CAMPBELL, Ohio (WKBN) – In coach Sikora’s first season back at the helm of Memorial football, the Red Devils improved from a winless team in 2018 to a 4-win squad last fall. The improvement just wasn’t by 4-wins though. Memorial finished 0-4 in games decided by eight points or less which included a 30-29 setback at Champion in week eight.
This summer, the Red Devils are looking to increase their win total again and get above the .500-mark, something which hasn’t happened in Campbell since 2012 (6-4).
2019 Record: 4-6 (2-4),T-4th place in AAC Blue
Head Coach: Mikey Sikora, 6th season (30-22)
Scoring Offense: 24.3 (29th in Area)
Scoring Defense: 24.7 (35th in Area)
Total Offense: 271.2
Rushing Offense: 137.9
Passing Offense: 133.2
What you need to know about Memorial’s offense
-Last year, the Red Devils saw an improvement in scoring and total yards of offense. The scoring went up from a team which averaged 6.8 points in 2018 to a unit which registered above 24-points in six games to finish the season at 24.3 (ppg). The Red Devils also increased their yards by an average of 91.4 (yards per game) to 271.2 yards in 2019. That was nearly a jump of 180 yards per contest.
The Red Devils return a bevy of talented players on the offensive side of the ball including QB Christian Stores (1245 yards passing, 14 TDs; 265 yards rushing, 4 TDs), leading rusher James Shaffer (473 yards, 9 TDs) and top receiver Kayvon Moore (28 catches, 415 yards, 4 TDs). Memorial also welcomes back Dallas VanCobb (RB), JonTae Pabellon (RB), Christian James (WR) and Brandon Timlin (WR).
“Having Stores, Shaffer and Moore back after what they accomplished is a great start heading into this football season,” indicates Sikora. “They’ll bring a confidence and calming influence to our offense when facing stressful stretches during the course of a game.They’re an absolute pleasure to coach. We have a lot of returning starters at the skill positions. We must make opposing defenses defend the whole field and take advantages of personnel mismatches.”
The graduation of First-Team All-AAC lineman Adam Rusnak and three others will leave a hole up front. Guard Eric Gonzalez is the lone starter returning along the line. “We must rebuild the offensive line. We lost 4 out of 5 to graduation. We have some good, young talented offensive linemen that just don’t have game experience.”
What you need to know about Memorial’s defense
-Through their first 4 games a season ago, Memorial’s defense held their opponents to an average of 10 points as they posted a 3-1 record. Over their final 6 games though, the defensive unit was unable to minimize the scoring output as they allowed 34.5 points to be scored per game and stumbled to the finish line with a 1-5 mark.
Four of the team’s top six tacklers have since graduated. The return of All-League defenders free safety James Shaffer (47 tackles, 1 INT) and linebacker/defensive end Jontae Pabellon (45 tackles, 1 QB sack) has many feeling optimistic about the team’s foundation on defense.
Joining Shaffer in the secondary will be Brandon Timlin and Christian James. In front of their defensive backs will be Jamal Henderson at linebacker and DaShaun Bell and Pabellon along the line at times. Both are versatile enough to play different positions.
“The strength of our defense will be the back end with many returning starters,” says coach Sikora. “We lost a lot of game experience in our front seven. We feel we have a nice group of young, athletic players that are capable but just lack playing experience. Jontae (Pabellon), DaShaun (Bell) and James Shaffer along with Brandon Timlin’s leadership will be essential with the success of our defense. We need them to make the correct checks and make sure we’re lined up correctly. These players have to be good mentors to the upcoming players.”
Memorial’s Key Player(s)
-The offensive line will be the key to the offense. Multiple skill players return but only one starting linemen (Eric Gonzalez). That’s where the games will be won and lost – up front.
Aug. 29 – Valley Christian
Sept. 4 – St. Thomas Aquinas
Sept. 11 – at East Palestine
Sept. 18 – LaBrae
Sept. 25 – Liberty
Oct. 3 – at Warren JFK
Oct. 9 – at Crestview
Oct. 16 – Champion
Oct. 23 – at Brookfield
Oct. 30 – Newton Falls
The Big game on the schedule
August 29 – at Valley Christian
…The Red Devils hope for another strong start (last year began 3-1). That begins on the road when they meet Valley Christian on Saturday, August 29. Last year, Memorial started the season with a 25-6 win over the Eagles.