Great seasons achieve more than simply allowing a team to make a playoff run. They set a standard for underclassmen. They allow them to understand what it takes to be a winner.

Such is the case for the 2016 Salem Quakers. They finished last season with a 10-2 record and reached the postseason for the first time in five years.

And the many players who return learned lessons that could not have been soaked in otherwise.

“What they did last year justified all their hard work, the commitment made,” Salem coach Ron Johnson said. “They realize that if they work hard, good things happen.”

The good things that happened included a second-place finish in the Northeastern Buckeye Conference and second-round playoff berth.

Although the Quakers lost key players to graduation, they also bring back many talented athletes who gained confidence through success a year ago.


Among the new and promising starters for Salem is junior quarterback Mitch Davidson, whose size and smarts has Johnson optimistic. Davidson will be calling plays for the zone read, quick-passing offense that will feature multiple formations.

“He’s an extraordinary competitor who hates to lose,” Johnson said of Davidson. “He’s really a talented kid. He can really spin it, but he has to run it in our offense. He’ll be running the show.”

Davidson will be handing the ball off frequently to speedy senior all-Ohio running back Cooper Bezeredi, who totaled about 2,200 yards rushing and receiving combined last year, but is a Division I recruit at safety. Another all-Ohio selection who returns to the Quakers is rangy wide receiver Jake Humeniuk, who boasts the ability to leap and snag passes in coverage. Fellow tall wideout Chase Ackerman is also capable of stretching the field.

The offensive line boasts two highly experienced players in third-year starting tackle James Monigold and fellow senior Joe Dotson, who is adept at both center and guard.


Those that start on defense for the Quakers in 2016 will have huge shoes to fill. After all, their predecessors allowed a mere nine points per game last season.

Salem used a 3-4 configuration with pressure coming from multiple angles. Most encouraging is that they return seven starters — so the shoes they will be filling are their own.

The strength of the unit is at linebacker, where senior Kobe Leininger and sophomore Robbie Sarginger man the inside and seniors Andrew Irwin and Levi Maenz roam the outside. The foursome love to blitz and have established themselves as sure tacklers. Their experience brings keen anticipation on the field.

Senior defensive ends Ethan Bailey and Anthony Wynyard also are experienced. Nose tackle Junior Zach Joy is the newcomer to the starting group, but received plenty of snaps in 2015.

The Quakers don’t feature many two-way players, but among them is Bezeredi, who serves as a starting safety alongside senior Jerod Carter. Senior Lex Murray is set to start at one cornerback spot with Humeniuk and Ackerman alternating at the other.

“Our linebackers are a strength — they’re strong and active and pose a lot of problems,” Johnson said. “But I feel pretty confident about our back end too.”


The Quakers will look to the same junior when they need a punter or placekicker. And that’s Braydon Gibson, who started as a freshman.


The fine mark of a year ago and the large number of returnees results in optimism all the way around for Johnson and his players. But he is stressing the notion that nobody should look farther ahead than the task at hand.

“Our goal doesn’t change, and that’s to play the perfect game,” he said. “We’re not an outcome-based program. We play one play at a time, literally. We want to make the perfect play. When you play as perfectly as you can, you can look over your shoulder after 48 minutes and more often than not you’ll like what you see.”