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2001 season preview:
1st-year coach to roll the dice for Brookfield Warriors
By Nathan Summers
Herald Sports Writer
Look for things to change in Brookfield this year, a change likely to be noted in the Trumbull County Athletic Conference football standings.
With new head coach Toby Gibson at the helm, the Warriors appear poised to change recent history. And if good things do come to those who persevere, the Warriors may have waited just about long enough.
The Warriors dropped a 21-12 decision at Conneaut on Friday night in their season opener.
As fate would have it, Gibson arrives at a time when Brookfield has manufactured a solid lineup for the coming season. Gibson will roll the dice at a few positions, but hopes experience at others will balance the team. Senior Jeff Nasci is no stranger to the quarterback position, but this year will embark on his first year as starter after notching four starts last season.
"He's real strong," Gibson said of his new starter under center. "He's the leader, has a strong arm and makes good decisions. He may not be very big, but he is one of our best players. We're going to run it to throw it this year."
Waiting in the wings but making strides as a likely backup is Keith Haun, who brings a larger frame, but lacks any varsity experience.
Out of the backfield, Brookfield boasts not only experience, but a tried-and-true offensive threat in junior tailback Julian Hayes. In 2000, Hayes torched through the TAC-8.
"With Julian, we've got a great athlete," Gibson said. "He can run inside and outside and put moves on people. It seems like we're lucky so far. We also have Lou Scudere who started some a tailback and had a phenomenal track season last year. He had over 120 yards in a half in the scrimmage (against Mathews)."
Combine the tailback strength with a pair of big fullbacks to make space and the Warriors are sitting pretty.
"We have a great 1-2 punch. We have two 240-pound fullbacks --- Joe Nagy and Eugene Ledbetter. We're sitting in a nice spot. When we're in a situation where we need a couple of yards, we've got two big horses."
The wide receiver spots certainly are positions up for grabs. Senior Charley King likely will fill one of the starting roles having played most of the season at receiver last year, accruing to Gibson.
"He has great hands and runs really exact routes," Gibson said of King.
Also back after starting every game on both sides of the ball in 2000 is Venti Cozart. Joining them could be senior Jake Mortimer, who after blowing out his knee and missing all of last season following surgery, "hasn't skipped a beat," according to his coach.
Newcomer Maurice Davis should also see time at receiver for the Warriors.
Senior Scott Stofan leads a healthy handful of tight ends, and is joined again this year by fellow senior returnee Ryan Brant. The two platooned at the position last year.
The biggest hole on the offensive line was left by graduated starter B.J. Arnold, and the position could be a sore spot for Brookfield. But the return of experience elsewhere on the line should help. Senior Jordy Harris is back at tackle, while sophomore Lyle Hayes and senior David Guerino return at guard, along with junior Dale Johnson and sophomore Luke Eliser.
"I think right now one of the best things is that our offensive line is playing really well," Gibson said. "With those guys in the backfield, I expect pretty good things on offense."
On the defensive line, sophomore Mike Heasley steps into the spotlight after limited use last year in which he saw action in three games. Johnson, who started last year, also returns with sold experience along with Guerino, who also saw time as a starter on both sides of the ball in 2000.
"We can rotate guys in," Gibson said, referring to the surprising amount of depth on both lines. Sophomores Hayes and Eliser will also compete for time on the D-line.
Stofan, a full-time starter last season, returns to anchor the linebacker unit, and will be joined by senior Jeremy Matthews, who started at strong safety last year before moving to middle linebacker this year. Also, sophomore Sean Willister has had a strong camp and so far has won the favor of Gibson.
"Sean has really come on," Gibson said. "If he doesn't start, he'll be splitting time, at least."
Forming the ends are seniors Brant and Nagy, both of whom played every down on defense in 2000.
In the secondary, Cozart and Hayes will likely split time at safety for the Warriors, with Scudere leading the cornerbacks crew.
Also likely to see ample time at corner will be seniors Craig Saloom and Mortimer. There is currently a battle to fill the hole left by Matthews at strong safety, between sophomore Chris Sharva and junior Drew Fisher.
Gibson has even experienced good fortune on special teams, where the Warriors welcome junior Badger High transfer Nate Harnett, a defensive tackle and tight end with soccer experience who will assume placekicking duties for the season.
Gibson, who took the reins in February replacing Anthony Naples, probably could not ask for a better opportunity for improvement.
"I think any coach puts pressure on himself," he said. "We're a lot further ahead than I or any of the other coaches thought we would be. If we go out there and play hard and limit mistakes, we're going to be in a lot of football games."
Adding to the potential, Gibson said the TAC-8 should be wide open this year, with no team standing above the rest.
Gibson will be assisted by Walt Nogay, Marty McCabe, former NFL wide receiver Bobby Jones, Randy Clark, J.D. Brenner, Keith Joseph, Shawn Hammond and Jay Bodnar, and Dan Paris and Brian Gedeon will coach at the middle school.
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