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Last season was a tough one for the Cuyahoga Falls High School football team.
In fact, they don't come much tougher.
The Black Tigers slogged through a winless campaign while playing in one of the most competitive conferences in Northeast Ohio, if not the entire state: the new National Conferences of the Suburban League.
The good news for the upcoming 2016 season: Cuyahoga Falls should be tougher, as well.
"We have a great senior class with a lot of experience," said Falls head coach Sean Flaherty. "These are resilient, hard-nosed kids who work hard."
Cuyahoga Falls have a number of seniors returning on the offensive and defensive lines. They include Adam Riegler, Dakota Dobbins, Damien Fleming and Sam Forbes.
Fleming will play linebacker on defense, and Forbes is a tight end and defensive end. Returning junior Saivon Davis will join these seniors on the line.
Back at quarterback for the Black Tigers is senior Nate Vassalotti.
Senior Nick Siegferth returns at wide receiver and defensive back.
Falls also has many newcomers upon which Flaherty will be counting for contributions throughout the coming campaign.
One is senior running back/defensive back Jake Guric and another is junior running back/linebacker Caleb Puchajda.
In addition, there are three sophomore newcomers. They include running back/linebacker Tyler Hitchings, fullback/linebacker James Cross and running back/linebacker Garrett Hooker.
In the special teams department, senior Greg McDevitt will handle both the placekicking and punting duties for Falls. He served as the backup to Jack Sawyer last season.
"We're really excited about what we're doing offensively and defensively," said Flaherty. "We're changing up the looks a little bit and setting the system more to the personnel that we have. We had a great spring and winter in the weight room. I'm excited for the direction the program is moving."
Flaherty is encouraged by the amount of chemistry that the Black Tigers already possess. He believes that level of chemistry will continue to grow.
"There's a great family feel surrounding this team right now," said Flaherty. "Everybody has bought in, and team unity is going to be a strength for us."
That team chemistry and unity will be crucial in terms of the Black Tigers' main goal, which is to improve each and every week throughout the season.
"Our main goals is to become the best team that we can be, work as hard as we can, and hold each other accountable to that same standard," said Flaherty. "We want to take this journey as a family and enjoy it along the way."
That journey, of course, once again involves the National Conference of the Suburban League. Flaherty knows it will be as formidable as it was last season.
"It's a very tough conference, one of the best conferences in the state of Ohio," he said. "I have great respect for all of the programs in the conference. I'm excited, though. It forces us to find ways to continue to improve as a program and as a team. It pushes us to get better."
Flaherty is starting his fourth year as the head coach at Cuyahoga Falls.
His assistant coaches this season include Tom Flaherty (offensive and defensive line), Shane Parker (defensive coordinator), Jason Smith (running backs and linebackers), Doug Phillips (quarterbacks and defensive backs), Brandon Frase (wide receivers and defensive backs) and Josh Moore (running backs and defensive line).
Falls will open the new season Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. at home against Kent Roosevelt.
"It's been a very competitive series since I've taken over at Falls," said Flaherty. "Kent Roosevelt does a great job of getting their kids ready to play. We're going to have to do what we have to do to be successful."