by Frank AcetO
Associate Sports Editor
He has a state champion on his roster and a bevy of other players that have excelled in a number of sports.
But Streetsboro 11th-year head coach John Arlesic (48-53 overall) gets frustrated when people throw other sports into the equation when it comes to his squad.
"A lot of people call us a track team trying to play football or a basketball team trying to play football," Arlesic said. "We want our kids to be football players."
Those "football players" certainly have high hopes.
A more experienced Rockets' team is anxious to take the next step after finishing 5-5 overall and 3-3 in the Portage Trail Conference County Division.
Streetsboro lost 12 letter winners from last year, including 2014 graduates Devin Rencher (wide receiver/defensive back), Trey Close (wide receiver/defensive back), Austin Szemacs (wide receiver/defensive back), Kyle Woods (tight end/defensive end), Chad Thompson (tight end/defensive end), Nick Fazio (left tackle/defensive lineman), Jacob Armbrecht (left guard/linebacker) and Joey Andrasik (offensive lineman/defensive lineman).
Fortunately, the Rockets have 23 returning letter winners. And here's the best news: These multisport athletes are completely dedicated to football.
"I like this group of kids," Arlesic said. "They have worked hard in the offseason. They're a more unified team. They believe in one another."
Hoping to showcase its great speed, Streetsboro plans to run a spread offense.
In the past, the Rockets have been primarily a running team that featured the occasional pass play.
This year, Streetsboro plans to mix it up a lot more.
"Last year, we ran 75 percent of the time," Arlesic said. "This year, it will be more 50-50."
If the Rockets want to showcase their great speed in the open field, they will need room to operate.
They should get those opportunities, thanks to an experienced line up front.
Arlesic said junior Ryan Zampounis (5-11, 255) will start at right tackle. Also expected to start are senior left guard Chuckie Rhome (5-10, 225), senior right guard Tyler Rowland (6-0, 220) and senior right tackle Thomas Benson (6-3, 230).
Two players were competing for the nod at starting center. They are junior Josh Cummings (5-10, 170) and sophomore Kyle Armbrecht (5-10, 210).
Other players who are expected to see time up front are seniors Robert Conner (6-1, 215), Seth Reynolds (6-0, 275) and Titus Fredd (5-8, 195). Senior Josh Reyes is expected to be the starting tight end.
"I was very happy with the way we played up front in our scrimmage against Struthers," Arlesic said. "I look for them to be a big part of our success."
Junior Jerry Judd is expected to be the team's starting quarterback. Last year, Judd shared the quarterbacking duties with classmate Avery VanReeth, who is expected to contribute as a wide receiver.
"I think Jerry can be a great quarterback for all 10 games," Arlesic said. "He's a dynamic runner and he is growing into an effective passer."
The backup quarterback is junior Bobby Dixon.
Streetsboro plans to give the ball to a pair of backs a majority of the time. They are juniors Johnathan Williams and Ethan Flick. Williams was the Rockets' leading rusher last year.
The receiving corps will be led by sprinters Dakari Carter, a sophomore who won the 100-meter race at the 2014 Division II state track and field meet, and Prince Franklin, who reached the state track meet in a couple of the sprint relays.
Other wideouts include VanReeth, seniors Brandon Board and Dre'Sean Bush and junior Brandon Cooper-Sharra.
"Skill-wise, we have a lot of depth and we're excited about that," Arlesic said.
"We'll go with four wide receivers and get the ball in their hands in open space. I think that excites the guys."
While the offense has plenty of weapons, the defense might be the team's biggest question mark.
Last year, the Rockets had an extremely difficult time bringing an opposing ball carrier to the ground.
Streetsboro, which plans to utilize a 3-5 formation, hopes to correct these tackling issues.
"We had 25 missed tackles against Mogadore," Arlesic said. "We also had 31 turnovers last year. We want to shore up our tackling woes and be tougher and a lot more physical."
The tackles, who are called a 'TNT' package by Arlesic, are Benson, Rowland, Zampounis and Armbrecht. The nose tackles feature Rhome and junior Ve'Shaun Glover (5-10, 205).
"Those six will rotate and give us depth," Arlesic said.
The inside linebackers will feature Fredd, Reyes, Flick, Cummings and junior Jeramy Debolt. The outside linebackers include Williams, Dixon, Judd and VanReeth.
Franklin and Carter are expected to start at the cornerback spots. Also expected to see time at corner are senior Dylan Keba and junior Marcus Frierson.
Senior Nick Morris is expected to start at safety and the backup safety is Cooper-Sharra.
As far as special teams go, Arlesic won't have too difficult of a time figuring out who will return kicks and punts.
"All of our fast guys," Arlesic said with a chuckle.
Those "fast guys" are Franklin, Carter and Williams.
Judd is expected to handle the punting duties and three-year starter Spencer Deevers, a senior, will handle the placekicking duties.
Dixon and sophomore Nick Keba are battling for long-snapping duties.
The rest of the coaching staff features John Schumm (offensive coordinator/offensive/defensive lines); Chris Clift (defensive coordinator/linebackers/offensive line); Chris Scisciani (quarterbacks/free safeties); Cory Lanterman (wide receivers/defensive backs); Kyle Teague (running backs/outside linebackers); Frank Diehl (equipment manager); Ryan Spence (freshman defensive coordinator); Jim Lovejoy (freshman offensive coordinator); and Jason Cook (volunteer).
As noted earlier, the Rockets' bevy of playmakers have the potential to give a lot of opposing defenders fits.
But Arlesic knows it takes more than speed to win games.
"Speed is relative," he said. "You can't just have really fast guys. You have to execute on the field to be fast."
Last year, a lot of players were tasting varsity football for the first time. It's safe to say they will feel much more comfortable in 2014.
"We had seven sophomores and a freshman start last year," Arlesic said. "They can lean on the experience they gained last year."
Streetsboro is scheduled to make its 2014 debut against Champion Aug. 29 at Glinatsis Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.