The Mercyhurst Prep football team has a new coach for the first time in a decade. Jeff Root takes over the Lakers’ program as they move up to Class AA and move into Region 4. Watch the video preview and read the Mercyhurst Prep Summer Huddle preview.
Mercyhurst Prep Lakers
Coach: Jeff Root (1st season)
2013 overall record: 3-7
2013 region record: 3-4 (tied for fourth)
2013 playoff results: Did not qualify for the District 10 Class A playoffs.
Top players lost: Joseph Swanson, Seth Hiegel, Chris Kickle, Thomas Mitchell
Top returning players: Nick Evanoff, Tommie Elias, Josh Yochim, Eric Baer, Scott Gorring, Tristen Perry, Sean Stevenson, Riley Moneta, Mike Sweeney, Ryan Komar, Nick McHenry
Assistant coaches: Bill Burford, Scott Gorring, Rich Krafty, Curtis Jones, Doug Wilbur, Scott Moneta
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Coach: Matt Morgan (9th season, 75-26)
2012 overall record: 8-3
2012 region record: 6-1 (second)
2012 playoff results: Lost to Farrell 35-7 in the District 10 Class A quarterfinals.
Top players lost: Tom Higgins, Alec Parsons, Cornelius Barclay, Joe DeSanti, Kyle Drabic, Ryan Connor
Top returning players: Joe Swanson, Eric Baer, Scotty Gorring, Chris Kickel, Nick Evanoff
Assistant coaches: Ryan Abbott, Rich Krafty, John Graeb, Pete Szoszorek, Scott Gorring, Nate Hain, Jayson Nickson
Outlook: Mercyhurst Prep is going to have to dig deep to get through this season. Currently, the Lakers have 21 players on the roster. Mercyhurst Prep has dealt with smaller rosters in the past, but 21 players can pose issues if injuries start to occur. Tom Higgins, Alec Parsons, Cornelius Barclay, Joe DeSanti, Kyle Drabic and Ryan Connor are gone to graduation, while the Lakers lost more than 10 players to transfer or other reasons. Barclay was named to the all-district team at linebacker after recording 74 tackles as a senior was one of the top running backs in the area. Barclay ran for 1,783 yards and 26 touchdowns and caught eight passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Barclay was voted the Region 2 player of the year and was voted to the all-region first team at running back and linebacker. The Lakers were gutted on the line as Drabic, Parson and DeSanti were first-team offensive linemen, while Parson was a first-team defensive lineman. Higgins is another big loss as a first-team linebacker. He had 61 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions. Higgins also ran for 696 yards and six touchdowns and caught six passes for 70 yards. Connor ran for 522 yards and four touchdowns and had four interceptions, while Garrett Palmer had 60 tackles and four interceptions. The Lakers also lost Brandon Peebles, who transferred to McDowell. He caught seven passes for 53 yards and one touchdown, and he had 61 tackles.
Mercyhurst Prep will look to its experienced players to lead a young team. Joe Swanson, Eric Baer, Scotty Gorring, Chris Kickel and Nick Evanoff are back this fall, while Tommie Elias, Ryley Moneta, Seth Hiegel, Mike Sweeney, Josh Yochim, Daavon Davis could contribute as well. Swanson had 44 tackles last year and is moving from tight end to fullback and linebacker, while Kickel is a returning starter on the offensive line. Baer is back at running back and linebacker and Evanoff returns at quarterback and defensive back. Evanoff threw for 426 yards and seven touchdowns last year and will be important as a leader, while Baer ran for 47 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries. Baer will be the primary running back to fill out the backfield with Evanoff. The Lakers must stay healthy this year or the second half of the season could be tough to get through. Mercyhurst Prep coach Matt Morgan mentioned that several players will be asked to play three positions to help on offense, defense and special teams. Region 2 is wide open this season but the Lakers’ depth could be a big issue. If Mercyhurst Prep can deal with its numbers issue and come together as a team, the Lakers could be in contention for a playoff spot, once again.
31 at St. Joe’s 3
6 Union City* 7
13 at Cochranton* 7
20 Eisenhower* 7
27 at Youngsville* 7
3 Maplewood* 7
11 Mercer 7
18 at Iroquois* 7
25 at Cambridge Springs* 7
1 at Northwestern 7
*Region 2 games
Here is a look at the Mercyhurst Prep football schedule this fall. We will publish schedules as we receive them from schools.
All times p.m. unless otherwise noted.
|Mercyhurst Prep Lakers|
|Aug. 23||at Corry||6|
|Aug. 31||at St. Joe’s||3|
|Sept. 6||Union City*||7|
|Sept. 13||at Cochranton*||7|
|Sept. 27||at Youngsville*||7|
|Oct. 18||at Iroquois*||7|
|Oct. 25||at Cambridge Springs*||7|
|Nov. 1||at Northwestern||7|
*Region 2 games
The Mercyhurst Prep football trio of Cornelius Barclay, Thomas Higgins and Joe DeSanti have decided on their futures. Barclay will continue his impressive career as a running back at Clarion, while Higgins will shift to defense to play linebacker, safety or any position needed at Mercyhurst. DeSanti will play on either the offensive or defensive line at Allegheny College, joining former teammates Trevor Colvin, Zach Palmer, Ben Tarcson and Iroquois graduate Jake Szoszorek.
A meet-and-greet registration for the Jovon Johnson Winter Skills Academy will take place Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Erie Explosion office, 901 Peach St.
Johnson will run the camp, which will take place Jan. 12-13 at Family First Sports Park. Registration is $50.
Johnson is a former Mercyhurst Prep, University of Iowa and Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback who now plays for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. He will greet campers who sign up Saturday, along with Strong Vincent graduate Maurice Williams, a former University Pittsburgh wide receiver who plays for the Cleveland Gladiators of the Arena Football League.
Camp sessions are open to participants in two age brackets, 9-13 and 14-high school seniors. The first day will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the second day is scheduled for 1-5 p.m.
For more information, go to www.jovon2johnson.com.
Fans who plan to attend today’s District 10 football game between Youngsville and Mercyhurst Prep should be aware that kickoff is 2 p.m. The game originally was scheduled for 7 p.m., but officials moved up the time recently.
Again, Youngsville and Mercyhurst Prep play at 2 p.m. at Veterans Stadium.
Get expanded coverage of District 10 sports every Friday with the Varsity Letter e-newsletter.
A new feature we’ll unveil this week is the Triple Option. Three games. Two prognosticators. One weekly showdown.
In Triple Option, high school beat writer Tom Reisenweber and sports editor Jeff Kirik will make predictions about three D-10 football games they disagree on each week. See which games they pick, why they picked them and then track to see who gets them right.
This week, Tom and Jeff face off on the Conneaut-Girard, Sharon-Farrell and Mercyhurst Prep-Central Tech games.
Also, if you sign up for Varsity Letter before Friday, you’ll get a chance to win free Kickoff magazines from 2012, 2011 and 2010. Just go to GoErie.com/section/newsletters and click on Varsity Letter.
As always, Varsity Letter will provide readers with District 10 sports news, commentary and schedules, along with links to photos, video and blog posts.
It’s all delivered to your e-mailbox every Friday. Subscribe today at GoErie.com/section/newsletters.
Four District 10 football teams are ranked in the top 10 in their class in the Pennsylvania Football News preseason rankings, which were released today. Cathedral Prep (Class AAA), Grove City (AA) and Sharpsville (A) are ranked No. 5 in their respective classes. Hickory, meanwhile, is ranked No. 6 in Class AA.
McDowell (Class AAAA), Strong Vincent (AAA), Wilmington (AA), Mercyhurst Prep (A) and West Middlesex (A) are listed among Others to Watch.
Rank – School – District
1. Central Dauphin (3)
2. North Allegheny (7)
3. Wilson (West Lawn) (3)
4. Easton Area (11)
5. North Penn (1)
6. LaSalle College (12)
7. Gateway (7)
8. Downingtown East (1)
9. Upper St. Clair (7)
10. Ridley (1)
Others to Watch: Abington (1), Bethlehem Freedom (11), Council Rock North (1), Cumberland Valley (3), Delaware Valley (2), Garnet Valley (1), McDowell (10), McKeesport (7), Parkland (11), Pennridge (1), Pennsbury (1), Pittsburgh Central Catholic (7), Roman Catholic (12), Scranton (2), Seneca Valley (7), St. Joseph’s Prep (12), State College (6), Whitehall (11), Woodland Hills (7)
Rank – School – District
1. Archbishop Wood (12)
2. Bishop McDevitt (3)
3. Franklin Regional (7)
4. Central Valley (7)
5. Cathedral Prep (10)
6. Manheim Central (3)
7. Cardinal O’Hara (12)
8. Pottsgrove (1)
9. Berwick Area (2)
10. West Allegheny (7)
Others to Watch: Blackhawk (7), Clearfield (9), Cocalico (3), Knoch (7), Lampeter-Strasburg (3), Lancaster Catholic (3), Mars Area (7), Montour (7), Pottsville (11), Scranton Prep (2), Shippensburg (3), Strath Haven (1), Strong Vincent (10), Valley View (2), West Chester Henderson (1), West York (3)
Rank – School – District
1. Aliquippa (7)
2. Wyomissing (3)
3. Mount Carmel (4)
4. Jeannette (7)
5. Grove City (10)
6. Hickory (10)
7. Pen Argyl (11)
8. GAR Memorial (2)
9. South Fayette (7)
10. Washington (7)
Others to Watch: Beaver Falls (7), Bermudian Springs (3), Danville (4), Delone Catholic (3), Forest Hills (6), Imhotep Charter (12), Karns City (9), Mifflinburg (4), Montoursville (4), Northern Lehigh (11), Richland (6), Seton-LaSalle (7), Towanda (4), Trinity (3), Tyrone Area (6), West Catholic (12), Wilmington (10), Wyoming Area (2),
Rank – School – District
1. Clairton (7)
2. Southern Columbia (4)
3. Dunmore (2)
4. Rochester Area (7)
5. Sharpsville (10)
6. Brentwood (7)
7. Penns Manor (6)
8. Bellwood-Antis (6)
9. Old Forge (2)
10. Port Allegany (9)
Others to Watch: Avonworth (7), Bethlehem-Center (7), Bishop Canevin (7), Clarion Area (9), Coudersport (9), Elk County Catholic (9), Line Mountain (4), Mercyhurst Prep (10), Minersville (11), North Star (5), Pius X (11), Riverside (2), Schuylkill Haven (11), Shenandoah Valley (11), Sto-Rox (7), West Middlesex (11)
Mercyhurst Prep Lakers
Coach (season, record): Matt Morgan (8th season, 67-23)
2011 overall record: 9-2
2011 region record (place): 7-1 (second)
2011 playoff results: Lost to Farrell 28-25 in the District 10 Class A quarterfinals.
Top players lost: Joe Peterson, Darrin Donikowski, Dwayne Canady, P.J. Wycech, D.J. Mahoney, Josh Agresti, Ben Tarcson, Matt Ganska, Mike Weber, Kyle Marinelli
Top returning players: Cornelius Barclay, Tom Higgins, Ryan Connor, Alec Parson, Joe Desanti, Kyle Drabic
Assistant coaches: Ryan Abbott, Nate Hain, Pete Szoszorek, John Graeb, Scott Gorring, Drew Bothelo, Rich Krafty
Outlook: Mercyhurst Prep has some work to do in camp with the graduation of Joe Peterson, Darrin Donikowski, Dwayne Canady, P.J. Wycech, D.J. Mahoney, Josh Agresti, Ben Tarcson, Matt Ganska, Mike Weber and Kyle Marinelli. Weber, an all-state lineman, was named to the all-district team and the all-region first team at offensive line and the all-region second team at defensive line. Tarcson was voted to the first team at wide receiver, while Canady was a first-team selection at all-purpose. Canady led Mercyhurst with 18 catches for 197 yards and two touchdowns, while Tarcson had 259 yard and three touchdowns on 13 catches. Canady also rushed for 1,005 yards and 10 touchdowns on 114 carries. If there wasn’t enough for the Lakers to lose, Mahoney was a first-team defensive back, Agrestiy was a second-team tight end and Donikowski was a second-team defensive lineman. Donikowski led the Lakers with 76 tackles, including 6 1/2 sacks. Mercyhurst will also search for a new quarterback after Wycech graduated. He threw for 575 yard and six touchdowns as a senior. The Lakers will have a quarterback battle in camp between Garrett Palmer and Nick Evanoff.
Mercyhurst has enough experience back this season to stay near the top of the Region 2 standings and compete for the region title. Standout running back Cornelius Barclay is back after rushing for 1,324 yards and 18 touchdowns on 170 carries as a junior. He was voted to the all-region first team at running back and is primed for another big season. The Lakers return three lineman on the offensive line, including Joe Desanti, Alec Parson and first-team lineman Kyle Drabic. The defense must replace seven starters from last year. Ryan Connor, who might see a big increase in carries this year, is back as a second-team defensive back, while Parson, Barclay and Tom Higgins are back on defense. Higgins ran for 931 yards and 13 touchdowns on 145 carries last year and could factor into the rushing attack in a big way.
Mercyhurst Prep has a strong line back and solid players in the backfield. It will take some time to work in a new quarterback into the system and establish a new set of wide receivers, but the Lakers have the time to do it. After a season-opener against Class AAA Central Tech, Mercyhurst Prep jumps right into its region schedule. The Lakers will run into tough games along the way, including a road game at Eisenhower on Sept. 21, but they should be in good shape heading into the second half of the season. The Lakers also have interesting games against Mercer and Northwestern on the schedule to prepare them for another playoff run. Mercyhurst was shocked in the District 10 Class A quarterfinals against Farrell and is hungry to make a deep postseason run.
1 at Central Tech 7
7 at Union City* 7
14 Cochranton* 7
21 at Eisenhower* 7
29 Youngsville* 7
5 at Maplewood* 7
12 at Mercer 7
18 Iroquois* 7
27 Cambridge Springs* 7
2 Northwestern 7
*Region 2 games
Monday: North East
– Tom Reisenweber