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  Boardman Eyes Unprecedented Third Straight Post-Season Appearance  
  The Journey Begins Fri., Aug. 30 With Season-Opener Against Erie McDowell:   August 22, 2019 Edition  
     By Greg Gulas
      Boardman News Sports Staff
      The Boardman Spartans went 6-5 last season, losing four regular season games by a mere 21 points en-route to a program first – consecutive play-off appearances.
      The goal this season is to once again play in Week No. 11, much like they have in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
      “For us, it’s all about fundamentals and doing the little things that make you a good team,” said head coach Joe Ignazio, who begins his seventh season at the helm. “Last year, we had a group of players that played for three years and we took for granted their experience. This year, we don’t have a lot of experience so it’s back to the drawing board, teach the fundamentals and thus far it has been a lot of fun.”
      Of the 57 players who dot this year’s roster, Ignazio and staff welcome back 18 seniors and 13 juniors, 31 upperclass members from which to draw on their leadership abilities.
      There are 25 sophomores and one freshman also seeking playing time, players that will have to grow up fast if the Spartans expect to become as deep a unit as they were a season ago.
      For Ignazio, it has always been about defense first, adding “if you cannot stop anybody, then you can’t win. We preach defense first and that first practice we have is always a defensive session.”
      The saying outside his office and immediately inside their locker room at Door No. 13 of the high school capsulizes his entire defensive approach.
      That sign reads: “A defensive players commitment to his teammates can be measured by his distance from the ball at the end of each play.”
      Ignazio’s teams usually have a slogan, but they’ve gotten away from that this year and will adhere to the theme, “Chop Wood, Carry Water.”
      “I read Joshua Medcalf’s book this year and it talks about falling in love with the process of becoming great,” Ignazio noted. “We try to find some nugget to motivate our players because we aren’t just coaching football, we’re educating kids. It goes hand in hand with character development and doing the little things that wake you a winner. It’s a bring your lunch pail to work mentality.”
      The Spartans will run a spread offense this season with seniors Wrentie Martin and Zach Ryan vying for the starting signal-caller nod.
      Martin is the more experienced of the two under center, having completed 14 of 21 passes last year for 183 yards and two touchdowns as a back-up. Ryan failed to complete his only attempt.
      Senior Nate Thompson, who rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown on 20 totes (136 of those yards came against Ashtabula Lakeside in the regular season finale) a year ago, is the running back with Timmy Bowser (senior) and Sean O’Horo (sophomore) fighting for playing time.
      Junior Aiden Slocum (eight catches for 99 yards) and sophomore Terrance Thomas are one set of receivers with junior Cam Thompson (two receptions for 38 yards and one touchdown) and sophomore Anthony Hightower comprising the other set.
      Senior Connor Miller, who caught 19 passes for 340 yards and two touchdowns a year ago, and junior Ty Ventresco are the tight end hopefuls.
      Senior Isaac Land and junior Ryan Henry are the centers with both interchangeable at the left guard slot. Senior Dave Merdich and junior Anthony Micco are the right guards.
      Sophomore Joe Sferra is the right tackle, senior Tyler Utsinger the left tackle with junior Nick Winsen set to back up both positions as he battles for playing time.
      The Spartans are a 4-4 defensive unit with Merdich and Land the tackles up front.
      Last year, they registered an impressive 74 minus yardage hits, which was second best all-time for a season while their 24 sacks were fifth all-time for a campaign as well.
      Sophomore Cortland Love and Henry are the defensive ends with senior Rashie Gardner and junior Jake Powell back-ups pushing for playing time.
      Miller (40 tackles, one interception, one fumble recovery) and sophomore Blaine Strines are the inside linebackers with junior Richy Evans and senior Justin Wagner the back-ups.
      The outside linebackers are Nate Thompson (23 tackles, two pass break-ups, one sack for 6 yards and one fumble recovery) and senior Zach Johnson (three tackles) with O’Horo and junior Luke Huzicka battling form playing time.
      Senior Tyler Peterson (23 tackles, interception, three pass break-ups, caused fumble) is the free safety, Slocum (three pass break-ups) and Hightower the corners with Ryan and Cam Thompson back-ups at all three positions.
      Special Teams
      Ignazio, like most head coaches, preaches sound special team play and this season is unfolding as something special in the kicking department.
      Miller and Zach Johnson are the punters with record-setting Tommy Fryda the placekicker who will also handle kick-offs.
      Fryda, a senior, is a three-year letterwinner who will only add to his records as he already holds the standard for career extra points (87), is third all-time with 105 total points (behind Andrew Good’s 127 and Trevor Ragan’s 122) and third with 35 extra points in a season (a sophomore in 2017, one behind Phil Curl, who set the mark with 36 in 2007).
      Ventresco is the long and short snapper while Tyler Peterson and Slocum are the punt returners, and Slocum, Cam Thompson and Thomas the kick returners.
      “Our schedule isn’t an easy one so there is no week off for us,” Ignazio said. “We’ll see athletes every week and must be ready. We must improve every week.”
      After Erie McDowell, the Spartans travel to Poland (September 6) and Massillon Jackson (September 13), will entertain Howland (September 20) and Cardinal Mooney (September 27) then play three road games at Garfield Heights (October 4), Warren Harding (October 11) and Ursuline (October 18).
      They’ll finish the regular season at home against Austintown Fitch (October 25) and Canfield (November 1).
      Boadman Spartans
      2019 Football Schedule
      Fri., Au. 30: Erie McDowell........home
      Fri., Sept. 6: Poland Seminary.....away
      Fri., Sept. 13: Massillon Jackson..away
      Fri., Sept. 20: Howland............home
      Fri., Sept. 27: Cardinal Mooney*...home
      Fri., Oct. 4: Garfield Heights.....away
      Fri., Oct. 11: Warren Harding......away
      Fri., Oct. 18: Ursuline............YSU
      Fri., Oct. 25: Austintown..........home
      Fri., Nov. 1: Canfield.............home
      *Homecoming/Hall Of Fame
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