High School Spotlight - Week 2
This week the second edition of our High School Spotlight series takes an in-depth look at the football programs in the Chagrin Valley Conference.
Chagrin Valley Conference: Chagrin Division
Head Coach – Damion Creel (4th season)
2017 Record – 2-8
Key Returners: WR/DB Letraize Walker, WR/LB Dawann Gray, OL/DL Jacob Borison, OL/DL Kyle Oliver, OL Tyler Pohlman, WR/K Sam Babbush, DL Deon Billups, DB James Flower
Key Losses: QB/DB Ben Connor, RB/DB Derrick Sanders, WR/DB Melvin Kado, OL Max Alter, OL/LB Zack Zhang
The Bison are looking for some sustained success this season after jumping out to a 2-0 start in 2017 before finishing with a 2-8 record. It’ll be a challenge without their veteran quarterback Ben Connor, who has since graduated.
Despite some key losses on both sides of the ball, Head Coach Damion Creel returns a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, including dynamic playmaker Dawann Gray.
Beachwood kicks off the 2018 season playing host to the Collinwood Railroaders on August 31st at 7:00 pm.
Chagrin Falls Tigers
Head Coach – Mark Iammarino (24th season)
2017 Record – 5-5
Key Returners: WR/DB Mick Lawrence, WR Lucas Gaizutis, DB Kyle Zaluski
Key Losses: QB/LB Christoph Sontich, RB/DB Pat Holland, TE/DE Nick DiFiore, LB Sam Gaizutis, LB Cole Newbauer, WR/LB Cade Salyers, OL/DL Cam Lucas
The Tigers concluded the 2017 season on a high note, winning four in a row after starting the year 1-5. Despite the strong finish, the Tigers did not qualify for the postseason. Long-time Head Coach Mark Iammarino is hoping the Tigers get off to a faster start in 2018 despite the losses of quarterback Christoph Sontich and running back Pat Holland. Mick Lawrence returns for his senior season and his play-making ability will be crucial to the Tigers offense and defense.
Chagrin Falls hosts the Kenston Bombers to open the 2018 campaign on Friday, August 31st.
Head Coach – Chip Sorber (4th season)
2017 Record – 2-8
Key Returners: QB Kyle Stark, RB/DB Blake Peet, WR/DB Seth Goodrick, FB/LB Edmund Juodenas, LB Zane Francis, WR/DB Andrew Kany, LB Vinny Varckette, LB Jason Corlew, OL Sam Davis
Key Losses: OL Logan Cermak, RB/LB Kyle Hawk, WR/DB Mylan Kanicki, OL/DL Chucky Jackson, OL Cory Culton, OL/DL Brandon Peterson, LB Oscar Varckette
After the Geneva Eagles program looked to be on an upswing after finishing with a 7-3 record in 2016, the program will look to get off to a better start for the 2018 season.
The good news is plenty of talent returns this season for Head Coach Chip Sorber, including his senior signal-caller Kyle Stark and junior running back Blake Peet. With plenty of experience returning on both sides of the ball, including their top two playmakers, the Eagles are looking to right the ship in 2018.
The first test is a stiff one for Geneva, as the team travels to take on Mogadore in Week 1.
Harvey Red Raiders
Head Coach – Dan Cvelbar (3rd season)
2017 Record – 2-8
Key Returners: QB/DB Devon Holbert, WR/DL Bishop Thomas, WR/DB Daylin Davis, RB/LB Gil Hammond, OL/DL Trevor Purcell, OL/DL Alberto Reynoso
Key Losses: OL/DL Josh Kinder, RB Duane Grimes, WR Christian Scott, LB Isaac Mendez-Gibson
The Red Raiders are looking to make their move in the Chagrin Valley Conference’s Chagrin Division after taking some lumps the past two seasons. Junior quarterback Devon Holbert enters his second season as the starter under center for Harvey and is integral to the Red Raiders plans on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
Harvey travels to Lorain Clearview for its season opener on Friday, August 31st.
Head Coach – Brian Stephenson (1st season)
2017 Record – 3-7
Key Returners: RB/LB Evan Ditchman, OL/DL Will Lindsey, WR/DB Kenan Tabachnik, OL Cletus Brosovich, WR/DB Nate Grossman
Key Losses: OL/LB Erick Willis-Jordan, QB/DB T.J. Perusek, WR/LB Will Rowley, WR/DB Nick Canitia, OL/LB Zach Elenin, OL/DL Jonathan Kutash
With long-time Head Coach Cliff Walton retiring after 36 years, it’s Brian Stephenson who enters his first season at the helm for the Hawks and is looking to get the Hawken football program back on the winning track. After a 3-7 finish to the 2017 campaign, the team loses key starters on both sides of the ball. Fortunately, the team does return running back and linebacker Evan Ditchman. The senior will be counted on to provide leadership and production on both sides of the ball.
Hawken opens the season on the road against Lutheran West on Friday, August 31st.
Head Coach – Adam Bechlem (10th season)
2017 Record – 8-3
Key Returners: QB Sean Borgman, RB Brian Pernell, RB Lucas Garofoli, LB Marvin Davies
Key Losses: RB Jake Sonkin, WR Nick Garofoli, TE Spencer Chernikoff, LB Pablo Garcia, LB David Pannell, LB Antonio Baez
Head Coach Adam Bechlem’s Orange Lions are coming off an 8-3 finish in 2017, resulting in the program’s first state playoff appearance since 1988. Despite losing in the first round to the Bellevue Redmen, the Lions return plenty of key veterans on both sides of the ball – namely quarterback Sean Borgman. The veteran senior signal-caller as well as running back Brian Pernell and linebacker Marvin Davies are just a few of the Lions that are looking to take the next step for their Orange football program, and that is to win the Chagrin Division and then win in the playoffs.
Orange looks to continue their momentum in 2018 when they open the season in Streetsboro.
Head Coach – Matt Rosati (12th season)
2017 Record – 12-1
Key Returners: RB Jaylen Anderson, WR/DB Jacob Allen, OL Zack Early, DL Luke Knisely, LB Noah Gourley,LB Jason Beyer, DB Spencer Kane, DB Jake Reed, DB Cameron Rogers
Key Losses: QB Kolston Brewster, DL Nick Mason, RB Tyler Horvath, WR Jacob Peteritis, WR Josh Martin, LB Cody Baranauskas
The Perry Pirates have established a culture of winning over the last few seasons, reaching the state’s final four in 2016, and then last season going 12-0 before falling to the Steubenville Big Red in the regional final.
Despite Head Coach Matt Rosati losing his star quarterback Kolston Brewster, the team returns senior wide receiver/defensive back Jacob Allen as well as sensational sophomore running back Jaylen Anderson. The expectations are unchanged in Perry: Win the Chagrin Division and make a deep run in the postseason.
Perry opens the season in Chardon on Friday, August 31st against the Hilltoppers.
West Geauga Wolverines
Head Coach – Adam Sopkovich (1st season)
2017 Record – 3-7
Key Returners: WR Klevi Rybak, LB Bobby Jakubs, OL Shaun Podojil, LB Gino Fornaro, LB Matt Stewart,
Key Losses: QB Jax Shenkel, RB Michael Osters, RB Christian Dibra, WR A.J. Congelio, DL Matt Podojil, DB Tyler Hackelman
First-year Head Coach Adam Sopkovich takes over a Wolverines squad that finished with a 3-7 record in 2017 despite starting the season 3-3. Despite some heavy losses from a year ago, including dual-threat quarterback Jax Shenkel, West Geauga returns plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. Senior wide receiver Klevi Rybak will be counted on to lead and produce on offense, while senior linebacker Bobby Jakubs anchors the defense.
The Wolverines open their 2018 season with a trip to Chardon to take on Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin on Friday, August 31st.
Chagrin Valley Conference: Valley Division
Head Coach – Josh DeWeese (6th season)
2017 Record – 1-9
Key Returners: QB Spencer Price, FB/LB Richie Klemencic, RB/DE Griffin Urban, WR/DB Jacob Young, WR/DB Ky Bowman, OL/DL Zac Nehas, LB Ryan Pennypacker, LB James Lorenzo, OL Ethan DeWeese
Key Losses: RB/DE Jared Hinkle, OL Reggie Ware, OL/DL Jeff Burnett, LB Mason Lustig, K/P Jacob Hanson
Despite Berkshire finishing with a 1-9 record last season, the Badgers return a ton of talent on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, including senior quarterback Spencer Price and senior wide receiver Jacob Young.
Head Coach Josh DeWeese is hoping the experience gained from last season will help his motivate his senior class to improving on that lone win from 2017.
The Badgers open their 2018 season on the road at Grand Valley on Friday, August 31st.
Head Coach – Eric Cardinal (18th season)
2017 Record – 4-6
Key Returners: QB/DB Matt Carney, FB/LB Trey Shirkey, RB Tyson Sinclair, OL Isaiah Tucker, WR Crossland Robinson, OL Rob Granny, OL Josiah Zurick, DL Carl Scribben, LB Jacob Gotham, DB Brice Hogue
Key Losses: RB/LB/DB Luke Timas, WR/DB Eric Proch, OL/DL Hayden Cummins, OL/DL Andy Bolton, K/DL Cam Klepper, LB/P Robbie Mulh
Quarterback Matt Carney and fullback Trey Shirkey return to the Huskies for their senior seasons and there is hope that Cardinal will be able to make a move in the Chagrin Valley Conference’s Valley Division and make a playoff for a postseason playoff spot.
Long-time Head Coach Eric Cardinal is hoping the 4-6 finish one year ago is motivation for his senior class to finally push through for their first winning season since 2014.
In week one the Huskies play host to the Pymatuning Valley Lakers on Friday, August 31st.
Cuyahoga Heights Redskins
Head Coach – Al Martin (22nd season)
2017 Record – 12-2
Key Returners: RB/LB Brayden DiSanza, DB Alex Studniarz, TE/LB Richie Allison, OL/LB Chase McDaniel
Key Losses: WR/DB Dylan Drummond, FB/DB Lucas D’Orazio, OL/DL Jon Teter, OL Christian Keith, OL Max Shafer, QB Ryan Polk
It was another memorable season for Head Coach Al Martin and his Cuyahoga Heights Redskins. The program finished the regular season at 8-1 before postseasons triumphs over Warren JFK, East Canton, Dalton, and Danville, leading into the team’s second straight trip to the state championship, where they fell to Minster.
The losses are heavy for the Redskins this season as Lucas D’Orazio and Dylan Drummond depart. However, led by the return of senior running back Brayden DiSanza, Cuyahoga Heights is ready to re-load and finish the job this time around.
The Redskins open their 2018 campaign at home against the Garfield G-Men.
Fairport Harding Skippers
Head Coach – Cameron Ruff (2nd season)
2017 Record – 1-9
Key Returners: TE/DL Tobin Schafer, QB/WR/DB Rashawn Alston, QB Sammy Schuster, TE Ethan Whitt, OL Tyler Spaid, OL Zach Heller, OL Nathan Taipale, LB Jayden Alston, LB Kasey Carrabine
Key Losses: WR/LB Mitch Yommer, RB/DL Nathan Bagin, OL/DL Marek Thompson, WR/DB Corey Paugh
Head Coach Cameron Ruff returns for his second season as does numerous key skill players on offense and defense, including junior quarterback Sammy Schuster, senior do-it-all playmaker Rashawn Alston, and senior tight end Tobin Schafer.
The Skippers finished with a 1-9 record in 2017 but if the returning veterans can limit mistakes and execute far more consistently, Fairport Harding could make a big leap forward in 2018.
The Skippers host Brooklyn High School in their opener on Friday, August 31st.
Independence Blue Devils
Head Coach – Rick Adams (4th season)
2017 Record – 7-3
Key Returners: RB Brandon Coleman, RB/DB Nick Laski, RB/LB Robert Artrip, FB/TE Adam Miklovic, WR/DB Eric Mitrisin, OL/DL Luke Clymer
Key Losses: QB/DB Kyle Stefanski, DE Mason Crist, LB Ian Smith, RB/LB Nick Mroczynski, TE/DE Owen Ramm, WR/DB Trevor Thompson, WR/DB Alex Nelson, WR/LB Ian Smith, OL/DL Adam Kuczmarski
The Blue Devils finished with a strong 7-3 mark in 2017 but unfortunately just missed out a spot in the postseason despite giving eventual state runner-up Cuyahoga Heights all they could handle in Week 10 before falling by a touchdown, 28-21.
Head Coach Rick Adams and his squad, led by the returning Brandon Coleman, Nick Laski, and Adam Miklovic are looking to remove all doubt this season by taking care of business on the field and getting they coveted ticket-punch into the state playoffs.
Independence opens their 2018 slate at home against Garfield Heights Trinity on Friday, August 31st.
Head Coach – Tiger Laverde (13th season)
2017 Record – 14-1
Key Returners: RB Joey Torok, LB Ethan Jernejcic, OL Jack Bailey, OL Mike Alfieri, OL Austin Fulco, LB Jake Neibecker, DB Tommy Powers, DB Dominic Capretta, DB Mason Sullivan
Key Losses: QB Dylan Fulco, OL Brett Diemer, LB Alex Weaver, FB/DL Brett Diemer, RB/DB Dylan Aquila, WR Max Janas, TE Brandon Samsa, DB Mike Zeuli, OL Colin McKinley, OL Austin Mayo, DL Justin Gardner, DL Kevin Dages, DL Chaz McPeak
There is perhaps no football program more successful in the state of Ohio over the last 15 years than the Kirtland Hornets. The expectations every season couldn’t be any higher, and those expectations are to win a state championship. In 2011, 2013, and 2015 they did just that, hoisting the trophy in front of their passionate fans and alumni.
Despite the loss of quarterback Dylan Fulco along with the rest of a very large senior class, there is no doubt that the Hornets expect to be competing at a high level once again in 2018. To go one further, it would be un-wise expect this year’s Division 6 State Championship to not include the Kirtland Hornets
Kirtland travels for a matchup with Columbia in the season opener on Friday, August 31st.
Richmond Heights Spartans
Head Coach – Tim Gorham (2nd season)
2017 Record – 3-7
Key Returners: DL Jonathan McWilliams, QB Curtis Houston, RB/LB Justin Jenkins, OL Thailon Stewart, DL Makhi Tucker, DL Jarell Owens, OL Nevin Smith, LB Anthony Hollins
Key Losses: WR/DB Sincere Mills, RB/DB Malik Tucker, QB Douglas Hooks, WR/LB Ronell Flowers, Dl Ramone Henderson
The Spartans finished with a 3-7 record in 2017, missing out on the playoffs once again. The team loses playmaking wide receiver Sincere Mills to graduation but does return senior quarterback Curtis Houston.
Head Coach Tim Gorham is counting on veteran leadership from seniors Jonathan McWilliams and Justin Jenkins as well as a positive step forward from Houston as Richmond Heights continues to make every effort to finish the 2018 season with a winning record.
Richmond Heights opens the season at home against St. Thomas Aquinas High School on Friday, August 31st.
Wickliffe Blue Devils
Head Coach – Marc Porcello (8th season)
2017 Record – 8-4
Key Returners: RB/LB Isaac Pettway, DB Jaylen Bowers, QB Brad Dieterich, WR Chase Fortkamp, DB Evan Rypinski, WR DeNarre McRae
Key Losses: RB/DB Nicky Fenton, RB/LB Nate Taylor, TE/DL Michael Galioto, OL Nick Federico, OL/DL Dominic Liuzzo, OL/DL Jared Szinte, LB Justin Lockhart
Head Coach Marc Porcello and the Wickliffe Blue Devils snuck into the state playoffs as a seven seed in 2017 and sprung an upset of the two seed Grand Valley, 25-22, before falling in the second round to Black River.
This season the Blue Devils return senior quarterback Brad Dieterich as well as junior standout running back Isaac Pettway, which gives Wickliffe a great opportunity to build on everything the program accomplished a year ago.
Wickliffe hosts Fairview in their regular season opener on Friday, August 31st.