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Cougars Prepare For Season Of High Expectations

Lake Catholic football team knows they have a tough schedule and high expectations to deal with this season

It's a common mantra among football players: You have to take it one week at a time.

However, for the Cougars, it's not just a cliche; it's the truth.

They and, if they get caught looking ahead, any of the teams they face could get the best of them.

"Every single team on that schedule is capable of taking a victory away from us," Head Coach Mike Bell said.

So how do the Cougars intend to run this gauntlet?

The answer may be another cliche, but it's still true. They can't take any days off.

"Each week we have to play like the team we're facing is the best team in the state of Ohio," said Evan Grosel said.

So -- while the Lake Catholic football team has the intention of winning the state championship each year -- Bell sets more immediate goals en route to that ultimate destination.

"Our first goal is to get off to a strong start by winning our first game," Bell said.

'Nothing less is acceptable'

Lake Catholic rarely gets to play the role of an underdog.

However, after losing 21 of their 22 starters before the 2011 season, few had them pegged as a favorite.

They defied any skeptics by going 10-2 and making the playoffs. In the meantime, Bell and defensive lineman John Stepec was .

Many of the big names from last year's team are returning this year, including Stepec and quarterback Mark Baniewicz, both of whom are now seniors.

So, while it is good to have more experience on the field, no one will make the mistake of taking the Cougars lightly this season.

"It makes expectations that much higher right out of the gate," Baniewicz said. "We know what we're capable of and nothing less is acceptable."

But a change in expectations does not change the team's mentality, center Sean Wynne said.

"We know there are expectations," he said. "We prepare the same way."

Stepec agreed.

"We're still working hard because we know each week is a hard week."

Cougar football

In addition to his responsibilities on defense, Stepec has seen some playing time at fullback this offseason.

And, at 245 pounds, he knows he's a load for anything that's across the line of scrimmage.

"It'll be fun cracking a linebacker's head," he said with a smirk.

Several seniors echoed Stepec's sentiments, saying they were ready to get into some smashmouth football.

When asked what "Cougar football" is," tight end and linebacker Justin Kravchuck replied, "You just keep lining up and beating the guy across from you."

Similarly, Grosel said that he was looking forward to them running it up the gut of their opponents.

Of course, that doesn't mean Baniewicz won't be throwing the ball at all.

"There always needs to be a balance on offense," Bell said. "That doesn't mean running it half of the time and throwing it the other half. It means finding the balance that works best for the team."

But Lake Catholic fans can expect a lot trench warfare at the line of scrimmage this year.

When told his players were looking forward to playing some smashmouth football this season, Bell answered, "They better be."

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