YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – It has been over 10 years since Ursuline capped off a run of three straight state championships since 2008 to 2010. But since then, the Irish have been to the state semifinals just once and have not returned to a state championship game — something Ursuline is hoping to change this season.
“The coaches are always talking about it and how we won three straight,” said senior wideout Jakylan Irving. “We just want one bad.”
Ursuline came close last season to a trip to the Regional Finals, but due to COVID protocols, they were forced to be without several key players in their loss to Lake Catholic.
“Our kids had a big empty feeling the way things finished last year,” said Head Coach Dan Reardon. “Had we been at full strength and battled and came up a little short, it would have been a different feeling. You know, it was something our kids had to handle and I think they did and used it as motivation.”
“Ending the way it did, we have a chip on our shoulder now,” said fullback and linebacker Ethan Palowitz. “We know we could have made a run, we believe that, everyone here believes that. So we are carrying that on now and we are going to fulfill that this year.”
The trip to the Regional Final was the first since 2015 for Ursuline. In fact, the Irish’s seven wins in 2020 is the same amount the team had the previous three seasons combined. But they aren’t satisfied.
“You know in my personal experience, I would say it was kind of an average season,” Reardon said. “Some our kids think we accomplished a lot and yet we didn’t. Just trying to take those next couple steps, get to the state semifinals and ultimately the state championship.”
The pieces are certainly there for Ursuline. The Irish welcome back four-year starting quarterback Brady Shannon for his senior season. He threw for over 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Demarcus McElroy returns in the backfield with Jakyln Irving and Dean Boyd being deep threats for Shannon.
“Oh, very explosive,” Irving said. “I think we have the best wide receiver crew and running back in the area in my opinion, and I think we can use that to our advantage.”
“It is going to be pretty scary,” said Palowitz. “We have talent, pretty much everywhere on the offense. As long as we work together, fix our mistakes, it is going to be a sight to see.”
“It would mean the world to these kids and to the school and the program and to all our fans and everything,” Reardon said. “Again, we have that expectation and yet having the expectation isn’t enough. You have to do it every single day so you can play well on Friday night.”