HEAD COACH: Matt Adorni, 15th year, 141-34

LAST YEAR: 9-2, fell in the Division IV, Region 21 semifinals

POSTSEASON: Division VI, Region 21

RETURNING LETTERMEN (18)

Name, Pos., Ht., Wt., Yr.

Nathan Stephenson, E/DB, 6-4, 180, Jr.

Nick Skye, RB/LB, 5-8, 160, So.

Eli Robertson, E/DB, 6-2, 170, Sr.

Grant Slabaugh, K/P, 5-8, 160, Jr.

Luke Rosato, QB, 5-10, 160, Sr.

Marcus Dillon, E/LB, 6-2, 175, Jr.

Devon Pritts, E/LB, 6-1, 180, Sr.

Kyle Coffman, WR/DB, 6-3, 165, Sr.

Dylan Jones, RB/DB, 5-9, 170, Jr.

Armondo Chesley, RB/LB, 5-9, 185, Sr.

Tave Constantine, RB/LB, 5-8, 155, Jr.

Gavin Christy, RB/LB, 5-10, 190, Sr.

Troy Ferguson, RB/DB, 5-8, 155, Sr.

Logan Penix, RB/DL, 5-10, 230, Sr.

Rhett Brodie, OL/DL, 5-10, 230, Sr.

Austin Partlow, OL/DL, 5-8, 140, Sr.

Nick Reeves, OL/DL, 5-11, 195, Sr.

Connor Kerr, E/DB, 6-4, 170, Sr.

IMPACT PLAYERS: In his second year under center, senior quarterback Luke Rosato looks more comfortable than ever, flashing a deep ball and precise short passing ability. … The Wildcats return a wide number of experienced running backs, including Gavin Christy (93 carries, 594 yards, six touchdowns), Armondo Chesley and Logan Penix. … Speaking of Penix, he had a monstrous opening scrimmage on the defensive line, where he earned First Team All-PTC County honors last season. Penix should be poised to expand on last year’s 3.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits/pressures. … Eli Robertson returns to the Mogadore defensive backfield at corner, where he brings superb intelligence to the position. "Eli is a real smart back," Adorni said. "He really listens to coach well and really had an excellent year." 

WHAT'S NEW: The offensive line will arguably be the biggest difference for the Wildcats. Last year’s rotation included four seniors meaning there are lots of new faces up front for Mogadore. ... Weight room resident Rhett Brodie should be a leader up front, able to tussle with anyone, along with Nick Reeves. … The Wildcats don’t typically play many freshmen, but Tyler Knight could make an immediate impact at the linebacker position. Knight simply has a way of sprinting to the football, per Adorni. … Speaking of sprinting to the football, junior Dylan Jones is back at his more natural position of free safety, after playing linebacker last season. Per Adorni, "He’s kind of what you want out of a safety: take away the pass, but can read, run and tackle, so we feel really good about that move." … Fellow junior Tave Constantine is moving to the Rover linebacker position for the Wildcats, where he brings a wrestler’s build even though he’s not a wrestler, per Adorni. At 5-8, 155, Constantine is poised to join a long line of "undersized but not afraid" Rover linebackers for the ‘Cats. "He can tackle well, he can defend the pass, he’s smart," per Adorni. … New inside linebacker Marcus Dillon brings toughness and "loves to hit."

OUTLOOK: 2016 and 2017 marked the first time the Wildcats went two straight years without a league title since 2004 and 2005. It’s pretty wild to think about. Mogadore has what it takes to emerge on top in 2018, though Rootstown, the 2017 County champion, will once again be a very difficult foe. While the Wildcats had to make a number of changes in the trenches, they are experienced at nearly every other position group, with Luke Rosato entering his second year under center and an assortment of experienced running backs, linebackers and defensive backs. With their fleet of tall, talented wideouts, the Wildcats should have the home-run threats to burn teams loading up against Mogadore’s vaunted running game. The challenge will be navigating a tricky non-conference schedule — three playoff qualifiers in five games, and bigger schools in Elyria Catholic and Geneva that Mogadore barely beat a year ago — and then, of course, the County schedule, capped by that Week 10 tilt against Rootstown.

Jonah Roseblum