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If the Nordonia High School football team can advance to the state playoffs, the Knights will more than likely make some noise in the postseason.
It's getting to the playoffs that might be a problem.
That's because Nordonia plays in the ultra-competitive National Conference of the Suburban League. Last season, the Knights finished with an overall record of 7-3 during the regular season, including a mark of 5-2 in conference action.
"It's a great conference," said Nordonia head coach Jeff Fox. "Last year, we were battle tested by the time we got to the playoffs. We were ready to play some of the best teams in the state. We lost to Hudson and Stow, and they both made it to the state semifinals. It's truly as competitive as any conference around."
In the playoffs, Nordonia beat Aurora in the first round before losing to Hudson again in the second round. The Knights finished with a ledger of 8-4, with half of their defeats coming at the hands of the Explorers.
"We were 2-3 at the halfway point last year," said Fox. "We improved as the season went on."
Nordonia has a major offensive weapon returning in senior running back Anthony Perrine, who rushed for 1,982 yards in 2015. Perrine figures to get the bulk of the carries again this year.
Also back is senior center Jacob Bobnar, who will serve as the anchor of the offensive line.
The Knights also have a lot of experience returning at the wide receiver position, as four players return from last season's squad. They include senior Alex Burkholder, juniors Tye Evans and Donnie Wisniak, and sophomore Brendan O'Donnell.
Sophomore quarterback Robby Levak is among this year's newcomers. He replaces the departed Justin Post under center.
On the defensive side of the ball, Russ and senior Dylan Franchino will provide anchors of stability at the linebacker position. Other returning players on defense include senior cornerback Daniel Banks and Evans, who will play on the line.
"The line is where we're the most inexperienced," said Fox. "There are a lot of competitive battles going on right now."
Among the newcomers on defense for Nordonia are senior cornerback Logan Danko, senior linebacker Brandon Libby, senior lineman Jovan Diouf, senior lineman Je'Rell Huddleston and O'Donnell at safety.
As far as special teams are concerned, Nordonia has some experience returning in senior placekicker Trey Crockett. Crockett will pull double duty this fall on both the football and soccer teams.
According to Fox, senior leadership and team chemistry are two of the strengths of the 2016 edition of the Knights. Both have been a trademark of his teams during his head coaching tenure.
"I think that's indicative of the strength of our program," said Fox. "We graduated a great class of seniors and this year's seniors have some big shoes to fill, but we're excited to see what this group can do. We have some difference makers to build around and we have some talented kids ready to contribute. We'll see how quickly they step up."
Fox is starting his fifth year as the head coach at Nordonia. His assistant coaches this season include Bernard Russ Sr. (defensive coordinator), Scott Barwidi (special teams), Rick Poulin (offensive coordinator), Zdenko Sulc (kicking coach), John Myers, Tony Bucler, Al Huge, Tom Besalvo and Kevin Bowers.
Nordonia will open the season Aug. 26 vs. Mayfield at 7 p.m. The contest was originally at home for the Knights, but due to construction in the bleachers at Boliantz Stadium, the game was moved to Brecksville-Broadview Heights.