Falcons looking to take next step

By Jonathan Delozier - jdelozier@civitasmedia.com

Even after going 8-3 in 2015, the Firelands Falcons want more.

A 42-7 playoff loss to Peninsula’s Woodbridge High School was a reminder of that for coach Mike Passerrello.

Passerrello is 27-25 at Firelands entering his sixth season as head coach. After a winless 2013, the Falcons improved to 5-4 in 2014 followed by last season’s second place finish in the Patriot Athletic Conference Stars division.

“We have some starters coming back along with some players who needed more experience to bring their talent out,” he said. “We’ve got to get the newer guys up to speed to have a successful season. It’s about 100 percent effort, the expectation to do your job, and to win. We’ve changed the culture the past six years and we’re talking about reloading this year instead of rebuilding.”

Replacing Brad Thrasher, who accounted for 2,117 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2015, will be a tall task for Passerrello and his staff.

Thrasher was named the Division IV Northeast Inland District player of the year and first team All-Ohio in 2015.

“We are going to carry over quite a bit from last year with a few tweaks,” said Passerrello. “It will still be a pistol offense but with a few changes to help out our new quarterback.”

Junior Michael Bansek and senior Larry Verhovec are battling it out to become the new signal caller for the Falcons. Passerrello said that neither will be asked to fill Thrasher’s shoes, just to manage the offense.

“One thing we want to correct is being able to stretch the field vertically with our passing game,” he said. “We also have to be a bit more balanced on offense. A strong offensive line and strong running game will carry over since we have many of the same guys coming back.”

Defensively, Firelands will continue to employ a 4-4 defense that sometimes switches over to a 3-4. There is not much need for change on that side of the ball, as the Falcons put up four straight shutouts in 2015 — outscoring its opponents 157-0 in weeks two through five. The defense gave up more than 18 points just four times last season.

“The big thing is to let everything come to you,” said Passerrello. “We have key guys returning up front on both sides of the ball and that is a good foundation to continue to lean on.”

Firelands lost nine starters and 12 lettermen to graduation but will welcome back a number of key players including Mike Whitacre, Colin Myers, Trevor Stefanski, Nick Denney, Ben Markovich, Sean Lipscomb, and Brad Soltis.

Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.

By Jonathan Delozier