Bellaire Intends to Build Off Playoff Berth
By KIM NORTH
BELLAIRE — It had been awhile since Bellaire fans had something to cheer about at Nelson Field. The 2016 Big Reds advanced to the Ohio Division VI state playoffs and finished 6-5 under first-year coach Mark Spigarelli, a Bellaire alum.
“We had a real good year,” Spigarelli recalled. “That was mainly due to having great senior leadership. Those 11 guys — two came over from St. John — helped put this program back on the map. A lot of people said it was because of me, but it wasn’t me. The kids just needed someone to direct them in the right spots, and they did that. That senior class did everything we, as coaches, asked of them. They will be missed, mainly because of their leadership, and some of them because of their athletic abilities.
“What helps out too is, during our recent practices a lot of those guys came back to watch. That means a lot … they cared about the program because they are the ones that put it where it is right now.
“To get a home playoff game last year — the first time Bellaire has had a home playoff game in about 10 years — was great. We should’ve, could’ve beaten Newark Catholic, but the fact is we didn’t. Now we’ve got things we can build on. We’ve got another great nucleus of seniors that are proving to be good leaders.”
That senior class included D’Eondre Burney, Justyn Keyser, Tyson Camsky, Gage Eden, David McConn Jr., Josh Sabinski, Jordan Mehlman, Jeremy Hagiloizou, Jacob Smith, Todd Morris and Logan St. John.
Burney and Keyser were the Big Reds’ go-to deep threats last fall with 932 and 616 receiving yards, respectively. Burney also landed nine TD catches, while Keyser had four. Camsky rushed for 997 yards and 12 six-pointers. He had a season high of 219 yards against John Marshall.
“That group last year actually put the culture back into our program. A lot of people that came to watch our games last year were very happy with what they saw on the football field,” Spigarelli said. “I think they saw a disciplined group and a group that cared about wearing a Big Reds jersey.
“Once again, that’s not a testament to me but the kids, because they bought into everything we asked of them from day one.”
Nine seniors are among 20 returning lettermen. The leader is quarterback Mason Ramsay (6-foot-2, 188 pounds) who passed for 1,810 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. He threw for 765 yards and eight touchdowns in limited action as a sophomore.
“Obviously, Mason is our No. 1 leader,” Spigarelli said. “He did a very good job last year and we are really expecting bigger things out of him this season. Playing in the offense last year will definitely help him this season. He feels more comfortable and he looks more comfortable running the offense. He’s getting his reads down probably 10 times better than last year already. He’s knows where his checkdowns are.
“Hopefully, he can produce a little more than he did last year. We don’t have the deep threats like last year, but we’ve got some possession-type receivers.”
Sophomore Bobby Roth (5-10, 155) is the backup quarterback.
Senior Thor Duffy (5-11, 172) moves to the tailback position from wide receiver. He saw limited time there a year ago, gaining 122 yards on 31 carries. His backups will be promising sophomores Kaleb Pitchford (5-6, 195) and sophomore Trenton Wilson (5-7, 161). Pitchford gained 59 yards and scored a touchdown on 13 carries last season, while Wilson is the son of former Weir and WVU standout Quincy Wilson.
Other tailbacks are senior Grant Gheen (6-0, 163) and freshmen Collin Matusik (5-9, 165), Austen Rejonis (5-6, 188), Danny Nation (5-7, 144) and Jayce Gallaher (5-9, 132).
Sophomore Trace Secrest (6-0, 195) will lineup at fullback. His backups are senior Drew Tingler (5-9, 187) and sophomore Andrew Kolenich (5-9, 190).
“We’ve got some experience in the backfield,” the head coach said. “Thor and Trace both saw some action back there.”
Senior Gabe Rejonis (5-10, 176) will start as the ‘Z’ receiver. He managed 57 yards and a TD last year on six catches. His backup is promising freshman Payton Marling (5-10, 166), who Spigarelli raved about.
“He has a bright future ahead of him if he can stay away from injuries,” the coach said. “He has shown a lot of promise.”
Sophomore A.J. McCarthy (5-7, 134) is the starting split end. He saw limited action a season ago. Backups are juniors Sheldon Lekanudos (5-9, 146), Trent Dunaway (5-10, 168) and Griffen Heatherington (5-10, 145).
Other possible pass-catchers are seniors Brett Berberich (5-10, 145) and Noah Giffin (5-10, 125), junior Adam McKennen (5-9, 141), sophomores Jake Stolz (5-8, 143) and Mason Beveridge (6-0, 156), and freshmen Braunson Wallace (5-6, 110), Karter Hicks (5-5, 102) and Cody Slater (5-7, 110).
Junior Cole LaRoche (6-0, 210) returns at tight end where he saw spot duty last fall. He hauled in five passes for 70 yards a year ago. Sophomore Cole Porter (5-10, 160) is the backup.
Also in the mix are junior Jacob Marthaler (5-10, 175), sophomore Cody Albaugh (5-9, 162) and freshmen Marshall Fish (5-4, 106) and Zac Hood (6-3, 185).
“Gabe played some last year and got some valuable minutes, while A.J. saw a little time,” the head coach said. “Cole is back at tight end and we are looking to throw the ball more to him this season.”
Junior Daniel Lednik (6-0, 254) and sophomore Levi Littell (6-3, 281) will anchor the offensive line at left tackle and left guard, respectively. They are both returning letterwinners.
“Daniel started all 11 games last year and Levi started the final five, so we are expecting them to be our leaders up front,” Spigarelli said.
Sophomore Chase Nolan (5-11, 260) gets the start at center. Sophomore Jake Maupin (5-11, 218) is the backup.
Sophomores Connor Rosen (6-2, 230) and Quentin Baker (5-7, 209) are battling with senior Scott Mehlman (5-8, 250) and junior Joey Hoepfner (6-0, 266) for the right guard and tackle spots.
“We’ve got a little bit of size up there, but we will have three sophomores up there at some point,” Spigarelli said. “We’re coming along pretty good. We still have our good days and our bad days … our good plays and our bad plays. What we’re looking for now is consistency in the blocking, play calling and those guys communicating with each other.”
Also in the mix are senior Jacob Bellville (5-10, 255), junior Haydon Lowery (6-2, 310), sophomores T.J. Bell (5-11, 172), Aaron Piergallini (5-7, 240), Ryan Mukliewicz (5-8, 190) and Caden Honeywell (6-2, 270), and freshmen Jalob Honeywell (5-9, 214), Jay Mosa (5-8, 215), Matthew Joyce (5-10, 150) and Vince Patrone (5-9, 182).
“Offensively we’ve already progressed ahead of last year because the terminology isn’t new to the kids,” Spigarelli said. “They learned it last year and now they know what to do when the play is called. We don’t have to teach as much. That has really been helpful.”
Defensively, the Big Reds will again employ a 4-2-5 base.
“We might be young in some spots, but we’ve also got some guys who played a lot last year and got some quality time,” Spigarelli said. “I think we’ve got a good mix of both.”
Gheen and LaRoche will switch from linebackers to defensive ends. Baker can play either tackle post. Lednik and Littell return as down tackles, with Nolan, Mehlman, Lowery and Hoepfner slated to see action.
Other defensive linemen are Heatherington, Tingler, Jalob Honeywell, Caleb Honeywell, Muklewicz, Rosen, Maupin, Mosa, Joyce, Patrone, Bellville, Piergallini and hood.
The two linebackers will be Secrest and Porter. Secrest played quite a bit last year and had some big games. Bell and Kolenich are the backups.
Also listed at linebacker are Albaugh, Austen Rejonis, Matusik, Marthaler and Pitchford.
The secondary will consist of Duffy at strong safety and Gabe Rejonis at weak safety. The corners are McCarthy and Lekanudos, with Dunaway filling in the free safety slot.
Wilson and Roth will see time at corner, while Marling will spell Dunaway.
Other DBs are Ramsay, Stolz, Fish, Gallaher, Berberich, Wallace, Hicks, Giffin, Slater, McKennen and Beveridge.
“There’s a lot of younger kids going both ways, but you have to have your best 11 guys out there if you’re going to win,” the head coach said.
One area where Spigarelli is confident in is special teams.
”Gabe Rejonis returns for his third season as the long snapper,” he said. “That’s a really important position that gets overlooked a lot, but he’s done a fine job.”
Duffy will handle the punting duties for the third straight season.
“Thor has a very strong leg. He can really boom the ball,” Spigarelli said.
Ramsay will return to handle the kickoffs and placements. He booted 30 PATs and a pair of field goals last season.
“I feel very comfortable with Mason back there,” Spigarelli added. “I wouldn’t be afraid to put him out there at any time.”
The head coach said Ramsay’s range could extend to 35 yards.