For the third time in four years, the Boardman football team will start the season with a different head coach.
When the Spartans kick off the 2013 campaign on Friday, Aug. 30 at Hilliard Darby near Columbus, lifelong Boardman resident Joe Ignazio will be wearing the main headsets. Ignazio has been a player and coach at the varsity level in Boardman, so he is not unfamiliar to his new surroundings. In fact, being the boss at Boardman is something Ignazio has always seemed destined to do.
"It means a whole lot to coach this team," said Ignazio from the school's weight room. "It's a dream."
Photo courtesy of Robert Senn Studio
The 2013 Boardman Spartans varsity football team is, in front, Dawan Britt #23, Ivan Adu-Poku #28, Isaiah-Aton Lyle #21, Matt Platt #89, Stefen Roth #58, James Payne #72, Nick Cordova #55, Darius Sanders #3, Jimmy Mikesell #62, Turel Thompson #2, and CJ Bias #5; in the second row: Erick Ritz #51, Mat Berringer #17, Nick Patoray #57, Gavin Dill #15, Jackson Rogers #34, Dom Pastella #13, Mario Graziani #25, Jon Cina #4, Brent Wright #40, Vince Valentini #59; in the third row: Cannon Carlile #44, Alex Birchfield #52, Marcus Smith #7, Devon Washington #63, Jacob Gearge #54, Richard Kalosky #50, Evan Croutch #33, Tony Chiarello #79, Jayson Young #74, Justin Metzel #56, AJ Yaist #53; in the fourth row: trainer Lexi Caraballo, trainer Franchesca Cardillo, trainer Anna Saxton, Wesley Thompson #66, Jon Michael Dana #61, Matt Filipovich #14, Preston Wehr #35, Alex Duda #8, Nick Krohn #29, Jarod Wolfe #18, trainer Amanda Lipke, trainer Krista Johnson, and trainer Marisa Hanna. Coaches in back are, from left, Mike Popio Sr., Jason Congo, Mike Kopachy, Larry Davis, Ron Weeks, head coach Joe Ignazio, Paul Hostetter, Andrew King, Ryan Barrett, Mike Popio Jr., trainer Mike Kenneally.
If Ignazio's dream is not to become a nightmare, the Spartans will have to eclipse their sub .500 record in the rugged Federal League. Boardman will try to improve on that 2-4 mark (4-6 overall) using a roster that is littered with inexperience. Only eight starters from last season's less-than-stellar squad return meaning that everyone in Spartan Nation will have their tolerance tested.
"We'll have to be patient," Ignazio admitted. "Rome wasn't built in a day. We can't be successful if we are constantly evaluating the new coach and new system."
The system coach Ignazio will use on offense is a spread. That open offense can't work without a talented, duel-threat quarterback. Ignazio thinks he has one in senior signal caller Darius Sanders. Sanders played a bit for Boardman last season, rushing for 173 yards and his size and speed is something the Spartans covet from their quarterback.
"(Sanders) is a track kid with great speed and a good frame," said Ignazio. "He throws a nice ball. He will play a big part running the ball in our spread offense. Two (younger) kids will push him, but he should be the starter."
With Sanders in the saddle, the Spartans' offense could be the strength of the team. He will be joined in the backfield by returning letter winners Turel Thompson and Isaiah Lyle. Thompson was voted All Federal League in 2012 due to his excellent combination of rushing and receiving ability. He finished last fall with 570 yards and 24 total touchdowns scored by rushing, receiving and kick returning. Lyle is a little more powerful runner, who also has some shiftiness. Another component to Boardman's backfield will be returning senior rusher Ivan Adu Poku who was sidelined last season.
"(Adu Poku) missed 2012 with an injury, but he played a lot as a sophomore and should help us a lot," explained Ignazio.
Junior Matt Filipovich will return to play wide receiver and add a steady presence to the defensive backfield from his safety spot. Other standouts on defense will be inside linebacker Evan Croutch, linebacker Nick Cordova, who had five sacks a year ago, and Thompson, who had two picks as a corner in 2012.
Boardman's defense surrendered a staggering 35 points per game last fall and must improve on that number if it is to stay alive in the Federal League. One way to do that is to get strong interior line play, which is something Ignazio was concerned about a week before the kids were to strap on full pads.
"Depth, especially up front is a concern," said Ignazio, "but I knew that coming in. We do have some big kids who I expect will step up."
Two of those potential anchors on the line are juniors Jaysen Young and Doug Kephart.
"(Young) played a lot last year and should fill some pretty big shoes," said Ignazio. "(Kephart) put some size on and should help on the lines."
If coach Ignazio is forced to go further down his depth chart, he thinks he has some classy underclassmen to call upon.
"We will give some talented sophomores some playing time," the coach mentioned. "We also have some track kids who are new to Boardman who will help at the skill positions."
Can all of those new kids and young kids do enough, however, to strengthen the Spartans once Federal League action begins in week 4 versus Canton GlenOak? Battles with Cardinal Mooney, Poland and Fitch in weeks 2, 3 and 5 respectively should give the rookie coach one heck of a barometer to measure his minions.
"Our non-conference schedule is tough and our league (schedule) is brutal," Ignazio announced. (That's why) our kids need to buy (into the new system) quickly to win some football games."
Being successful at Boardman is not something that coach Ignazio only wants to dream about. He wants winning to become a reality soon.