YOUNGSTOWN - Ursuline's football team wants to reclaim those days where the Irish were the toast of the Ohio gridiron landscape.
First-year coach Larry Kempe knows full well what it takes to get Ursuline back atop the Division V powerhouses.
Kempe has been the team's defensive coordinator and the mastermind behind the vaunted Irish defense that help spurn the team's three Division V state championships from 2008-2010.
Last year, the team went 4-6 with one of the state's toughest schedules. The Irish won their last three games and were very close to snagging the eighth and final playoff spot in Division V, Region 17.
Kempe knows the responsibility of getting the Irish back on track is his after former coach Dan Reardon left for Colorado and coaches Pourde High School in Fort Collins, Colo.
Kempe expects his team to not even come close to devaluing the green and gold standard.
"I expect us to compete like we have the previous eight years I've been here," Kempe said at Tuesday's Ursuline Football Camp, which was run on Monday and Tuesday at the practice field by the high school. "We have set a standard since Dan Reardon got the job. I'm fortunate that I was the only guy to stay the eight years with Dan. We worked very hard to get to a place where we're recognized throughout the state. It's our responsibility to keep that going. That's what we're going to do here."
This year, the Irish start the season hosting East, Cleveland East Tech and Mentor Lake Catholic in the first three games. Then, Ursuline goes on the road the next four against Zanesville, St. Edward, Erie (Pa.) Cathedral Prep and Steubenville. In Week 8, the Irish host Erie (Pa.) Strong Vincent and, in Week 9, Ursuline is the home team at Stambaugh Stadium in the Holy War against archrival Cardinal Mooney. And, in Week 10, the Irish wrap up the regular season with a trip to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.
"We know we have a target on our back," Kempe said. "We know people will not play us, unless we travel. If that's what it has to be, we're not going to make excuses. We're getting back to where we were - successful football and playing 15 weeks a year."
This is Kempe's first head coaching stop since being an assistant at Leetonia, Niles, Girard and Mathews - coming to Ursuline nine years ago with Reardon.
One thing Kempe has learned from the past eight season is loyalty and trustworthiness - staples of the Ursuline program.
"The thing I've come to learn here at Ursuline is when they say they're going to do something for you, they do it," Kempe said. "They follow through. There are no idle promises. There's no misunderstanding, misgivings, anything. When they tell you, 'This is what you're going to do for you' they do it. They've been very supportive of everything I've asked. I appreciate them giving me the opportunity to be here."
This season, Kempe and the Irish will show what they can do with that opportunity.