PERRYSBURG — From last year’s 8-4 team, which lost to Marysville in the second round of the Division I playoffs, Perrysburg returns 15 lettermen, including six starters on offense and four on defense.
Second-year coach Dirk Conner has 67 varsity players, including 25 seniors, heading into battle when the Yellow Jackets open the season at Dublin Jerome.
Conner said the seniors are providing strong leadership, his team has “good size and strength on both sides on both lines of scrimmage,” and he has “team speed across the board.”
Perrysburg returns a strong one-two offensive punch in 5-foot-11, 205-pound senior running back Connor Walendzak and 6-5, 185-pound senior quarterback T.J. Takats.
Walendzak, a first team All-NLL selection who will play collegiately for the University of Toledo, ran for 1,369 yards on 202 carries with 16 touchdowns last year.
“We’ve got a lot of good pieces back,” Conner said. “There is so much he adds to the team.
“This is his senior year and his chance to be the guy leading the backfield, and he has been doing so for the last couple years, anyways, so it’s just a good chance for him to continue what he’s been doing,” Conner continued.
“He doesn’t need to do anything different. We’re excited to have a guy like that helping us to win.”
Conner says Walendzak has built strength and endurance over the offseason, which is one reason why they are expecting him to perform just as well, if not better, this year.
“He’s had a good offseason and I think he’s one of the strongest kids I’ve ever coached,” Conner said.
“He’ll have a couple weight-room records here before he leaves. There is a reason he is a Division I scholarship player.”
As a junior, Takats, who was first team All-NLL selection, completed 118-of-194 passes for 1,544 yards and 13 TDs, plus he ran for 811 yards on 142 carries with three TDs.
“We’re very lucky to have a signal caller whose played in 14, 15 high school games leading the way,” Conner said. “It’s nice having that experience. We are a lot further ahead of where we were at this point last year because of those guys’ experience and leadership.”
Takats will have 6-3, 185-pound senior Jack Borer, a first team All-NLL pick who caught 49 passes for 679 yards and five TDs, to throw to.
With the weapons Perrysburg has, expect the Yellow Jackets to mix things up on offense.
“We are going to go on a game-by-game basis,” Conner said.
“We are very fortunate to have a very good offensive line and good running back, but we also have a good quarterback and receivers, so we plan to be pretty balanced this year on offense as far as run-pass.”
Heading up the offensive line is 2020 first team All-NLL selection Grant Zimmerly, a 6-4, 285-pound senior who will play in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
Joining Zimmerly is 6-3, 280-pound senior Cody Oakley, a third team All-NLL pick last year, who also plays in the trenches on offense and defense. Much of the rest of the line is brand new.
Conner added that the biggest issue could be “getting a new offensive line to gel early in the season and getting a lot of inexperienced players on defense up to speed quickly.”
On defense, Walendzak will play linebacker, and he will be joined by 5-10, 170-pound senior cornerback Giovanni Restivo, a second team All-NLL selection, along with 6-3, 185-pound senior safety Matt McEwen.