Written by Jon Machota
Lovejoy spring football report: Leopards to lean on experienced backfield
How the 2011 season ended: The Leopards went 8-4, winning five in a row before falling to Celina, 37-17, in the second round of the playoffs.
Key returning starters: There’s a good chance that Lovejoy will be starting the 2012 season with the same backfield from a year ago. Running back Nick LaSane, who led the team in rushing [1,484 yards] and scoring [22 touchdowns], joins quarterback/wide receiver Zach Saffle, the team’s leading passer [1,180 yards], second leading rusher [867 yards] and second leading scorer [13 rushing TDs, 8 passing TDs] as the seniors that will be leading the Lovejoy offense. Although the starting quarterback job hasn’t been solidified, Saffle is the leading contender. Defensively, everything will start and end with Slayton Shiels, a 6-3, 220-pound defensive end, and Thomas Kotecki, a 5-11, 200-pound linebacker. Both were major contributors last season. Lining up alongside Shiels will be fellow senior defensive linemen Tom Campbell [5-11, 190] and Kyle Romano [6-1, 230]. Seniors Drew Scolaro, an inside linebacker, and Austin Turnbow, a safety, also figure to be play a significant role. Others that figure to factor in on offense include, senior Guy Roecker [6-0, 200] on the line and wide receivers Chochy Luce, Daniel Sefcik and Cullon Greene, who will also battle for the QB job. “We have a lot of kids that are going to step up and play well but I definitely think those guys [mentioned above] are going to have to play well for us to have a chance to be where we want to be,” said first-year Lovejoy coach Matt Green.
Biggest questions facing team: How will the offensive and defensive lines perform after losing several starters from a year ago? “To me, looking at film, we lost a lot of good players on both the offensive and defensive lines,” Green said. “For us, that’s the area we really got to have some kids step up and fill some big holes.” Lovejoy doesn’t have a lot of size along their defensive line so they will rely on their quickness, according to Green. Another question: How will the team respond to a first-year head coach? Green says the reaction has been as good as he could've expected. “They’ve done a fantastic job,” Green said. “I can’t sing our kids praises enough. Coming into this job, I did a lot of research. I didn’t just jump right in. I was very picky. Lovejoy has a brand of kids that I knew was going to work extremely hard and going to be very committed to whatever they did. … They have absolutely sold out. I can’t say enough great things about Lovejoy and about our football program.” Green was hired by Lovejoy after holding the position of offensive coordinator at Austin Lake Travis, helping the Cavaliers win state championships in 2008, 2009 and 2010 before taking a season off. “Obviously, I was very blessed as a football coach to be able to experience that and be part of that run,” Green said. “I’m looking to do great things here and I’m very excited about the challenge and what’s in front of us.”
Notables: With Green still learning about his new team and his group still getting acclimated to his system, Lovejoy isn’t in position to set any exact goals at this time. Green said goals will be addressed before the start of two-a-day practices. However, from the reputation the Lovejoy football program has, Green has somewhat of an understanding of what to expect. “Lovejoy, before I got here, has experienced a lot of success in 3A,” Green said. “The kids know how to work hard. The kids know how to win. I think they play bigger than what they are sometimes. I think when you look at us on paper, we’re going to be very average. So, I think our kids are going to have to live up to the tradition of Lovejoy -- play hard and overachieve. And that’s something they’ve done routinely. Those are the things we’re going to have to do again to get ourselves into the playoffs and who knows, maybe make a run.”
He said it: “I don’t think we have to [start the season] 3-0, but that’s the goal. It’s not going to make or break us, but getting off to a strong start will be very important.” – Matt Green.
Spring football game info: May 25 at 7:00 p.m.
Season Opener: At Frisco Heritage.
Aug. 31 at Frisco Heritage (at Frisco Memorial Stadium) at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 7 at Forney at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 14 vs. Frisco at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 28 vs. Wylie at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 5 at Greenville at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 12 vs. McKinney North at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Denison at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 vs. Sherman at 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 2 at Royse City at 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 9 vs. Wylie East at 7:30 p.m.