June 28, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Pirates’ Slone an old-fashioned lineman

Two-way lineman Ryan Slone is a little bit crazy, but Black River football coach Al Young has no problem with that.
“He’s a loose cannon, there’s no doubt about that,” Young said of the 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior. “He’s always been one of those kids who had fun playing, but this offseason he’s really taken hold of the added responsibility. He’s always the first one in the weight room and the last to leave.”
The owner of a 255-pound bench press and 455-pound deadlift, Slone earned honorable mention All-Gazette honors and first-team All-Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division accolades after recording 31 tackles, 9½ tackles for loss and three sacks as a junior.
Slone will be important on that side of the ball again this year, but it’s on offense, where he and John Ternes are the lone returning starters up front, that he will be critical.
“He’s been one of our better offensive linemen for the last couple of years,” Young said. “He’s so cat-like quick. He’s one of those good old-fashioned, street-fighting-tough offensive and defensive linemen. He fits that mold. He’s a tough kid and he’s a good football player.”
Slone, who Young thinks can play linebacker at the college level, gets his toughness from his father, a former Cleveland State wrestler and a state champion at Edison High.
The younger Slone wrestled at 220 pounds for Black River last winter and lost by one point on a stalling call in his go-to-state match.
“It definitely helps my balance (as a lineman),” Slone said. “And I can push myself a lot harder than a lot of people can from having that wrestling experience.”
Slone will do a ton of wrestling in the trenches as the Pirates look to replace Medina County career rushing leader Andrew Vaughn in the backfield. If he and his fellow linemen do their job, Black River may have the same success it had a year ago, when it finished 7-4 overall, 6-1 and in a three-way tie for first in the PAC Stars Division and qualified for the Division V playoffs.
“You’ve got to make holes,” the offensive tackle said. “You’ve got to know who you’ve got and pick up blitzes. I like hitting people. I like to try to pancake somebody every play. That’s my goal.”
The 17-year-old Slone weighed 235 pounds as a sophomore starter — “I was chunky,” he said — but has since dropped 25 pounds while adding muscle and becoming faster.
“Not only is he a big, strong kid, he’s really, really quick,” Young said. “He’s a really good athlete for a big kid. I’m glad we have that kind of pillar to build around. He’s one kid I’m not going to have to worry about, because I know what type of player he is.”
The one area where Slone will have to step up is leadership.
“We played a lot of kids last year and have a good number of them back, but they’re young,” Young said. “Him being one of the only seniors back, that’s a big step for him. He’s got to take charge there and get all these other guys going.”
Slone, who will be in his third year as a starter, is ready for the challenge.
“The leaders we had in the past, like Vaughn, I learned a lot from,” he said. “I’m ready for it. I feel like I have quite a bit of experience and I learned from the graduating seniors. They always told me stuff to do and how to keep the team together and push people as far as they can go.”
As a defensive tackle, Slone will attempt to keep opposing running backs from going anywhere.
“He’s one of those nasty, tough defensive linemen,” Young said. “He was a mainstay for us last year. He’s just been a great player for us the last couple of years.”
Whatever side of the ball he’s on, Slone will keep the game simple.
“On offense, every play I want to score a touchdown,” he said. “On defense, I want to create a problem. That’s just how my attitude is.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.