The Parma High School Redmen football team is gearing up for the 2016 season, and are looking to improve upon the 3-7 record from 2015 and contend in a competitive Great Lakes Conference. The GLC features Bay, Elyria Catholic, Rocky River, Holy Name, Valley Forge, and Normandy high schools.
Three of the seven losses the Redmen suffered were by 10 points or less, including a wild season opener against Olmsted Falls, which went into double overtime.
“This year we’re talking about finishing the game,” Parma head coach Bruce Saban said. “Last year, we had a lot of chances late in games to win, but we fell short in all of those games. The effort was great, but we couldn’t quite find that way to win and that’s one of the changes we have to make this year.”
Saban’s group will feature many of those same players from 2015, as senior quarterback Kyle Lyon is playing in his third season under center. Senior running back Anthony DiDonato is also starting for the third-straight year, along with senior wide receiver and free safety Collin Leyden, who is another key for an experienced group of playmakers.
Center Blake Sikora, another returning senior, will anchor the offensive line, which has several new faces.
“Up front, we like what we’ve seen in camp, but most of those guys are untested,” Saban said of the offensive line.
The Redmen don’t have the biggest linemen, but what Parma lacks in size, they will try to make up for with speed and athleticism.
“You have to try to find the matchup where you can,” Saban continued. “We don’t have (former-offensive lineman) John Todd anymore. We don’t have that 285-pound guy, but I’ve got seven, eight or nine guys who are 5–10, 235 pounds. They’re almost identical, like twins, and they’re athletic, too. So, they can be fast up front and hopefully give a chance for our athletes on the outside to demonstrate their skill.”
Heading into the season, Parma has been fortunate to have an injury-free camp and Saban said, so far, the team is in good shape.
“Knock on wood … one of our goals has been to make it through camp healthy, and other than normal (occasional) tightness and soreness, we’re healthy,” he said.
Parma plays two scrimmages in the next two weeks, facing Westlake on Friday and Revere on Aug. 18, leading up to the season opener against Olmsted Falls.
“It’s critically important, because everybody’s at their best Week 1,” Saban said of being prepared for the opener. “There’s still going to be those mistakes, but everybody’s playing fast. Everybody’s playing physical. Everybody’s excited.
“So you’d really like to get out of the gate 1-0, but the first game doesn’t make or break your season, so you can bounce back from that one, win or lose,” he added. “If you win, you put it behind you pretty fast, but if you lose you gotta’ bounce back and everybody’s really trying to get ready for conference play.”
Since going 8-2 in 2010, Parma has not finished above .500 in its last five seasons, but playing in a competitive conference, Saban believes his team is in the hunt for a conference title.
“We always set a goal of a conference championship,” he stated. “Over the years, we’ve had those eight-win seasons. We’ve had seven-win seasons. We’ve had championships.
“We’ve (recently) had years where we went 2-8 or 3-7 and had to kind of reset our goals, but our guys are hungry,” Saban added. “We’ve set our goal as a conference championship, but I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t think the other teams in the conference did the same thing. I think it’s wide open.”
The Great Lakes Conference should be interesting to watch, as Parma faces three neighboring rivals, including Valley Forge, Normandy and Holy Name.
Here is the full schedule for the 2016 Redmen. Conference games marked with *
Date Time Opponent
Aug. 26 7 p.m. @ Olmsted Falls
Sept. 2 7 p.m. @ North Royalton
Sept. 8 7 p.m. John Marshall
*Sept. 16* 7 p.m. @ Normandy
*Sept 23* 7 p.m. Elyria Catholic
Oct. 1 7 p.m. St. Ignatius
*Oct 7* 7 p.m. @ Valley Forge
*Oct. 14* 7 p.m. Rocky River
*Oct. 21* 7 p.m. @ Holy Name
*Oct. 27* 7 p.m. @ Bay