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Boardman vying for history-changing playoff appearance

August 8, 2018
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

Not once in the storied tradition of Boardman football have the Spartans made the postseason two seasons in a row.

That amazing fact has a good chance to change in 2018.Boardman is coming off a season that saw it finish 6-5. That fifth loss was to Massillon Washington in the opening round of the Division II state playoffs. The back-to-back playoff drought may be snapped this season because the Spartans are loaded with seniors.

There are 20 twelfth-graders returning to the Boardman club this fall. Ten Spartans are returning starters with five lining up on each side of the football. The biggest reason why optimism abounds on the Boardman campus, however, can be found behind center.

Senior signal caller Mike O'Horo returns for his third season as a starter. He has improved his game every season since taking the starting quarterback reigns and brings a sense of calm to head coach Joe Ignazio.

"Having a kid like that gives us stability at that (quarterback) position and gives us something to build on," said Ignazio, who is entering his sixth year as Boardman's boss. "We will lean on him to be a leader."

While Ignazio is leaning on O'Horo, the quarterback will be leaning on mammoth senior offensive lineman Tino Arcuri for protection. The 6-foot-2, 262-pound Division I recruit will anchor a very sturdy Spartan offensive line. That line extends to the end too with 6-foot-2 senior tight end Alex Huzicka coming back to contribute as both a blocker and receiver.

"We have good stability up front," said Ignazio.

Boardman's line will also need to be versatile because it will need to open holes in the running game for returning tailback Joe Ieraci. The senior missed the rest of 2017 after getting injured in Week 4, but his speed looks to be where it was before he got hurt. O'Horo will also have a few weapons to throw the ball to as well.

"We have some good receivers coming back," said Ignazio.

One of the biggest reasons why the Spartans advanced to the playoffs last year was a defense that was stingy in all of their victories. Boardman's defenders yielded an average of 16 points per game over its six regular season wins and, if you eliminate the 36 points it gave up in a crazy 39-36 Week 3 win over Massillon Jackson, that number drops significantly. Leading the Spartans' defense this year will be 2nd Team All-State senior inside linebacker Kareem Hamdan.

"He's the motor of our defense," Ignazio said.

Joining Hamdan at linebacker will be senior middle backer Zac Hillard. Arcuri will play along the defensive line as well and brings 17 tackles for loss back with him. Boardman's depth in the secondary is also strong with seniors Ieraci, Ceaonne Jones and Mike Fetsko.

"Our secondary is solid and is led by Fetsko," Ignazio said.

The season starts for the Spartans on August 24 when they host Youngstown East. A huge trip to Howland follows in Week 2. The toughest stretch to the Spartans' schedule will come between Weeks 5 and 7 when Boardman visits Cardinal Mooney and Canfield and plays Warren Harding at home. The final two games of the year will be toughies versus Ursuline and Austintown Fitch. Most likely the Spartans will need to win both of the behemoth tilts to play Week 11. Before opening the season with the Golden Bears, Coach Ignazio does want to sure up a few situations.

"We need to build some depth and you can never have enough linemen," said the coach. "Getting some of the younger kids some reps will be important too."

If the Spartans can figure those things out prior to playing the important October games, then this squad has the talent to do what no other Boardman bunch has done before. Of course, the veteran coach won't allow his boys to buy into any of that preseason hype.

"We haven't accomplished anything yet," said Ignazio. "This team needs to rewrite their own history."



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