YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Ursuline’s run to the Division IV Regional Final ended at the hands of the Lake Catholic Cougars (35-7). The Irish enjoyed a post-season jaunt that featured wins over West Branch (38-31) and Poland (35-7) all the way to their Region 13 runner-up finish.
“We felt we were good enough to win a state championship last season,” said Coach Dan Reardon. “We were affected by contact tracing the week of the regional finals. Several of our best players weren’t able to play. It left a bad taste in our mouths. As a result, we had a very good off-season, and our kids are highly motivated. We have high expectations [entering this season].”
In late June, Ursuline won the West Virginia Mountaineer Shootout by winning four matchups to become the eventual seven-on-seven champion.
The Irish begin their 2021 season at home against Columbus Bishop Hartley on Thursday, August 19.
2020 Record: 7-3 (3-0), 1st place in SVC
Coach: Dan Reardon, 11th season at Ursuline (81-40)
2020 Big 22: Matthew Reardon
Previewing Ursuline’s Offense
Scoring Offense: 31.8 (12th in Area)
Returning Starters: 8
Key Returnees: Brian Frasco, JR/OL; Jakylan Irving, SR/WR; Isaac Lucas, JR/OL; Padraig McCarthy, SR/OL; Demarcus McElroy, SR/RB; Colton Ross, JR/OL; Brady Shannon, SR/QB; Dean Boyd, SR/TE
Key Losses: Anthony DeLuca, OL; Terrell Dillworth, WR; Matthew Reardon, ATH; Dante Walker, RB
Name to watch for: Brady Shannon, QB
Coach Reardon said, “We expect to be an efficient offense. We have a lot of experience returning but will need some new faces to step up as well. We lost several talented guys to graduation, but our senior class was relatively small (10 players). As a result, there are a lot of guys returning with experience.”
Beginning his fourth year as the starting quarterback, Brady Shannon looks to end his high school career on a high note. As a junior, Shannon completed 62.6% of his throws (97-155) for 1,342 yards and 15 touchdowns.
“Brady has a ton of experience,” Reardon said. “He’ll be asked to do more this year as a result. We expect to take another big step as an offense. We return four out of five starters on the offensive line, and those guys got better and better as the season went on last year. We expect the guys up front to be a huge strength of our team.”
Senior DeMarcus McElroy was able to gain 726 yards on the ground while scoring 11 touchdowns.
“DeMarcus will be asked to handle more carries this year,” Reardon said. “We have very high expectations for him. He’s a talented young man who had a great off-season. We lost Terrell Dillworth and Matthew Reardon to graduation but return Dean Boyd, Jakylan Irving, Marc Manning and Will Burney at the receiver position. All of those guys have the ability to make plays and will need to fill the void left by the two we lost.”
Boyd caught a total of five passes, but three of them went for touchdowns. Irving averaged 16.4 yards per reception while Manning hauled in catches for an average of 13.4.
“Be a championship caliber practice team every single day. Not two good days, one average day. Just a consistent level of expectation every single day we are on the practice field. And if we do that, we are going to get better every single day and I think we have a very high ceiling if we do that,” Reardon said.
In their seven wins a year ago, Ursuline averaged 37 points per game. In their three losses, the Irish were able to only score 19.7 points per outing.
“Just finish it, we were so close last year, we had some unlucky circumstances that were out of our control,” Reardon said.
Previewing Ursuline’s Defense
Scoring Defense: 22.7 (27th in Area)
Returning Starters: 7
Key Returnees: Dean Boyd, SR/DB; Michael Branch, JR/DL; Will Burney, JR/DB; John Edmonds, SR/LB); Jakylan Irving, SR/DB; Casey Leugers, JR/DL
Key Losses: Luke Campbell, DL; Rhyan Pegues, DL; Dante Walker, LB
Name to watch for: John Edmonds, LB
The loss of Dante Walker and Rhyan Pegues will be difficult to replace. Walker finished with 92 tackles (11 ½ for a loss) and 4 ½ quarterback sacks. Pegues led the defense with 11 quarterback takedowns and 21 ½ tackles for a loss.
“Our kids have bought in to it. Things were really clicking in the second half of last year and into the playoffs. We became a much better practice team during that time,” Reardon said.
However, the defense returns the likes of standouts such as John Edmonds and Jakylan Irving to help the group reload. Edmonds closed out his junior season with 99 tackles and two interceptions. Irving also had two picks and 53 tackles as he earned First-Team All-League honors.
“John [Edmonds] was our leading tackler last year,” Reardon said. “He was a bit overlooked because of Dante [Walker]’s production. He’ll be asked to step up even more this season. We’ll need guys to step up to fill the void left by the loss of Rhyan [Pegues] as well. He was an outstanding pass rusher for us. We have two returning starters on the defensive line [Casey Leugers and Michael Branch]. In addition, Ty’Rique Donlow and Xavier Dahn are sophomores that have a very high ceiling.”
Co-Defensive Coordinators Andrew Frasco and Matt Guarnieri will utilize a deeper rotation up front this season as all indications are that more linemen should see playing time this year.
Last year, the defense had 15 takeaways. “We return a lot of experience in the secondary,” Reardon said. “We were relatively young there last year. A lot of the same names that play receiver will be asked to play as well in the secondary. Sophomore Jack Ericson is another name that will be important in the secondary – the freshman quarterback who started in the regional title game last year.”
“I think they are very hungry to do that. I think there is a certain level of expectation that we feel like we have the right pieces to make a deep run and ultimately finish in Canton the first weekend of December,” he continued.
2020 SVC Standings
Ursuline – 3-0 (7-3)
Chaney – 2-1 (3-6)
Mooney – 1-2 (2-6)
East – 0-3 (0-7)
Aug. 19 – Bishop Hartley
Aug. 27 – at Hickory
Sept. 3 – at Chardon
Sept. 10 – at Fitch
Sept. 17 – at Warren Harding
Sept. 24 – Chaney
Oct. 1 – at St. Vincent-St. Mary
Oct. 8 – Boardman
Oct. 16 – at East
Oct. 23 – Mooney