St. Vincent-St. Mary senior Fransohn “Fresh” Bickley is generally quite chatty and not one to be shy.
Monday morning, Bickley smiled when the microphone was handed to him and he was asked to address the St. V-M student body, teachers and administrators during a celebration in the high school gym for the Division III state football champions.
Bickley thanked everyone for their support and nervously laughed in a brief message.
Senior Tom Paolucci also appreciated the support from the Fighting Irish fans that witnessed St. V-M defeat Bellevue 42-21 Saturday at Fawcett Stadium in Canton to earn its fifth state title.
“Great job this weekend guys,” St. V-M Athletic Director Andy Jalwan said at the assembly. “You guys had a job to do and you went down and did it.”
Players and coaches smiled and talked as they savored the moment and posed for pictures with the state championship trophy.
“I don’t know if it has really hit me yet that we won, but I am extremely happy,” senior Eric Prologo said. “I can’t think of a better way to end my senior year of football with this group of people. This was the best year I have had playing football.”
Prologo joined juniors Aaron Adkins, Anthony Adkins and Travonte Junius to give the Irish (13-2) a formidable defensive line nicknamed “The Wolf Pack.”
Juniors Dante Booker and Newman Williams led the linebacker unit that included sophomore Vince Lockett and was dubbed “The A-Team.”
Bickley was the lone senior in a defensive backfield that included juniors Corey Whaley and Nathan Bischof and freshman Tyrece Speaight.
“The goal at the very beginning was to be state champs,” Prologo said. “We talked about it and worked very hard for it, and it finally paid off.”
Senior Joe Weber played all three linebacker positions for the Irish along with contributing as a tight end, wide receiver and long snapper.
“I was happy, but at the same time it was kind of sad walking off the field for the last time with my teammates,” Weber said. “It’s awesome that we are state champs. All the hard work paid off.”
Weber was the snapper on the fake punt that resulted in a Williams 41-yard touchdown run that extended the Irish’s lead to 28-14 with 3:21 to go in the third quarter.
“It was one of the craziest runs I have ever seen,” Prologo said. “That was like a young Jerome Bettis right there.”
St. V-M coach Dan Boarman said assistant Matt Lasher called the play.
“We practice that every week,” Weber said. “We just had never done it in a game. I wasn’t really nervous to do it.”
The Irish are set to return nine of 11 defensive starters next season.
The offense will need to be restructured with nine of 11 starters graduating.
Senior quarterback Clayton Uecker had a standout season with dynamic senior receivers Bickley and Jordan Hargrove, senior tight end Kevin Alexander, senior fullback Mike Pruiett and junior tailback Parris Campbell Jr.
The lone returning offensive lineman will be junior Derek Whiddon with Paolucci, Bryan Wisor, Nick Karipides and Derek Pierog graduating as seniors.
“There is not really any pressure to repeat because my team and I will work hard in the offseason and come back in next football season and prepare like we did this season,” Campbell said. “We will have the same goal. We just have to continue to work hard.”
The Irish will lose senior kicker Dylan Labbe, but are slated to return sophomore punter Sean Devany and junior holder Tyler Moran.
“This was just a special group,” Boarman said. “We did not have a large amount of seniors. Normally, we have 20-plus. We had a group of guys who came together and had the desire to win. It was a relatively small freshman class when these seniors came in.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.