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
Outlook: Mercyhurst Prep was young last year and the offense went through some tough times. Those growing pains could pay off as the Lakers return nearly every starter. Nick Evanoff is back after throwing for 505 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 77 yards and two touchdowns. Joining him in the backfield is running back Eric Baer, who rushed for 1,016 yards and 12 touchdowns on 155 carries. Scott Gorring and Sean Stevenson are also back at running back with Riley Moneta at fullback. The Lakers will have to fill in the production lost by 1,000-yard back Joe Swanson. Tommie Elias is back at wide receiver after hauling in 11 passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns, while Baer had 13 catches for 169 yards. Mike Sweeney, Ryan Komar and Nick McHenry are back on the offensive line, giving the Lakers plenty of experience to work with this season. Mercyhurst Prep will need to plug some holes and have younger players that could step up. Ren Rivers, Kaleb Bratt, Kyle Kreidinger and Colin Zeyfang could help out on the line, while Jeremy Montefiori could fill in at right end. Chad Gernovich is a wide receiver that could fight for playing time, while Nate Akers is a running back and Connor Byers, Jake Montefiori and Hunter Kallay are all quarterbacks in the mix. With a new coach, Mercyhurst Prep is moving toward more of a pistol and “I” formation offense to utilize both the rushing and passing attacks.
The Mercyhurst Prep defense will have to bear down to stop the run this season with the Lakers’ move to Region 4. New head coach Jeff Root is planning on running the 4-2-5 defense to adapt to the current personnel. Sweeney, Komar and McHenry are back on the defensive line, while Baer, Gorring, Stevenson and Moneta return at linebacker. Elias is a returning safety and will be counted on as a leader in the secondary. Swanson led Mercyhurst Prep with 58 tackles but graduated, while Moneta was second with 55 tackles and Elias had 50 tackles to go with two interceptions. Akers and Byers could step up as defensive backs, while Jake Montefiori and Kallay are safeties. Jeremy Montefiori, Rivers, Bratt, Kreidinger and Zeyfang are all candidates to earn time on the defensive line, and Gernovich is a linebacker looking to make an impact. Mercyhurst Prep allowed 33 points per game last fall and will need a better effort in a run-heavy region this season. The Lakers need to play physical football and control the line of scrimmage to avoid getting run over by strong offenses.
Mercyhurst Prep went through plenty of transition in the offseason. Head coach Matt Morgan resigned and became the coach at Iroquois, while the Lakers were moved up to Class AA and Region 4. Mercyhurst Prep hired a new coach in Root and also added a co-op with Erie First, which could solve the numbers issue from last year. The Lakers were down in the low 20s at points last fall, leaving almost no room for injuries and depth. The Mercyhurst Prep roster is currently at 32 players and Root is hopeful it reaches 40 before the season starts. The Lakers have plenty of experience back this season with most of the skill position players back and a majority of the line. Mercyhurst Prep’s defense has a lot of the same faces, but the big key will be adjusting to the new systems on offense and defense. The Lakers open the season at home against Saegertown and Fairview before a huge road game at Northwestern. Mercyhurst Prep also gets home games with Girard and Harbor Creek, but the game that a lot of Lakers fans will circle on their calendar will be Week 10 at Iroquois.
29 Saegertown 7
5 Fairview* 7
12 at Northwestern* 7
18 Girard* 7
26 Harbor Creek* 7
3 at Fort LeBoeuf* 7
10 at Maplewood 7
17 North East* 7
24 at Seneca* 7
31 at Iroquois 7
*Region 4 game
Up next: North East
– Tom Reisenweber