YOUNGSTOWN - The night of Nov. 17, 2012 will always stick in the minds of Ursuline High School football players.
The Fighting Irish blew a 24-point halftime lead in the Division V, Region 17 final to Kirtland and lost, 38-37.
They're not dwelling on it, though. It's in the back of their minds. It will always be in the back of their minds.
"Our motto this year is 'finish it,' " senior offensive lineman Zach Sheetz said. "Obviously, last year we couldn't finish it. We couldn't finish out that half. Everything, this year, is about getting back to that point, winning and going further."
The feeling of failing will subside once Sheetz and eight other Ursuline seniors get on the field at Stambaugh Stadium on Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. against Walsh Jesuit.
"Coming out of the tunnel and seeing everybody and hearing the band, that'll hit and make it all better," said Jordan Davis, another senior on the line. "Last year is over and it's time to write our own destiny for our final year."
They'll have to do that with a new crop of underclassmen running backs.
The Irish (9-6 in 2012) lose three offensive playmakers who combined for 24 touchdowns a year ago. Tramaine Thigpen led with 632 rushing yards on 101 attempts. Jermaine Williams also scored 11 times and had 601 yards on 95 attempts. Receiver Shannon Hightower averaged more than 2 yards per carry and had two touchdowns.
"Obviously we were strong in the backfield," coach Larry Kempe said, "so that just means we expect some new guys to come in and be strong."
That'll be sophomore Kimauni Johnson, who took 18 carries for 150 yards last year, and junior Damon Green, who rushed for 20 yards on six carries. Marcus Moseley, a state track qualifier as a freshman in the 200-meter dash, will also be in the mix.
"We're going to be a young group back there," Sheetz said. "They're quick and they hit hard. Nothing is going to change for the Ursuline Irish running backs because they're still hitting hard and running fast."
The offensive line is in a completely different situation. It's a unit full of veteran guys as Sheetz, Davis and Sha'Haun Williams are returning starters. Nine other linemen also saw quality playing time in 2012 and the 2013 roster lists 24 guys at the position.
"It helps a lot just knowing that we played with these guys for so long," Sheetz said. "We can come together as a unit so easily because we know each others tendencies and get along real well."
While seeing solid playing time over the past few seasons, the lineman also learned from sound players. Zach Conlan, Ronald Green, Pete Wertz, Ty and Troy Vazquez-Atkins and Khallid Pierce are all now playing college football.
In three years, these Irish seniors have a record of 28-12. They were freshman on an undefeated state championship team in 2010.
Quarterback Chris Durkin is poised to cap off a career in which he's already amassed more than 4,000 total yards. Cohesion with his veteran linemen has been a cornerstone to his personal success.
"We're picking up the same calls and making calls for each other," said Durkin, a Michigan State recruit. "We've doubled up on lineman numbers, which is awesome for years to come."