Football hopes to repeat as PSAC West Champions

Jill Barrile photo: Sophomore Ricky Mathews ran for 92 yards, in his first collegiate start, helping Mercyhurst to a 24-23 win to open the 2011 season.Jill Barrile photo: Sophomore Ricky Mathews ran for 92 yards, in his first collegiate start, helping Mercyhurst to a 24-23 win to open the 2011 season.The Mercyhurst football program is defending the PSAC Championship for the first time.

The Lakers enter the season coming off of a 10-3 campaign with the 10-win total as a program first. But following up the stellar 2010 season may be a daunting task. A look at the roster shows numerous reasons to think the Lakers may have a hard time getting back to the PSAC pinnacle.

The team returns with only four starters on a defense that many considered the backbone of the team. Laker graduates, Bryan Boyce, who was PSAC west defensive player of the year, and Fred Hale, who was first team ALL-PSAC defensive end, left two tough holes to fill.

On offense, graduation left the team without 1,300-yard running back Gerald Anderson. Adding to the challenge is the academic ineligibility of sophomore Terrence Coon, who finished second in receiving yards last season.

Despite the losses on both sides of the ball, the Lakers are still confident heading into 2011.

“This is a brand new team, and we just want to play hard. We had a great camp and are happy with who we have here,” Coach Marty Schaetzle said. “We aren’t necessarily going to replace guys, but people will emerge and make plays and get better.”

The Lakers quarterback Travis Rearick, who set the school record for passing yards for a season will return to the field as a 5th-year senior. Rearick’s leadership and experience will be tested early and often with a young group of receivers and running backs around him.

Taking some of the burden away from Rearick is receiver and return man Trevor Kennedy. He is a preseason first-team All-American selection and will be the most experienced receiver.

On defense, the Lakers return arguably their most important part, senior linebacker Ian Wild. Wild, a two-sport star, will take over Boyce’s role in the middle of the defense.

“We will move him around and play with the best personnel possible,” Schaetzle said.

Wild’s ability has never been questioned, and the defense will rely on him to be the leader.

“The new position took some getting used to, but I feel like I am making a smooth transition. We can control what we do, and that’s all that matters,” Wild said regarding the new season.

The Lakers opened up the year with a win over Notre Dame College for the second year in a row. Rearick led the way with 322 yards of total offense. Wild led the defense with nine tackles in the victory.

The team battled brutal heat that forced Kennedy to miss most of the game with exhaustion, but he still managed to score a touchdown and haul in 64 yards receiving.

The type of resolve the team showed in the first week was a positive sign. Next up the Lakers take on Kutztown Saturday at noon.