By Dan Hiner
Dan Reardon’s first priority after retaking the head coaching job at Ursuline High School is a season-long endeavor.
After nearly a decade way from the Irish football team, the title-winning coach had to recreate a winning culture.
The Irish went 1-9 last season and are 6-24 over the last three seasons. Ursuline lost 10 seniors from last year’s team and have 48 players in 2019.
The mantra has been “daily improvement.”
And Reardon said he believes the players will continue to progress if they keep striving for improvement and develop a “championship mindset.
“There’s a lot of bad habits that we’re trying to correct and spin it into a positive thing and turn it into positive habits,” Reardon said. “Our kids, I think for the most part, have bought in.
“Yet, we have certain expectations that are different than what were here.”
During the preseason, coaches say they don’t focus on outside expectations. Reardon, however, thinks he has an idea of what the Ursuline community expects from the football team in 2019.
“From what I’ve heard, there aren’t a lot of expectations from the outside community,” Reardon said. “The Ursuline faithful have seen the state of the program the last couple years, and I think everybody’s itching to get it back to where it was.
“But I also think people are realistic that it’s pretty hard to go from 1-9 to a state-championship caliber football team in one year. Yet that’s what we talked about. We talk about being a state-championship caliber football team.”
The team’s transition has been a little smoother thanks to Reardon’s son, Matthew, who transferred from Canton McKinley. Matthew Reardon attended practice during his father’s first stint with the Irish.
“He definitely understands the expectation from me as ‘coach’ and as ‘Dad,’” Dan Reardon said. “He’s able to be a mediator in between, and if something isn’t how I want it to be he has a real good idea, if not pinpoint accuracy of what I want it to be.”
The Ursuline offense will feature multiple schemes, but the focus will be to go fast in a no-huddle offense.
Sophomore Brady Shannon is competing with Matt Reardon at quarterback.
Senior Davion Jones returning at running back. Jones ran for more than 1,000 yards last season. Junior Dante Walker and sophomore DeMarcus McElroy also return in the backfield.
McElroy also will see time at receiver. Other pass catchers include Dean Boyd, Mark Manning, Will Burney, Julian Johnson, James Phillips and Reardon.
The Irish graduated several offensive lineman, so the offensive front is still to be determined.
“I think we’ll have good skill. I think we’ll have good offensive line,” Dan Reardon said. “It’s a matter of how soon they’ll mature.
“It’s a good group of kids. They come and work hard every day, but they’re inexperienced. As experience comes, they’re gonna get better and better and better.”
The defense has some moving parts — many are still to be determined.
The Irish will feature a 3-3-5 defense, so the D-line has a new scheme and spots up for grabs.
Matt Philips and James Phillips will help lead the linebackers. Matt Phillips is listed at inside linebacker while James Phillips is on the outside.
Matthew Reardon played corner at Canton McKinley and is expected to be in the secondary. McElroy, Boyd and Johnson are competing for spots in the secondary.
Matt Phillips will handle long snapping, but the question is who will he snap for?
Reardon will handle the punting responsibilities. The Irish invited a couple members of the soccer team to try out as a kicker. One of the tryouts is Taylor Tomlinson. The senior played on the girls soccer team the last three years.
McElroy, Jones, Johnson, Matthew Reardon and Trent Hill will return kicks on a rotation.