The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

October 2, 2013

Full speed ahead for Spartans

Conneaut will be at home as opposed to on road as Cleveland Knights come to town

CONNEAUT — The last time the Conneaut Spartans stood 4-2 during a high school football season, the great majority of the guys who make up the 2013 Spartan squad were, believe it or not, wither in kindergarten or first grade.

In the fall of 2001, with the country still shaken by the terrorists attacks on 9/11, coach Ken Parise’s Conneaut gridders won four of their first six games en route to a 5-4 finish, which represents the last time the Spartans had a winning season.

The current Spartans of coach Rocco Dobran are working on both situations, though, and as they are preparing to take on the club-team Cleveland Knights this week, they have something else going for them:

They will do so in the comforts of home.

In a game that was originally scheduled to be played at Case Western Reserve University, Conneaut (3-2) will host the Knights (2-1) on Friday night at Conneaut Stadium.

“I believe they had some issues getting a field to play on Friday night,” Dobran said. “So, instead of changing the game to Saturday and playing on a neutral field, they agreed to play at our place.”

Dobran, in his third season of the helm, has seen the Knights of coach Marcus Goodwin play. The Knights opened with a win against visiting Lincoln West, 26-0, then hit the road and shut out Horizon Science Academy in Week 2, 40-0. After being off in Week 3, the suffered their first loss of the season last week at Renaissance Christian Academy (Pa.), 20-16.

“They do not trade film, but I did get a chance to watch them play one game,” Dobran said. “They are a very athletic team with good team speed. They run a pistol off-set I offense. They have a nice tailback who runs hard, a quarterback who can scramble and a fast wide receive who they like to get the ball to.

“Defensively, they run a 4-4 cover-1 scheme and they run well to the ball and hit hard. They have one shutdown corner who is quite impressive.”

The will be the Knights’ second venture into Ashtabula County. Last fall, they came to Edgewood in Week 8 for a Saturday night contest and came out on the short end of a physical 20-16 verdict.

The Spartans are coming off an impressive 41-14 conquest of visiting Ledgemont at Conneaut Stadium last week.

Not surprisingly, Dobran saw a lot of good things in the performance.

“Up front, our offensive line played very well, our backs had good vision and ran hard,” he said. “Troy Colucci had another amazing night with four rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns.

“I was most excited about our defense. Sam Distelrath had a great game playing the edge and containing (PV’s) Quintin Ratliff. Our defensive line and linebackers did a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage.”

Dobran has an idea what will be needed to his squad to reach the 4-2 status of the aforementioned 2001 Spartans.

“We have to contain their speed on defense and prevent the big play,” he said. “We have to continue to win the line of scrimmage on offense and open up holes for our backs.

“Finally, we have to continue to win the turnover battle.”

At the halfway point of the 2013 season, Dobran says things, as expected, are looking up in Spartan Country.

“We are excited about where were at,” he said. “We learned some good lessons so far, and at the same time, gained a lot of confidence going into the second half of the season.

“We are very proud of our players for their turnover ratio (an area-best plus-4). It has made such a difference in every game. We are seeing what it takes to win throughout the week in practice and our kids know the work they have to put in to continue to be successful.”

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