae in the Vikings’ home opener – 35-7. Six weeks later, LaBrae eliminated the Warriors – 55-54 – from post-season competition. Highlights: LaBrae vs. Brookfield
Armeni points to, “We played a lot of young guys and they kind of had that deer caught in the headlights look. Our players and coaches believe in what we do and we stuck to the process of developing our guys week-in and week-out. We had two red zone turnovers (in the regional quarterfinals) which cost us an opportunity to knock off the #1 team in our region on their home turf (Wickliffe won 21-16) and our guys remember that feeling and have used that to fuel one of the best off-seasons we’ve ever had.”
This summer, the Vikings return 13 seniors and 23 letter winners.
“We’ve been telling our guys for years that the names on the jerseys change but our goals remain the same,” indicates Armeni. “We push our guys eleven months a year to develop into the best versions of themselves. When you prepare like we do, then you always have a shot at being successful.”
This season gets underway at home on Friday, August 20 against Lakeview.
2020 Record: 6-4 (3-2, 3rd place in MVAC Grey)
Coach: John Armeni, 9th season (52-34)
2020 Big 22: Aidan Stephens
Previewing LaBrae’s Offense
Scoring Offense: 32.0 (11th in Area)
Returning Starters: 9
Key Returnees: Devin Carter, SR/RB; Tre’von Drake, SR/WR; Ashton Dunbar, SR/WR; Zaidan Flanigan, SR/OL; Adam Pettry, SR/OL; Noah Pettry, SR/OL; Cam Rabel, SR/OL; Aidan Stephens, SR/QB
Key Losses: Landen Kiser, WR
Name to watch for: Aidan Stephens, QB
During their 5-game win streak last fall, the Vikings were averaging 44.4 points per contest while scoring over 50-points twice (Liberty and at Brookfield). Senior Aidan Stephens returns under center. Last year, he put together a stat line of 1421 passing yards while completing 58.3% of his tosses (87-149). Number 11 also led the team in rushing with 823 yards and 16 touchdowns. Coach Armeni had this to say about his signal caller, “I sure wouldn’t want to be playing against him because any play can be touchdown with the ball in his hands. Aidan is a dual-threat quarterback.”
Stephens’ offensive weapons will be LaBrae’s all-time leading rusher Devin Carter (717 rushing yards, 10 TDs in 2020), Tre’von Drake (674 receiving yards, 239 rushing yards) and Ashton Dunbar (312 receiving yards). They’ll be joined by sophomores Brogan Collins and Stephen Hemberger along with seniors JJ Jethroe and Caleb Simmons.
“We have always prided ourselves on having a balanced attack,” says Armeni. “Our offensive line returns four starters. They’re a tight knit group of guys. They lift together, they hang out together, they’re very competitive with one another.”
The offensive line welcomes back senior twins Adam and Noah Pettry along with their classmates Zaidan Flanigan and Cam Rabel. Adding depth at the position will be Chase Jakubec, Preston Ostas, Aaron Dewberry, Ethan Smith among others.
Previewing LaBrae’s Defense
Scoring Defense: 25.6 (T-34th in Area)
Returning Starters: 8
Key Returnees: Devin Carter, SR/LB; Tre’von Drake, SR/LB; Zaidan Flanigan, SR/DL; Stephen Hemberger, SO/DL; JJ Jethroe, SR/DB; Shaun Miller, SR/DL; Clayton Stout, JR/LB
Key Losses: Anthony Harris, LB; Landen Kiser, DB; Erich Winkleman, DT
Name to watch for: Tre’von Drake, LB
LaBrae’s defense features a ton of experience and athleticism across the board. Armeni states, “We’re fast, we have lots of guys who can cover and we plan on being more aggressive than last season. We plan on bringing pressure to create a lot of negative plays for the opponent. We want to make stopping the run our #1 priority. We want to pin back our ears and get after the quarterback on passing downs. We shuffled around a few of our best athletes to different positions on the defensive side of the ball in an attempt to get as many athletes on the field at one time.”
Up front, the unit returns starters Shaun Miller (42 tackles), Stephen Hemberger (76 tackles) and Zaidan Flanigan back into the mix.
The linebacking core will be led by Tre’von Drake (53 tackles, 3 INTs). “He’s an outstanding linebacker,” praises Armeni. “Tre’von combines size, speed and a reckless abandon around the football which are all traits most good defensive players have.” He’ll be joined by Gabe Green, Devin Carter (2 INTs), Clayton Stout (49 tackles), Brogan Collins and Nathan Hemberger at linebacker.
In the secondary, Collin Davis and JJ Jethroe (54 tackles) will anchor the back end of the defense.
2020 MVAC Grey Tier Standings
Brookfield – 5-1 (6-4)
Crestview – 4-1 (7-2)
LaBrae – 3-2 (6-4)
Champion – 2-2 (2-3)
Memorial – 2-3 (2-5)
Liberty – 1-5 (1-6)
Newton Falls – 0-3 (1-6)
Aug. 20 – Lakeview
Aug. 27 – at Valley Christian
Sept. 3 – Keystone
Sept. 10 – Garrettsville Garfield
Sept. 17 – Champion
Sept. 24 – at Newton Falls
Oct. 1 – Crestview
Oct. 8 – at Brookfield
Oct. 15 – Liberty
Oct. 22 – at Campbell Memorial