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Aurora football looks to capitalize on strong junior class, intriguing 2023 schedule

Aurora hosted Riverside on Friday, August 26. Enzo Catania with a carry, Cameron Simpson on defense.
Aurora hosted Riverside on Friday, August 26. Enzo Catania with a carry, Cameron Simpson on defense.

A year ago, Aurora football relied heavily on a bunch of seniors starting for the first time.

With all those seniors graduated, the Greenmen once again will rely on a bevy of new starters in 2023.

Coming off an 8-4 season, the majority of their starters on both offense and defense are new.

The good news is Aurora has a loaded junior class this year, which bodes well for 2023 and 2024.

Indeed, the hope is that next year, the Greenmen might not be quite so green.

Brandon Liepins takes over quarterback duties for Aurora.
Brandon Liepins takes over quarterback duties for Aurora.

"We're really excited about our junior class," Aurora coach Bob Mihalik said. "Really most of them had a great JV year last year and led us to an 8-1 record at the JV level."

Matthew Copley is among the emerging stars in the Greenmen's Class of 2025.

With Aurora graduating both of its starting offensive tackles from a year ago, Copley will be relied upon to replace Joey Arnold (now at Clarion College) at left tackle.

Tommy Tartabini figures to play a similarly big role, joining senior star Enzo Catania (the Greenmen's leading tackler last year) in the linebacker corps.

"[He's] just a very quick, hard-nosed kid," Mihalik said of Tartabini. "A lot of energy."

Another junior linebacker, Lucas Manderbach, is actually moving to the defensive line to join star Rocco Courtad, who led the Greenmen linemen in tackles last year.

Also watch for Catania and Manderbach to form a powerful running duo.

"Enzo and Lucas, they're both downhill, physical-type runners," Mihalik said. "They're not cutesy-pie, finesse runners, so it'll be old-school Aurora football running the ball, just coming right at you."

Aurora football's 2023 schedule

Armen Perez and Dylan Crasi help to bring down Cardinal quarterback Broc Lowry.
Armen Perez and Dylan Crasi help to bring down Cardinal quarterback Broc Lowry.

Week 1: Twinsburg (Aug. 18); Week 2: @ Riverside (Aug. 25); Week 3: West Geauga (Sept. 1); Week 4: Revere (Sept. 8); Week 5: Copley (Sept. 14); Week 6: @ Cuyahoga Falls (Sept. 22); Week 7: @ Tallmadge (Sept. 29); Week 8. Roosevelt (Oct. 6); Week 9: @ Barberton (Oct. 13); Week 10: @ Highland (Oct. 20)

Two things stand out looking at the schedule.

First, Aurora will have no trouble getting motivated for its non-conference games, starting with crosstown rival Twinsburg moving from Week 3 to Week 1.

"We've been playing for about 20 years now and to open up Week 1 against them, that's exciting," Mihalik said. "There's a lot of excitement all summer getting ready for that against them."

Week 2 Aurora looks to avenge last year's home loss to Riverside.

"They came to our place last year and put a good one on us," Mihalik said. "I think the kids got that one circled a little bit and they're going to be really good again. I mean they're a team that lost to Mentor by one point last year, so we're excited about that one."

Tack on former Chagrin Valley Conference rival West Geauga in Week 3 and "it's an interesting non-conference schedule," Mihalik said, before moving into Suburban American play.

The other thing to note about Aurora's schedule is that a team with new starters at quarterback, tailback, both tackles and every wide receiver spot has the chance to gain confidence at home.

Four of the Greenmen's first five games will be at Veterans Stadium, including three home dates against teams Aurora beat last year (Copley, Revere and Twinsburg).

The hope is that by the time the Greenmen hit the road — four of their last five are away from home — they will be battle-tested and ready for anything. Their season-ending gauntlet includes back-to-back trips to Barberton (Week 9) and Highland (Week 10), which typically have battled Aurora for Suburban American titles.

"We had a good offseason," Mihalik said. "We got to hope to keep healthy and be in a good spot going into those Weeks 9 and 10 for a chance to win the league and hopefully make a nice playoff run."

This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Aurora football coach Bob Mihalik excited about strong junior class