BERLIN CENTER, Ohio (WKBN) – Western Reserve football won its final six games last year, but still found itself out of the playoffs for just the second time in the past decade.
After dominating the ITCL, the Blue Devils enter the Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference this year, with the same kind of high expectations.
Numbers are up at Reserve, and so is the confidence level. Sixty-one players came out this year — according to head coach Andy Hake, that’s the largest team in school history.
“We have like 106 boys in the school and 60 of them are out — that means our program is good,” said Jack Cappabianca, senior running back. “We have a good program, everybody wants to be a part of it.”
“Even through these scrimmages that we’ve had, we noticed that we just outwork people,” said Rob Hively, senior lineman. “When they’re gassed, we’re putting in our younger guys who are going to come in and work just as hard as our seniors are. Because you know they want to perform just as hard as we do, so it’s basically just the success mentality.”
Success has been the norm for the Blue Devils, who won a league title five of the last six years in the ITCL. This season, they hope to set the tone early in the new Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference.
“You want to come out and do well in the league and set precedent,” said head coach Andy Hake. “But at the same time we’re playing a lot of the same criminals, so we’re going to play them hard and we know what to expect.”
“Our goal is to win all 10 games and that conference is going to come with that,” said Hively. “We have a lot to prove, being the position that we had last year. But we won the ITCL in its final year, so this year our goal hasn’t changed. The conference will be won.”
That will not be easy with the likes of Springfield and McDonald, along with a tough-non-conference this year. But the schedule sets up nicely for Reserve, as its first six games are at home this season.
“We’re going to go and work on ourselves and get these 60 kids playing as hard as they possibly can,” Hake said. “Treat them good and make a real team and worry about ourselves. Then whoever we play, build them up 10 feet tall and then cut them down to size. I guess that’s all you can do right?”
The Blue Devil players have the same kind of high expectations.
“I plan on winning all 10 games,” said Cappabianca. “We’re going to come in and hopefully just destroy our opponents.”
“We want to have that big season,” said Hively. “We’re going to push each other because we know what we’re capable of and we’re going to surprise people, there’s no question about it.”