Chasing a Championship: 2016 Wickliffe Blue Devils football

The Wickliffe High School football team is set to make its first playoff appearance since 2001 and eighth overall when the fifth-seeded Blue Devils travel to Leavittsburg on Saturday night for a Division V, Region 17 quarterfinal matchup with the fourth-seeded LaBrae Vikings.

The Blue Devils (8-2, 5-2 Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division) have already recorded the program’s first winning season since 2003 and are looking to become only the second team to record a postseason win.

The camaraderie and sense of togetherness fostered by the squad’s 18 seniors, as demonstrated by their adoption of “the more we become one, the better we become” as the team mantra, has served as a catalyst for the squad’s success.

“The seniors have embraced the underclassmen and have created a family-type atmosphere,” sixth-year head coach Marce Porcello said.  “The team concept has played a big role in our success.”

The Blue Devils have rushed for more than 2,600 yards and have accumulated more than 3,500 totals yards while operating its Wing-T offense out of the pistol formation.

Sophomore Isaac Pettway has rushed for 1,285 yards and 18 touchdowns while junior Nick Fenton has gained 991 yards on the ground and scored 12 times. Senior quarterback Lucas Thomeier has completed 37-of-64 passes while throwing 13 touchdowns. He has also recorded three rushing scores.Porcello recently discussed his team and its season thus far with WKYC.

Read the Q&A below to learn more about the Blue Devils heading into the first round of the Ohio High School Athletic Association playoffs.

WKYC: What are three adjectives that describe your team and/or its play this season?

Porcello: Physical, passionate, confident

WKYC: What has been your team’s greatest strength this season?

Porcello: Its leadership.

WKYC: What was the low point of your team’s season? What was learned from the experience?

Porcello: Our loss to Perry. Going into that game, we were 4-0 and we did not play well.  We needed to bounce back in a big way the next week against Orange. We did that and won a very tough game.

WKYC: Who are your team's leaders? What does each bring to the team?

Porcello: Captains Justin Fortkamp, Jacob Chesnes, Christian Martinitis and Lucas Thomeier.

Fortkamp is a three-year starter at safety and running back with a 4.2 GPA. He is tall and athletic, and aggressive on defense.  He blocks, runs the ball and has great hands.  He leads by example and is a fierce competitor.

Chesnes is a starter at outside linebacker with a 4.2 GPA. Jacob is a leader on and off the field.  We have had big problems in past years with tackling in space.  Chesnes likes to hit and will tackle some of the best athletes in space.  He is a versatile player who also can play coverage.

Martinitis is a starter at defensive end and as a guard on the offensive line with a 4.2 GPA Christian is a great leader and is well respected by his teammates for his work ethic and character. His dedication to this team has set an example for everyone involved.  He is a competitor and an intense player on both sides of the ball. 

Thomeier is our team leader. He is our quarterback and is a leader by example on and off the field. Lucas is a smart football player and a student of the game. He worked as hard as anyone in the offseason and it shows. He has been a consistent passer and has operated an offense that has accumulated more than 3,500 yards.  He has done this with poise and passion. He makes the other players around him better.

WKYC: Who has been your team's unsung hero this season?

Porcello: Our offensive line – left tackle Nate Varney, left guard Antjhony Scott, center Dominic Liuzzo, right guard Christian Martinitis, right tackle Jared Szinte and tight end Michael Galioto. The offensive line has accomplished so much for this team. They don’t get much recognition, but they are the guys that make our offense what it is. They are physical, relentless and determined to dominate on every snap. They have provided this offense with opportunities to succeed every week. These are the guys that are in the trenches, under the shoots and the physicality of our team.

WKYC: What must happen for your team to be able to make a deep playoff run?

Porcello: Play with confidence, play physical, and take care of the ball.

WKYC: When the season is long over, what will you remember most about this team?

Porcello: Their character. This team has so much character on and off the field. They are great young men who care about others and play with passion for the city of Wickliffe. The seniors have been the core of this team. They lead by example and have done everything that the coaching staff has ever asked them to do. They have embraced the system and the pride of being a Blue Devil. The underclassmen have followed behind these seniors and have made a huge impact as well. We try to have fun every day and to remember that this game teaches us great things about life. We have played through adversity and have played with class all season. This is a group that will be remembered here at Wickliffe for a very long time.

WKYC: Is there anything you’d like to add about this year’s team and/or its season?

Porcello: As a coach, I could not be more proud. These young men have embraced the ideals of teamwork, dedication and hard work. They have played with a sense of togetherness all season. They have earned the right to play in a playoff game because of the work they have put in, and I’m excited to lead them onto the field this Saturday.

For more Northeast Ohio high school sports news, scores, photos and videos, visit WKYC.com/hss.

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