Ford head coach Todd Winters helps his defense get lined up properly. (Nicholas Barry)
Coach Winters gathers his team at the conclusion of a recent practice. (Nicholas Barry)
Ford receiver/safety Ryan Ausbrooks is expected to help lead the Falcons this season. (Nicholas Barry)
Junior quarterback Sam Shkreli will be back under center for the Falcons. (Nicholas Barry)

Sometimes, it pays to have a short memory.

Such is the case for Ford in 2013, as the Falcons finished 0-9 including an 0-5 slate a year ago in their return to the MAC Red Division.

“We don’t bring that up so much,” coach Todd Winters said. “This is a brand-new year. We have to prove ourselves all over again, show what Ford football’s all about. I think we’ve been invited to three or four homecomings this year. And so our plan is to become a spoiler for some of those games. We’re not harping on the 0-9, but the guys have something to prove this year.”

And there are 60-some players on the roster, which is a good sign, Winters said, in light of that winless 2012 campaign.

“I think that’s a testament to our staff and our school,” he said. “For us to maintain that number, that says something about the program itself.

“With that many kids, we do have some talent. We just have to figure out the best way to use it. I think a few teams will be taking us lightly this year and we have some more experience on both sides of the ball, (players) who understand what it takes to be successful.”

Among those talented players is receiver/safety Ryan Ausbrooks, a 6-foot, 170-pound senior whom Winters calls his best athlete; and 5-8, 235-pound senior center Matt Burns, who returns to anchor the offensive line. Guard Nick Polhemus also returns up front.

Two-way starter Alex Gauronskas, a running back who also plays in the secondary, also returns as does speedy running back/linebacker Eddie Chan. Dante D’Andrea, a junior who started at cornerback a year ago, is another player with good speed who will see plenty of playing time as a running back/receiver.

The quarterback is junior Sam Shkreli, who was pressed into starting duty on the varsity for the final three games of 2012 because of injury, a theme that ran throughout the Falcons’ season.

“We would have been fine, but we got decimated by injuries,” Winters said. “By the third game we had a new offensive line and we ended the year with our fifth quarterback. We were patching it together, but those kids never quit. Not once.”

And that bodes well for 2013, Winters said, as the Falcons attempt to take strides toward night-in, night-out competitiveness.

Middle linebacker Viktor Gegic, the Falcons’ leading tackler a year ago, returns to anchor the defense along with safety Mario Suarez.

“Our strength is our speed, and them knowing the game,” Winters said. “Our guys are football smart, and fast on both sides of the ball. Our front line, we’re not that big, so we’re looking for a little bit more speed, movement off the ball. We’re looking to spread it around and make (opponents) defend 11 and not two. We’re not going to blow anybody back, I’ll tell you that.”

The Falcons will have to play disciplined football, Winters said, and they will likely be undersized when they line up against virtually any MAC Red opponent.

“Without taking anything away from my kids and their effort, the MAC Red is tough,” he said. “Any way you slice it, it’s a tough league. Everybody is seasoned — seasoned coaches and the school numbers are pretty large. You can’t make mistakes against Ike, Stevenson, Dakota — any of those guys. One little thing can get you down.”

Still, Winters said he is optimistic, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the large number of players on the roster, and the fact that his team will play with a chip on its shoulder.

“Our guys are counting on each other more than they have in the past,” he said. “Whether you’re a junior or a senior, it doesn’t matter. They know they have something to prove this year and they’re working towards a common goal. They can’t wait to get back at it. This is a new year. It’s 2013.”

FAST FACT: Ford is starting its second year of the Falcons’ fourth different tenure in the MAC Red Division.



Last Updated: 8/23/2013 8:10:00 PM EST