WARREN, Pa. – The Warren Dragons’ football team is raring to go.
After a spirited preseason camp, Warren opens at home with a Conneaut team that beat them in their season-opener a year ago. The Dragons rallied to have a 5-3 season.
“I would say this week was an encouraging week,” said Warren coach Mark Morelli. “The kids picked up the game plan pretty well. We have a solid game plan in place to cover what Conneaut appears to be trying to do. There are so many unknowns with the first game, but I think we’re prepared.”
Morelli points to the defensive line to be a unit of strength.
“Our defensive line looks pretty solid,” he said. “Alan McAllister, Easton Hultberg, Justice Greene and Tristan Dolan, those four guys up front are really going to cause some problems and give the offense some matchup problems.”
Leadership from a core group of seniors also figures to be a strong point for this football team.
“This team seems to be more into playing football and more focused,” Morelli said. “We don’t have all the distractions like we did last year (with COVID). This year feels a lot more like 2019. We had a productive summer and were able to evaluate the kids better. We didn’t have that this year.”
Offensively, the Dragons pose a strong nucleus of youth and experience. Landon Douvlos returns at quarterback, and the coaching staff likes what they have among the backs and receivers.
“Our skill kids are coming along,” noted Morelli. “Tommy Nyquist is going to be one of our halfbacks. Landon is coming back, he’s gotten better over the summer. I think Sam Harvey and Ethan Senz could have an impact in the backfield. Nyquist has a lot of versatility as a runner and pass-catcher. They give us some options. Kody Vega is a very consistent past catcher, and Ben White has game-breaking potential with his speed. He’s the fastest kid in Warren County.
“The key to our entire offense is our offensive line. If our offensive line can do the job up front, we have a chance to have a pretty good year offensively. If we struggle, we’re going to have to get creative.
“We have three returning starters (on the offensive line), McAllister, Hultberg and Luke Becker. We decided to move Logan Smith to center. Being the unselfish player he is, he’s worked hard at it. He’s the strongest kid on the team.The other guard spot, right now is Tristan Dolan. He’s getting competition from Isaac Werth and Eddie Johnson. It’s been a spirited competition that’s gone on all summer.”
It’s a group that, like all teams, had to overcome a lot in 2020 because of the restrictions the pandemic put on teams. Playing in front of full crowds and getting the season going is something they are very excited about.
“These seniors have never had a losing season at Warren,” Morelli said. “They had a taste of the playoffs their sophomore year and the seniors seem to be more outgoing about what their goals and aspirations are this year. To me, that’s a positive.”
The coaching staff, for the most part, has remained intact. Eric Rozanski is now helping with the junior high program along with Matt Pascuzzi, and Cody Bupp has stepped in as well. Andrew Morrison is now an assistant at Cambridge Springs as he finishes up school at Edinboro.
“We all get along so well,” Morelli said. “We have a great relationship.”
And the fire still burns for Morelli at the age of 61.
“It’s still there,” he said. “I told the kids, especially the younger ones, you’re going to see a different side of me (Friday night). I coach with a lot of passion.”
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. from War Memorial Field.