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  Spartans Feature Some Experienced Players This Season  
  August 24, 2018 Edition  
     Despite earning a spot in the Ohio Div. II playoffs last season, the Boardman Spartans left the field with a very sour taste in their mouth, and a 6-5 record.
      Boardman held a 23-14 lead against the Massillon Tigers at Paul Brown Stadium with 9:19 left in opening round playoff action. But the Spartans defense couldn’t stop the combination of quarterback Aidan Longwell and wide receiver Austin Kuscher down the stretch and dropped a 28-23 contest that may have gone the other way, if the Spartans didn’t give-up a 91-yard kickoff return by Tyree Broyles on the opening play of the game.
      If Boardman opens strong this year, and plays well in the final half of the season, the Tigers and Spartans may see each other again this post season, but not if three-time defending state champ Akron Hoban has anything to say about it.
      With the competitive balance realignment mandated by the Ohio High School Athletic Association, Hoban is now in region 5, same as the Spartans.
      “We return key players coming off of a playoff year. We will compete in a tougher region this year. We need to be better at home from a year ago. The expectations are high,” Boardman Head Coach Joe Ignazio said.
      “Everyone is talking how good we should be. Right now it is all talk. We need to go out and compete. Our goal is to be back-to-back state playoff qualifiers. We need to develop some depth to do that,” he added.
      The Spartans open the season Fri., Aug. 24 with a home game against Youngstown East, and with a lot of experience, led by four seniors--- three-year starting quarterback Mike O’Horo, highly-recruited left tackle Tino Acuri, tight end Alex Huzicka and linebacker Kareen Hamden; and junior h-back and cornerback, Connor Miller.
      O’Horo, who gained All-AAC, All-District and All-Inland NE Ohio laurels last season, has been a starting varsity quarterback during his freshman, sophomore, junior and senior year. In three seasons under center he has passed for some 3,100 yards, rushed for 1,545 yards, and accounted for 46 touchdowns on the ground and in the air. On his career he has connected on 272 of 508 passes.
      Joining him in the backfield will be fleet tailback Joe Ieraci, who played well last season until he was injured against Steubenville’s famed Big Red; and Miller, who lettered last season as a sophomore playing tough on both sides of the ball.
      Josh Rodriguez and junior Nate Thomspon also figure to see plenty of action in the Boardman backfield this year, based upon their pre-season play.
      The Boardman offensive front has experience, led by the 6-3, 265-lb. Tino Acuri at left tackle. Acuri, who carres a 3.9-plus gpa, will be a starter for a third, straight season. Last year he earned All-AAC honors and has been highly recruited this summer by such schools as the U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Military Academy, Holy Cross, Eastern Kentucky, Colgate, Fordham and Bowling Green.
      Candidates for the center position appear to be 5-11, 250 lb. Isaac ‘The Cheese’ Land, or Dave Merdich, 6-2, 260 lbs., who started at the position last season.
      If Land plays at center, Merdich will move to the guard spot, along with letterman Nik Missos, 6-0 and 250 lbs. and Lou Craven, 6-1, 265 lbs. could also fit into the position. At right tackle will be Jimmy Hoffman, 6-0, 240 lbs.
      Acuri, Merdich, Missos and Hoffman were all on the field in the Spartans playoff loss to Massillon.
      O’Horo should have a bevy of receivers this season. In addition to Miller and Huzicka, he has a host of players who can catch the ball, including Cam Kreps, and Che Trevena (who can also serve as a back-up to Ieraci), as well as sophomore Aiden Slocum on the outside. Nate Cuttica was set to return for his senior year, but suffered a season-ending knee injury.
      Huzicka was an honorable mention All-Ohio selection last season, and an All-AAC second team pick. He has added about 40 lbs. to his weight, when compared to last season.
      Look for Boardman to use its offensive experience with a lot of ‘up-tempo’ play.
      The Spartan defense boasts third-team All-Ohio pick Kareem Hamden at linebacker, who was all over the field in Boardman pre-season scrimmages against Poland and Perry. In addition to All-Ohio mention, Hamden was an All-AAC and All-Inland all-star a season ago.
      Joining him on the inside will be Zach Hillard, who got his chance in the playoff game against Massillon and finished as the leading tackler of the game for the Spartans.
      Miller and Ieraci round-out the linebacker corps.
      Defensive tackles include Land and Missos, while Brandon Zagotti also figures to see some action.
      O’Horo and Trevena will open at the corners, while Huzicka and Acuri will key the defensive end slots.
      Mike Fetsko, O’Horo and Ty Peterson will see action at safety.
      Sophomore Tom Fryda returns as placekicker, backed-up by freshman Cole Congson, while Huzicka will handle the punting chores.
      With several players going on both sides of the ball for the Spartans, bench strength could be a factor down the stretch.
      Justin Cina could provide relief on the offensive line, while Ceaonni Jones, Thompson, Trevena, Kreps, Rasheed Garner and Mike Morris could help on the corners and linebacker spots.
      Boardman opens against Youngstown East. The Golden Bears figure to be improved from a season ago with the addition of three transfers from Warren Harding, and a strong running game.
      The Spartans go on the road for the second game, against the Howland Tigers, then return home for games against Massillon Jackson and Erie (Pa.) McDowell, that returns plenty of starters after a 5-5 season last year.
      If the Spartans are to make a playoff run this year, their next five games will tell the tale of the tape, opening with a Sept. 21 date against Mooney at Stambaugh Stadium, an away game at Canfield, two home games against Warren Harding and Ursuline, and an away game at Austintown Fitch.
      The Falcons came to Boardman Stadium last season drubbed the Spartans, 28-7, Boardman didn’t manage a first down in the second half of that game until late in the fourth quarter, and O’Horo was intercepted three times.
      The Spartans end the regular season on Fri., Oct. 26 at Ashtabula Lakeside.
        Notes: Spartan junior Nate Thompson is the brother of Wes Thompson, a 290-lb. defensive tackle with the Youngstown State football team. His younger brother, Cam, is a member of the Spartan freshman football team as a wideout.....Boardman quarterback Mike O’Horo’s younger brother, Sean, is a running back with the Spartan freshman football team. Both are stellar wrestlers. Mike is ranked fifth in the state in Div. 1 at 182 lbs.; and Sean is ranked 12th in the state in 138 lbs, despite never having wrestled in a varsity meet......Boardman Head Coach Joe Ignazio enters his sixth season at the helm of Spartan grid fortunes. His teams have landed two post-season playoff appearances.....On the grid staff at the University of Maryland is former Boardman Head Coach Dan Pallante.....And, former Boardman Head Coach D.J. Ogilvie, who left his post to land a head coaching job at Lemon Bay in Florida, is back in the area as athletic director at United Local.....83-year-old Bill Bohren, who led Boardman to its only appearance in a state title game (in 1987 against Cincinnati Princeton), is an assistant coach with the Niles McKinley Red Dragons.....In a pre-season, all-out scrimmage, Boardman’s first team put 10 points on the scoreboard while holding Massillon Perry scoreless in the first quarter. Junior placekicker Tom Fryda had a 23-yard field goal in the scrimmage.....If Boardman reaches the Div. II playoffs this season, their newly-revised 26-team region 5 includes some top Ohio teams, like Akron Hoban (three-time state champ), Cleveland Benedictine,Warren Harding and Walsh Jesuit.
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