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2023 Streetsboro Rockets Football Preview

2023 Streetsboro Rockets Football Preview


By Tom Nader

Publisher and Editor


Pete Thompson

(13th year, 85-44 career record)



Coaching Staff: Coular Clendenning, defensive coordinator and defensive backs; Pete Smith, quarterbacks; Jim Lovejoy, running backs; Wezlee Spence, defensive line and strength and conditioning; Dave Verhotz, wide receivers; Tom Gerchak, linebackers; Todd Smith, offensive line; Jared Tuma, tight ends.

2022 Record: 6-5.

Returning Lettermen: 17.

Lettermen Lost: 7.


The Rockets will run out of the spread option, introducing a variety of formations.


Jackson Gula and Cohen Klimak are in a preseason battle for the starting position.

Both are athletic and bring multi-faceted skills to the position.

They will replace last year’s starter Colby Benjamin, who graduated and led Portage County in passing with 1,254 yards.

“Cohen is an offensive weapon with his legs and has been a pleasant surprise with his arm talent,” Thompson said. “He is a leader on both sides of the ball.”


There is depth and speed for the Rockets, with Kylan Rue, Brent Ranaldson, Janiere Cook, Ayden Kneubel and Klimak all in the mix.

Of this group, it was Rue that returns with the most rushing yards from a year ago, when he amassed 393 yards on the ground.

Preston Hopperton, who will be the team’s prolific receiver, also has proven to be a valuable backfield producer, as well, returning as the team’s leading rusher with 915 yards.

Hopperton was Second Team All-Ohio last year, despite being slowed by ankle and knee injuries.

“He is an extremely versatile offensive weapon,” Thompson said. “He is being recruited as a slot receiver, but he moves around in our offense. He is a unique combination of speed, agility, ball skills, vision and strength.”


The group in the trenches includes Leeland Darovich, Arther Scott, Joey Neal, Alex Light, Jon Akron, Cooper Richmond and Tyler Kertis.

Scott, who is just a sophomore, was a two-way starter last year as a freshman and has continued his growth as a player.

“Arther is someone to keep an eye on,” Thompson said. “As a freshman last year, he was, in many ways, our best lineman prior to suffering a broken leg in Week 5 and missing the remainder of the year. He is now 6-foot-3, 280 pounds, and his combination of size, speed and power is impressive. He is on a path to have a bright future.”

Darovich has developed into a team leader on both offense and defense.

“His work ethic this off-season and the gains he made in the weight room are very noticeable. Our expectations for him to have a great senior year are high,” Thompson said.


While Hopperton returns as the team’s top runner from a year ago, he fits into the same category for receiving.

He led Portage County with his 732 yards receiving, and he had 38 receptions. In total, Hopperton totaled nearly 1,800 yards of total offense for the Rockets in 2022 and scored 28 touchdowns.

Adding depth to the receiving group are Jake Marshall, Garrett Tiller, Hunter Smith, Carter Baab and Gula.


The Rockets will employ a 3-4 and 4-2-5 defense.


Rue was a big part of the Rockets’ defense last year, finishing with 62 tackles, which is the second-highest total from a returning player this year.

Trace Herman (44 tackles), Cook and Ayden Kneubel will also be part of the linebacking group.


Similar to the offensive line, Darovich and Scott will anchor the defensive front.

Jayce Fedor, Connor Stevens, Ekron and Kertis will also be part of the group.


Gula and Klimak are big contributors, with Gula being the top returning tackler from last year’s team. He totaled 98 tackles, which finished just behind Donovan Paes’ 106. It was the second straight season that Gula, who also had two interceptions last year, finished second on the team in tackles, which came in his freshman and sophomore seasons.

“Jackson is tall and rangy, but he is also an excellent tackler,” Thompson said. “He is competing to be the QB on offense, but he is definitely the ‘QB’ of our defense.”

Additional key contributors to the secondary will be Hopperton, Marshall, Eric Tiller, Hunte Smith Baab (55 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 forced fumbles) and Ranaldson.


Arthur Scott, Cooper Richmond, Janiere Cook, Ayden Kneubel, Tyler Kertis.


“Injuries in key spots and breaking in a new quarterback, with a challenging non-league schedule,” Thompson said.

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