For the first time in nearly a decade, Amherst Steele football enters a season ready to fan a flame instead of trying to find a spark.
The Comets finished 6-4 in 2017, the program’s first .500 or better campaign since 2010 and the first under head coach Mike Passerrello.
He came to Steele after posting a 34-28 record over six seasons leading the Firelands Falcons’ sideline and working as an Amherst assistant coach from 2002 to 2006.
Passerrello’s varied offense and aggressive 3-4 defense spelled newfound success and confidence for a slew of Comets — but perhaps none more so than Khennedy Scagliozzo, whose 1,750 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns led Lorain County.
The senior will once again be the centerpiece of the Steele attack.
“Two years ago in my sophomore year, we were mainly a pro-style offense,” Scagliozzo said. “This past year we tried to spread the field a lot more. We have a lot of good athletes on this team and you need that to spread the field. We also have a big emphasis on weightlifting now and that’s a big change from the past.”
The speed with which players accepted change was a huge factor in finding success.
“Their buying in moved us forward a lot faster from where I thought we were going to be,” Passerrello said. “That’s a credit to the seniors and juniors from last year. They wanted to get better and they listened to what we were telling them. We definitely changed the offense but the defense stayed largely the same, save for a few things.”
Senior Matt Fairchild won the quarterback job last season but will now have to fend off competition from a pair of transfers: Jimmy Schill from Elyria and Jonathan Hice from Brookside.
Leadership and steady performances from linebacker Nathan Soto as well as linemen Jaret Prete and Russell Hellinger will be counted on to mitigate the loss of big 2017 contributors such as Matt Lee, Evan Shawver, Hunter Parker, and Devin Holmes.
“We’re going to come out hungrier,” said Soto. “There’s a lot of good chemistry built up here and that’s something we can use to our advantage. We’ve all gotten stronger with chemistry and in the weight room. We also can’t be scared out there when we’re going up against an 8-0 team.”
Scagliozzo echoed Soto’s feelings about consistent effort, maintaining composure against area powerhouse teams, and not taking certain matchups lightly.
“We need to finish games in the fourth quarter,” said Scagliozzo. “That means taking nothing for granted and not underestimating any team, no matter who they are. Anyone can come up and play — it doesn’t matter what your record is.”
The Comets open their season Aug. 24 at Clearview.
“I think the Southwestern Conference is pretty even top to bottom,” Passerrello said. “Everyone has key players returning. There’s at least six teams that can upset someone each week.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.