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By just about every measure, the 2015 season was the greatest in Stow-Munroe Falls football history.
The Bulldogs had their first 10-0 regular season, went 7-0 in the inaugural season of the Suburban League National Conference and reached the Division I state semifinals for the first time in school history.
Stow finished at 13-1, losing to eventual state champion Lakewood St. Edward 45-7 in the state semifinals.
Thus, confidence in the program is running at an all-time high. Stow has 19 starters back after losing only five to graduation.
Stow coach Mark Nori knows his team has a lot to live up to, as he enters his seventh season with the Bulldogs.
"I think it's just like every other season: You continue to build," Nori said. "Like I said at the end of the season, I was pleased with the season, but we weren't satisfied. Our goal every season is to win a state championship."
That goal is no longer unfathomable for the Bulldogs, but at the same time, Nori knows any hope of the Bulldogs sneaking up on any opponent is gone.
"There is sort of an allure to flying under the radar. That's kind of gone away," Nori said. "We walk into the league right away with an X on our back. The challenge for five years was we were in search of the [league] title. Now we have it, so we need a different way of looking at things."
With so much experience back on both sides of the ball, Nori is confident his team will continue to grow. It will need to, however, as Nori expects another dogfight in the National Conference.
In addition to the league slate, Stow pumped up its non-conference schedule by adding a trip to Solon in week three.
Stow's assistant coaching staff remains all but intact, with Brian Tyla (defensive coordinator) Martin Poder (offensive coordinator), Matt Waggoner (wide receivers), Jake Robinson (defensive line), Dave Helmick (running backs) and Tim Renner (linebackers) all back. The lone newcomer is Eric French (cornerbacks).
Stow's formations remain the same. Nori jokes he and Poder butt heads all the time, as Nori loves to run the ball, but his offensive coordinator prefers the aerial game. The result is Stow's run-heavy spread offense.
On defense, the Bulldogs will stick with an aggressive 4-3 set.
Stow is set at quarterback, as senior three-year starter Kyle Vantrease is back under center after throwing for more than 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Vantrease recently made a verbal commitment to the University of Buffalo.
"They call him 'The Ginger General,'" Nori said. "He's grown with the program since his seventh-grade year. He's just a student. He loves watching film. He's in command of what we do."
In the backup role, sophomore Logan McClintock will get the nod.
The huge question for Stow this year: How is it going to replace running back Jayson Gobble? The Associated Press' Division I offensive player of the year is now at Youngstown State.
"We really have about three or four guys who will fill in," Nori said. "To make up for Jay, it's going to take some experience"
The running back corps includes junior Bryan Devitis, junior Terrian Wray, senior Joe Gobble -- Jayson's younger brother -- and senior Nick Kopczak.
The lead blocking back position is more settled, as junior fullback Anthony D'Alessandro is back after starting all 14 games in 2015. Senior Kiyal Izaldine and sophomore Paulo Gill also will see time at fullback.
While Stow lost a good receiver in Monte Board, the Bulldogs return their top two receivers in seniors Joe Andrassy and Logan Lindsay. Nori said he has "some things planned" for Andrassy, who can play any skill position, while Lindsay established himself as a deep threat last season.
Senior Jared Wright will have a much bigger role at receiver this year, while junior Tyler Shaver and senior Brian Rowe also will see time.
Stow has a huge and veteran line, anchored by senior All-Ohioan Mike Miranda (6-foot-5, 300 pounds), who committed to Penn State this summer.
"He's the real deal," Nori said. "He's a leader in the locker room and on the field. I think he's looking forward to getting the job done."
Miranda is one of four returning starters on the line, along with senior Matt Esterle (6-1, 235), who slimmed down a bit this year and is getting Division I college attention.
What senior center Logan Ford (5-8, 185) lacks in size, he makes up for in intelligence and aggression.
The right guard spot is being fought by juniors Richie Morrocco (6-2, 250) and junior Evan Stone (6-3, 250).
Another returning starter is senior right tackle Jeremiah Gyulai (6-3, 270), who has added more weight to his long frame.
Junior Jacob Feldman (5-8, 185) junior Rockwell Graehling (6-foot, 225) and sophomore Michael Young (6-2, 210) all will provide line depth.
On defense, Stow returns two senior starters on the defensive line: Ryan Stone and Andrew Shockling. Estlerle also will start this year at a defensive tackle.
However, Nori is expecting another big year from the player he calls "The Beast": sophomore defensive tackle Adrian Woliver.
Kopczak, senior Alex Sheridan and sophomore Caleb Edmonson also will see time on the line.
Stow lost an All-Ohioan in linebacker Jakob Madgar, but the corps should be solid, with Ford likely to start at the Mike linebacker spot. Gobble and D'Alesandro also are in the mix.
Senior Joe Gibbs and juniors Isaiah Gray and Logan Edwards are in the mix at the Sam linebackers spot, while Gobble, Devitis and junior Tim Manley will fill the Will linebacker spot.
At cornerback, Wright will get the nod and junior Issac Edmonson returns, but the Bulldogs got a boost when junior basketball star Coryon Rice came out for football. Rice will compete for a starting spot, with sophomores Bryce Sheppert and JR Atkinson also seeing playing time.
Andrassy is likely to anchor the Bulldogs' secondary at the free safety spot, while Shaver, sophomore Brian Cartwright and senior Keaton Brumley will fill the strong safety spot.
After splitting duties with Garrett Rigby the last two seasons, senior Austin Burnham will handle all the kicking and punting duties for Stow this fall. Miranda will serve as long snapper.
Stow will open the 2016 season at Green Aug. 26 at 7 p.m.