Coach: Mike Vicars, fourth year, 34-4.
Last year: 11-1 (6-0, SLL).
Forecast: Vicars and his coaching staff must have had to pinch themselves when they watched the Comets perform in 2009.
Genoa was as dominant as dominant can get last season, outscoring opponents by a whopping 531-24 margin en route to a second straight 10-0 regular season. For the third year in a row the Comets, who were ranked fourth in the final Associated Press poll, won an SLL title and reached the Division IV playoffs, where they opened at home with a 62-7 thumping of Edison.
And then, another fairy-tale season – Genoa reached the state semifinals in 2008 - came screetching to a halt in a 36-35 loss to an 8-3 Orrville team at Ashland Community Stadium.
Last year’s seniors, many of whom played a big role in the Comets’ three straight playoff appearances, have since moved on. That list includes All-Ohio players like fullback/linebacker Greg Hillabrand, who is now playing at Mount Union, running back/defensive back Connor Wendt, offensive tackle Jake Schreuder and two-way end Richard Wonnell.
Hillabrand's absence will be huge after he rushed for 1,354 yards during the regular season. He carried the ball 111 times, averaging an out-of-this-world 12.2 yards per carry and scoring 25 touchdowns. He also ran three conversion runs. Wendt rushed for 663 yards on 58 carries (11.4 per carry) and 11 touchdowns.
“We graduated a very nice senior class,” Vicars said. “It was one of the winningest classes of all-time here at Genoa. We lost several All-Ohio players that we just can’t replace. With those losses we need time for guys to adjust to their new starting roles, some in two-way positions that haven’t seen new guys there in three years.”
Three-year starting quarterback Matt Bassitt has also graduated along with five other starters. Bassitt completed 84-of-127 yards (66 percent) for 1,404 yards and 24 touchdowns. He trailed only Woodmore's Jon Sandwisch (1,434), who returns, in yardage during the regular sason, but passed Sandwisch after the playoff loss.
Genoa has 68 players on its 2010 roster, including 48 in grades 10-12. The Comets return 25 lettermen including junior quarterback/defensive back Josh Bryer.
“We are trying to reload,” Vicars said. “We have a nice, hard-working group of young guys but we are very green. Many of the skill positions have new players. Overall, if we stay healthy we have a good chance to compete.”
Senior split end Derek Allgier, who had 36 receptions a year ago, returns along with two-way player Seth Dufendock, a senior who will start at running back and linebacker, and junior All-Ohio kicker Tyler Pickard. Last year, Allgier had 436 yards receiving during the regular season (13.2 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns. Dufendock ran with the football 42 times for 261 yards (6.3 per carry) and two touchdowns. Dufendock was an All-Press honorable mention selection on offense, and also a First Team All-Press selection at linebacker, getting 58 tackles during the regular season.
Pickard ran with the football 36 times, gaining 270 yards (7.5 per carry) and scoring five touchdowns. Pickard also did the place kicking and was third in The Press area in the scoring column. He successfully kicked 11 field goals and 59 conversion kicks, scoring 122 points to follow graduated teammates Hillabrand (156) and Wendt (150). Pickard was selected a 2009 Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press First Team Specialist.
The Comets also return starting senior offensive linemen Andrew Hayes and Luke Sutter. The 6-foot-2, 240 pound Sutter is a returning All-Press First Team right tackle.
Hayes and fellow seniors Casey Wojciechowski and Justin Upham, both All-Press First Team defensive tackles, saw plenty of game action on the defensive line in 2009. Brandon Roberts, a junior, returns in the defensive backfield. Roberts led the area last year with six interceptions, earning him All-Press First Team honors.
“Our backs are skilled and quick and we’ll need them to make plays for us,” Vicars said. “Overall, our team speed and depth isn’t too bad, but we will still need to be relatively injury-free.”