WHEELING — Talk about a demanding schedule. Look no further than the Leatherwood campus.
Linsly School traditionally plays a juggernaut of a grid card. The 2021 schedule, however, takes it to another level of toughness.
Coach B.J. Depew’s always-formidable charges are on tap to take on the likes of Steubenville, Dover, Fairmont Senior, Youngstown Cardinal Mooney, Martins Ferry, Louisville and Canton Central Catholic.
Depew navigated his troops through the 2020 COVID-shrouded season quite nicely, finishing with a 6-3 mark. Despite the loaded schedule this fall, as well as the loss of a talented senior class, Depew, who has done an outstanding job elevating his alma mater’s program to consistent championship levels, is once again optimistic.
The optimism starts with solid numbers. The Cadets field a roster of 49 players. The class breakdown features 10 seniors, 13 juniors, 17 sophomores and nine freshmen.
Moreover, the off-season conditioning program was quite fruitful for the Cadets.
“I am really pleased with our numbers. We are also coming off the best summer in our weight room in a long time,” Depew said. “I also like the culture we have built within our program that past few years.
“That culture has resulted in great leadership from our captain candidates,” he added. “We graduated some outstanding players and we have a demanding schedule, but I l feel we have the makings of another quality team. ”
The biggest question mark for Depew this summer is finding a starting quarterback. Hunter Kelley starred in that position for the last two years before picking up his Linsly diploma.
Kelley’s successor will either be junior letterman Collin Paull (5-11, 195) or sophomore Atley Cowan (6-1, 165.) A third quarterback is promising freshman Rocco Paolino (5-9, 135).
Graduation stripped the Cadets of their top four rushers, one being Kelley. But all is not gloom and doom when it comes to Orange & Black ball-toters.
Mickey Troullos (5-5, 140) got some carries last year as a freshman. Depew is confident Troullos can help fill the backfield void.
Alex Taylor (5-11, 165) is making a serious push for regular rushing duty. He is a multi-talented letter-winning sophomore. Paull, junior Aiden Sanders (6-0, 175) and sophomore Nate Berhalter (5-7, 140) are additional options.
Depew has a horse at fullback in Ada Dolata (6-1, 245). He is a lettering-winning senior who can get the tough yardage inside while providing lead blocking.
Senior Alco Smith (5-11, 250) is Dolata’s bruising backup. He has two letters to his credit.
Whomever wins the starting quarterback derby will have two nice targets at tight end. Senior letterman Liam Lyck (6-5, 250) and classmate Brodie Selmon (5-10, 180) are a talented tandem.
Selmon is a two-year letterman.
Depew calls his wide receiving corp as one with “great talent and good depth.”
Leading the way is electric junior Luca DiLorenzo (5-7, 150). The two-year letterman is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.
DiLorenzo, while being a potential game-breaker, also has plenty of help at wideout.
Felix Reitter (6-0,180) is another dynamic pass-catcher. He is a senior with two letters on his resume.
The ever-versatile Paull will also be a regular wideout if not needed at quarterback or running back.
Nathan Coleman (6-4, 175) brings great athleticism to the receiving contingent. The junior is a two-year letterman. Classmate Jy’Leik Johnson (5-7,140) will also be in the rotation. The offensive line will be big and veteran-laced while rotating some seven or eight performers.
Senior Hayden Bozich (6-6, 280) returns at one tackle.
The two-year letterman is one of the best blockers in the OVAC.
Joining him at tackle will be junior letterman Wyatt Haynes (6-2, 210). Junior Marcus Halby (6-6, 300) affords Depew nice-sized depth.
The guards are quality. Senior lettermen Florian Schorn (6-1, 330) and Amir Hodzic (6-2, 320) are the starters backed by junior letter-winner Debu Yi (5-10,210).
Senior Colton Cybulski (6-0, 205) is the center. He is a two-year letterman.
Defensively, Linsly will line up in a 4-2-5 look.
The terminals will be Lyck, Dolata and Smith.
Bozich is a fortress at one defensive tackle slot. He will be joined by Hodzic and Halby.
Selmon is a productive linebacker. Sophomore letterman Raymond Kovalesky (6-1, 195) is bidding for the other spot after starting much of last year at defensive end. Senior Stef Landweir (6-0, 185) will also be in the mix.
DiLorenzo is a lockdown corner and is “as good as it gets,” according to Depew. Coleman and Johnson are vying for the other corner spot.
Reitter is one starter at safety and will be joined by Taylor and Paull, who also may be utilized at linebacker. Berhalter and junior Mateo Dimitrioski (6-1,180) will also see extensive deep zone duty.
Depew’s staff is nothing short of excellent. It is loaded with Linsly grads.
James Wallace is the team’s defensive coordinator while Chris Kiedaisch is the offensive coordinator. They are joined by Brian Valentine (defensive line), Gee Lofstead (offensive line), Mark Dodd (linebackers), Tanner Russell (offensive line), R.J. Zitzelsberger (running backs and safeties) and Doug Tush (wide receivers and defensive backs.)
Linsly opens its campaign Friday, Aug. 27 at Martins Ferry. The Cadets make their home debut on Saturday, Sept. 4 when Class AA state champion Fairmont Senior comes calling.
“We lost 11 seniors and most of them contributed greatly. But we do return a good bit from last year. We are strong at most positions, ” Depew said. “Obviously, developing a quarterback to replace Hunter Kelley is key. Hunter had the brains and talent to lead us the past two years.
“Our schedule starts tough and doesn’t wear down.
“But our kids always have had the ability to rise up in big games. The thing is this year can we rise up all 10 games? It will be a grind,” he added. “It is just exciting that the Covid restrictions are not as prevalent as last year and we have the freedom and privilege to be part of high school football as you know it.”