By Steve Ruman


After qualifying for the playoffs in 2012, Niles has struggled to regain its form.

The Red Dragons are just 9-21 over the past three years, a record which includes five straight losses to end the 2015 campaign.

However, there is reason to believe the Dragons are primed to turn things around. They return 18 lettermen and 18 seniors. Among the experienced players are five which have already earned three varsity letters. They are Tyler Srbinovich, Rick Palmer, Dom Roberts, Justin Beatty and Marlon Pearson.

“This group, they have taken their lumps, but they have also hung in there since they were freshmen and now they know it’s their turn,” fifth-year coach Brian Shaner said. “This town should be very proud of this group of seniors. They are a gritty bunch.”


Scoring points has not been an issue for Niles in recent years, and with a wealth of experienced talent at the skilled positions, the Red Dragons should possess one of the area’s top offenses.

Srbinovich has the ability to beat a defense with his arm and legs. As a junior, Srbinovich passed for more than 1,600 yards and 14 TDs, while rushing for 480 yards and 16 TDs.

“Tyler is our identity, he is a hard-nosed kid who works extremely hard and who wants to be in on every play when the game is on the line,” Shaner said.

Srbinovich will have plenty of weapons to throw to, including Marlon Pearson (46 catches, 810 yards, 9 TDa) and Jasson Faison.

“We don’t shy away from saying that we have the best group of receivers in the area,” Shaner said.

The offensive line also brings back a wealth of talent, while Shaner describes the running game as “a work in progress.”


While Niles had no trouble scoring last year, it suffered through a 3-7 finish because it gave up 39 points per game.

Perhaps the biggest addition to the Dragons’ defense is Bud McSuley, the former Girard head coach who is now the Dragons’ defense coordinator.

“Bud is a fantastic human being who knows his football,” Shaner said. “He has brought a different mindset to this team. He has really energized our defense.”

Palmer, along with junior Preston Turner led the linebacker corps last year, and will be expected to again carry the load. The defensive backfield will feature the same names which will be catching the ball on offense.

“Our guys in the back can be physical when they have to be,” Shaner said. “They are great cover guys, and at the same time they get to the ball and they make plays. They can tackle.”


Niles’ speed at the skilled positions should make it a dangerous team when it’s time to return kickoffs and punts.

When it’s time for Niles to give up the ball, Shaner hopes for the best.

“Right now, we’re still searching for a kicker,” Shaner said. “Tyler handled some of our punting duties last year out of necessity and he may do the same again this year.”

“We always preach that special teams are a third of the game, so we’ll continue to work hard to put all the pieces in place.”


“I’d be lying if I didn’t say that we had very high expectations for this senior class,” Shaner said. “We’ve watched this group for a long time. We’ve always believed this group would be successful.”

Niles definitely has the firepower on offense to hang with every team on its schedule. Whether or not the Dragons can turn things around will be determined by how quickly the defense adapts to McSuley’s gameplan.

Niles is just 3-13 at home over the past three years, so its opener against Girard could go a long way in building confidence for the remainder of the campaign.

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