Liberty football preview

On August 24, the Leopards edged Salem 21-17 to snap an 18-game losing streak. The contest marked the first win for Brian Jones, who had replaced his former coach Jeff Whittaker during the off-season. After a week two setback to Niles (12-6), Liberty rolled up seven consecutive victories en route to their first playoff appearance since 2008. The Leopards were 14 points from posting their second undefeated regular season. After winning a thrilling 45-38 Regional Quarterfinal match up with Streetsboro, Liberty bowed out to the defending champion Norwayne Bobcats.

In June, Brian Jones stepped down as the head football coach. The Board of Education announced that Kevin Cylar would take over for Jones. The East High School product served on Ursuline’s coaching staff over the course of the past eight years working with Dan Reardon and Larry Kempe. His specialty was defensive backs and wide receivers but now he will take on the role as the leader of an entire football program.

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Cylar’s bunch will travel to Reilly Stadium to take on Salem on Friday, August 30.

2013 Liberty Leopards’ Football Preview
By Vince Pellegrini (@Vince_MYVS)
Head Coach: Kevin Cylar, 1st season (0-0)
2012 Record: 9-3 (6-1), All-American Conference – National Division
2012 Post-Season Finish: Lost in Division IV Regional Semifinal to Norwayne, 54-7

2012 Team Statistics
Points Scored: 29.7 (17th in Area)
Passing Yards: 74.7
Rushing Yards: 206.8
Points Allowed: 24.0 (33rd in Area)
Passing Yards Allowed: 156.1
Rushing Yards Allowed: 134.9

Returning Leaders
Passing: Asim Pleas – 901 yards, 63.8 Comp. % (81-127), 8 TDs
Rushing: Asim Pleas – 104 att, 204 yards, 5 TDs
Receiving: DaQuan Carter – 3 rec, 3 yards
Tackles: DaQuan Carter – 97
Sacks: Cody BuCher – 6
Interceptions: Asim Pleas & Danny Markulin – 4

2013 Schedule
Aug. 30 – at Salem, 7 PM
Sept. 6 – Niles, 7 PM
Sept. 13 – at Crestview, 7 PM
Sept. 20 – LaBrae, 7 PM
Sept. 27 – at Jefferson, 7 PM
Oct 4 – Campbell, 7 PM
Oct. 11 – at Girard, 7 PM
Oct. 18 – Newton Falls, 7 PM
Oct. 25 – at Lakeview, 7 PM
Nov. 1 – Champion, 7 PM

Offensive Strength: Asim Pleas is a playmaker on both sides of the ball. Last year, he guided the offense to score over 30 points six times. In 2011, Asim was sharing time with Michael Moamis as the Leopards’ quarterback. He threw for 120 yards (34.5%) and gained another 59 rushing (3.1 ypc). Last fall, Pleas connected on 63.8% of his tosses (81-127) for 901 yards and 8 touchdowns. He also grounded out 204 stripes with his legs (5 TDs).

Offensive Weakness: Losing a workhorse like Sherron Walls will be quite difficult to replace. Walls ran for 1,866 yards (5.9 ypc) and scored 26 total touchdowns last year.

Defensive Strength: The defensive backfield is loaded with Asim Pleas (4 INTs, 36.5 tackles) and DaQuan Carter (97 tackles, 2 INTs). The Leopards’ returning linebackers are no slouches. Danny Markulin and Dontre Adams combined for 113.5 tackles including 4.5 sacks from Adams and 4 interceptions from Markulin.

Defensive Weakness: In the post-season, Liberty allowed 89 points to be scored in their two outings against Streetsboro (35) and Norwayne (54). Despite holding five opponents to less than 20 points, the Leopard defense averaged 24 points to be scored in their twelve contests. From 2003-2009, Liberty was about as stingy as they come in allowing the opposition to post points. In each season, they were able to keep their opponents from scoring 20 points or more per year.

Storylines Facing the Leopards
1. Biggest Increase in Points. Liberty shattered the school record for increasing their point total from an average of 9.0 in 2011 to 29.7 in 2012. That was the largest increase in the history of Liberty football. Can they up the ante again?

2. Pass Catchers & Rushers Wanted. The loss of Sherron Walls is an obvious hole on anyone’s roster. Who will step into his shoes this year? Senior Keelan Davis toted the ball 22 times for 152 yards (6.9 ypc) in 2012. His classmates Dontre Adams (11 carries, 33 yards) and DaQuan Carter (5 attempts, 12 yards) could also fill in. With only two players returning who caught a single pass a year ago (DaQuan Carter & Danny Markulin) it will be a different group than what Leopard fans are accustomed to seeing. John Helms (43 catches, 481 yards) and Tyler Evans (27 receptions, 274 yards) were huge in the success of the Liberty offense.

3. New Coach, New Team. Coach Cylar brings a lot of experience with him from Ursuline. With only a couple of months to prepare, how will the Leopards look in 2013?

Did you know? Kevin Cylar is beginning his first season as the head coach. Each of the last three coaches at Liberty (Brian Jones, Jeff Whittaker, George Gulas) all enjoyed at least a .500 season in their first year on the job. The last to have a losing season was Greg May in 1986 (3-7).

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