Thirteen starters return; Lisbon pursues bounce back year

Sports

Blue Devils return 4 starters up front along the offensive line

Lisbon won 24 games over their previous 3 years (2015-17)

LISBON, Ohio (WKBN) – In coach Alan Mikovich’s first season at the helm of Lisbon football – his team jumped out to a 2-0 start following wins over Malvern (41-6) and Mineral Ridge (41-7). From week three up through the end of the season, Lisbon scored an average of 5.1 points and went 1-7. During the 10-game slate, the offense turned the ball over 15 times and averaged just 4.6 yards per offensive play from scrimmage (2027 total yards, 445 plays). The defense was steady as they held their opponents to less than 25-points per game during the season (24.7). Can they maintain that level of competition without Brice Blackburn and Sean Preston? Will this be a bounce back year for Lisbon?

Lisbon Blue Devils
Head Coach: Alan Mikovich, 2nd season (3-7)
2018 record (EOAC): 3-7 (1-6), T-6th place
Five Key Points
1.Offensive yardage has dropped in each of the last three seasons – 2015: 409.5 total yards; 2016: 335.3 yards; 2017: 308.5 yards; 2018: 202.7 yards
2.In 2018, Lisbon’s scoring average dropped to 12.3 points. The offense had been able to average 30-points or more in each of the previous 4 years (2014-17).
3.Since 2000, Lisbon has managed to finish the season with a winning record 7 times (4 of those years were from 2014 to 2017).
4.In 2001, Jay Yorty threw for 1,112 yards. Since then, there has been only two quarterbacks who have thrown for over 1,000-yards (2014-15: Josh Liberati; 2017: Logan Bell).
5.Blue Devils have dropped their last 7 games played in the month of October

Offense
Returning Starters: 7
Scoring Offense: 12.3 (49th in Area)
Rushing Offense: 144.6
Passing Offense: 58.1
Total Offense: 202.7
…Over the course of the previous four years (2014-17) – through the efforts of Cameron Summers and Jason Thompson – the Blue Devils had a 1,000-yard rusher in each season. Last year, that streak was snapped as the team as a whole ran for 1446 yards on 328 totes – an average of 4.4 yards per attempt – and 15 touchdowns. Last year’s top three rushers have all since graduated (Logan Bell, 537; Brice Blackburn, 311; Justin Sweeney, 311). This fall at running back – Jason Steves, R.J. Schreffler, Nik Rife and Jacob Grodhaus should all see carries.

Tyler Welsh and Joey Fisher both return after catching 14 (240 yards) and 7 passes (59 yards) for the Blue Devils a year ago respectively. However, the quarterback will be different. Logan Bell, who’s since graduated, completed 41 throws for 506 yards a year ago as a senior. This summer – Ryan McCullough, Welsh and Grant Underwood will all attempt to win the starting signal caller duty. McCullough gained 5.1 yards per carry (37 attempts, 189 yards) in 2018. Coach Mikovich states, “Execution will be the key, as well as, understanding how we need to adapt to the various defenses we’ll see this upcoming season.

Offensive line play will hopefully be our strength with Justyn Briand, Abram Simms, Tanner Crosser and Blake Donaldson all returning. We need to continue to build on last year’s experiences and replacing last year’s seniors. That’ll be the key to see how this team handles the season.”

Defense
Returning Starters: 6
Scoring Defense: 24.7 (T-31st in Area)
…The defensive unit lost their top two tacklers (Brice Blackburn, 72; Sean Preston, 50.5) and their leading sack artist (Michael Stover, 3 sacks) from last year’s group which lowered their scoring defense to 24.7 points per game from 25.8 points in 2017. Nic Mundy (38 tackles, 2 QB sacks) and Justyn Briand (24 tackles) return up front for the Blue Devils. Abram Simms (37 tackles) will rejoin the linebacker group and in the secondary the defensive unit welcomes back Ryan McCullough (17 tackles) and Tyler Welsh (33 tackles) all return.

Mikovich indicates, “Our players will need to understand the new variations that are being instituted this off-season and being more aggressive as an overall unit. They’ll need to have belief within Coach (Charles) Bell’s system and having the proper attitude. That’ll serve the defense well moving forward.”

Not to be forgotten is the punting of Logan Bell – who has since graduated. Bell earned First-Team All-EOAC honors by averaging 37.3 yards per punt and pinning his opponents inside the 20-yard line 15 times. That’s a position which goes unnoticed to those of us who are looking in at the program during the off-season.

Schedule
Aug. 30 – Lowellville
Sept. 6 – Mineral Ridge
Sept. 14 – at Valley Christian
Sept. 20 – East Palestine
Sept. 27 – Wellsville
Oct. 4 – at Southern
Oct. 11 – Leetonia
Oct. 18 – at Newton Falls
Oct. 25 – Columbiana
Nov. 1 – at United

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