LeDonne reaching comfort zone at Elizabeth-Forward
Elizabeth Forward head coach Mike LeDonne hasn’t had the hectic summer he went through a year ago.
LeDonne was a late choice to move up from defensive coordinator when Rich Bowen left only two months before the season, leaving the team to scramble, particularly on offense.
‘I was hired and it was just a rush to get an offensive coordinator,’ LeDonne said. ‘Everybody had to get familiar with the personnel in less than a month. We didn’t miss a beat defensively. The kids new my system. We had a rough year offensively.’
Elizabeth Forward was able to push around some teams and rely on the rushing of Mark Rost and a dominant defense enough to reach the playoffs, but it could not score against top teams like Big 7 Conference rivals West Allegheny, Thomas Jefferson or West Mifflin.
‘We weren’t consistent enough on offense,’ LeDonne said. ‘This year, we had a great off-season program. Everybody will be on the same page. We concentrated more on offense. That will help out.’
It will start at tailback, where junior Ryan Abels will take over for Rost.
‘This guy is a 4.5 40-yard-(dash) guy,’ LeDonne said. ‘He gives us more speed there. He isn’t as big as Mark, but he brings a different asset to the game.’
Eric Migliori and Mike Hutchko are the options at fullback. Those backs will run behind a veteran line that has some depth.
Paul Adams returns at tight end, where he shared playing time a year ago.
Junior center Brad Mitchell, junior tackle Tim Miller and senior guard Mike Davic are returning starters, with Matt Ciesewitch and Chris Anderson likely at the other two spots.
Sophomore Steve Andrison (6-4, 265) will work on on the offensive and defensive lines and freshman Bobby Lansbarger might also see some time. Sophomore Joe Nesta and senior Eric Cambell also could see time.
The concern is the passing game, which was not effective a year ago.
‘Our passing game was hideous at best last year,’ LeDonne said. ‘The route-running was terrible. The pass protection was terrible. The quarterback drops were terrible. I look for a lot of improvement in that area.’
Senior Patrick Cray, who started at tight end last year, and junior Michael Mitchko will compete for the quarterback job, with the one who loses out likely to start somewhere else.
They will have solid targets in two-year starter Howie Lesofsky and either Ryan Pratt or Ryan Hannus, who provide speed.
‘We have some great athletes there who can get the ball,’ LeDonne said.
Lesofsky and Pratt will start in the secondary along with Abels. The secondary will be the strength of the defense. Either Abels or Lesofsky will move to Rost’s free safety spot, with the other one playing corner along with Pratt.
‘We play a lot of man coverages and lock those corners on,’ LeDonne said.
Cray likely will move from defensive end to strong safety on defense.
Davic is a key, taking over for three-year starter Jeff Zanetti at middle linebacker.
‘He’s my man,’ LeDonne said. ‘He’s in charge my schemes of front eight.’
Mike Hutchko and Sean Walters are contending for other starting spots.
Miller will be a key at defensive tackle.
Brad Mitchell and Migliori will contend at nose tackle and Anderson likely will start at end with the other two spots wide open.
Sean WaltersDE 5-10175