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Southern Hills Edition


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Titans' season comes to an end as Eagles prevail

As the large crowd filed out of Finnie Stadium Saturday night, Berea-Midpark head coach Ray Hradek addressed his team near the north end zone. He was obviously emphatic with his message. His players nodded in agreement. The fifth-seeded Titans, in just their second year of existence, had just lost to No. 12 Canton GlenOak, 28-14, in a OHSAA Division I, Region 1 quarterfinal game. A 21-0 halftime deficit had proven too much to overcome, and the loss closed out Berea-Midpark\'s season at 8-3. But while the sting of defeat was still fresh, Hradek made sure his team remembered what they had accomplished during the 2014 season. Just one year ago, his Titans had finished their first year...    (3191 reads)

Mistakes prove costly for Titans in loss to Middies

It wasn\'t quite playoff time quite yet, but Berea-Midpark got a little taste of the postseason Friday night in Week 10 of the regular season. The Titans, in their home clash against Division II powerhouse Midview, battled the undefeated Middies tough. However, a 17-0 third quarter in favor of the visitors made the difference during Berea-Midpark\'s 38-28 nonconference loss at Finnie Stadium. Berea-Midpark, the Southwestern Conference champion, closed out the regular season at 8-2. Midview, winners of the final West Shore Conference championship, moved to 10-0. Both teams will be playing in Week 11 when the OHSAA playoff pairings are revealed Sunday. But it was a bit of a slow start for two of the area\'s top offenses. A combination of solid defense, dropped passes and a cold and rainy night resulted in a 14-14 score at halftime. Midview then came out of the gates strong in the third quarter...    (3433 reads)

CHAMPIONS! Titans all in, beat Bees for SWC title

Berea-Midpark head coach Ray Hradek stood dripping wet and near-frozen from a Gatorade bath near the 50-yard line. Just minutes after his Titans beat Brecksville-Broadview Heights, 52-37, he let out a primal scream. The shout reverberated throughout Community Stadium. It was the finishing touch of an impressive Southwestern Conference win Friday night that gave Berea-Midpark not only a league title, but clinched a spot in the Division I, Region 1 playoffs. \"It feels darn good. I don\'t mind,\" Hradek said. \"I want the freezing. I want to enjoy it right now. When we started our offseason program in January and had the vast majority of our team buy into it, to pay the price and see what we earned, it means a lot,\" he said. It meant quite a bit as the Titans, who improved to 8-1 and finished SWC play at 6-0, did something that hadn\'t been done in a long time...    (5209 reads)

Football '14: Bees, Titans to play for SWC, playoffs

Regular season high school football games don\'t get much bigger than this. When 7-1 Brecksville-Broadview Heights entertains 7-1 Berea-Midpark on Friday, there will be much more than just the Southwestern Conference on the line. There will be gigantic playoff points as both teams control their own destiny. And, both teams can likely lock up postseason berths with a win. The victor clinches at least a share of the SWC as well as bragging rights in the biggest slobberknocker of the regular season to date. \"We\'re going to try to work out their anxiety and nervousness in practice,\" Bees head coach Jason Black said. \"We have to be razor sharp...    (8777 reads)

Special teams play sparks Bees' win over Rangers

In their Friday night matchup at First Federal Lakewood Stadium, the Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Lakewood football teams both got a lesson on just how important special teams are. Chances are the Bees enjoyed that class a bit more than the Rangers. After taking an early 7-3, Brecksville took advantage of two costly Lakewood kicking game miscues in the first half. That ignited a 28-0 run that led to a 34-18 win over the Rangers and kept their Division II playoff hopes within reach. \"Our special teams have been one of those things that have kept us in games this year,\" lamented Lakewood head coach Mike Ribar, whose team fell to 2-6 on the season. \"You just can\'t have mistakes like that against good teams. \"When those two plays happened, they jumped on it...    (6925 reads)

Titans spin Demon miscues into another SWC win

To say Westlake\'s football team handed its opponent the win Friday night isn\'t cliche. It\'s an understatement. The host Demons turned over the ball six times in the Southwestern Conference contest, and Berea-Midpark graciously accepted their generosity. The Titans spun four of those snafus into touchdowns en route to their 42-0 win at Lou Duchez Field. For the night, Justin Harris ran in a pair of touchdowns, Joey Bachie caught a couple, Shawn Epps ran in a fifth score and Matt Owens found the end zone on an 80-yard pick-6. Connor Kahl was a perfect 6-for-6 in PATs as the junior bettered the school record for most consecutive extra points kicked in a game. \"We\'ve got to play mistake-free football to have a chance,\" said Westlake coach Mark Campo, whose team slid to 3-5 overall and 1-3 in the SWC. \"We\'ve got young guys that are stepping up playing varsity football for the first time...    (6663 reads)

Football '14: Big games loom ahead for Mustangs

Strongsville\'s football team hasn\'t been to the postseason since 2008, but don\'t expect the Mustangs to be green if they make it this year. Their last three regular season games are a virtual who\'s who of Week 11 regulars as Strongsville travels to 7-0 Hudson and 7-0 Mentor with a game against 4-3 Brunswick thrown in between at home. For those keeping track, that\'s the No. 2 in the state this week and the No. 1 squad in Week 10 with the arch nemesis Brunswick coming in Week 9. \"We\'ve already started our playoffs,\" Strongsville head coach Larry Laird said. \"This week\'s game is big for Hudson and Strongsville as far as playoff points go. I\'m sure they want that No. 1 seed. So do we...\"    (9524 reads)

Game tips Mentor's way, Devils drop heartbreaker

If the adage holds true, the next three football teams to play Brunswick might want to tread lightly. Animals backed into a corner are incredibly dangerous, and after Friday night that\'s exactly what they are. Playing the top-ranked team in Division I to the very end, Brunswick had a chance to make things interesting on its final drive. But ultimately, the Blue Devils couldn\'t pull things out in a 21-14 loss to the Cardinals at Brunswick Auto Mart Stadium. \"We took on one of the best teams...    (2958 reads)

Titans work overtime, get by Eagles in SWC thriller

Three Hail Mary passes for touchdowns and a divine performance by a quarterback with the surname Christian weren\'t enough to lift North Olmsted\'s football team to an upset of Berea-Midpark\'s homecoming festivities. They certainly made for an exciting Southwestern Conference clash at Tressel Field. The quarterback duel ended in the Titans\' favor as they held on to take the sudden death showdown, 48-41, at Baldwin Wallace University\'s George Finnie Stadium Friday night. Joey Bachie\'s winning 2-yard run in overtime was his team\'s only rushing touchdown of the night. The Berea-Midpark defense did the rest to preserve the victory as the Titans improved to 6-1 overall and 4-0 in the SWC. \"I feel for the kids,\" said North Olmsted...    (6168 reads)

Football '14: Top-ranked Mentor up next for Devils

Brunswick\'s football team knew it had a big game Friday with the state\'s top-ranked team in Mentor back when the schedule came out. After last week\'s last-second loss to Elyria, the Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division contest with the Cardinals just became bigger. Up 21-14 with a little over 90 seconds, it all went south when Elyria scored and recovered an onside kick to bring it to a one-point game. With 14 seconds left, Mikah Price hauled in a tipped pass and raced 57 yards for the win. That bumped Brunswick to 4-2 and put them 14th in Division I, Region I. It also landed a magnifying glass the size of Mentor on this week\'s game with the Cardinals. \"That was a tough lesson to learn last week...\"    (8880 reads)

Titans' defense, running game dominate Bulldogs

There may be less than five miles separating Berea-Midpark and Olmsted Falls high schools from each other on Bagley Road, but there\'s a great divide between the pair of Southwestern Conference football teams this fall. Limiting Olmsted Falls\' offense to no first downs in the first half and relying on their running game in rain soaked conditions, the Titans made themselves at home en route to their 35-7 win Friday night at Charles A. Harding Memorial Stadium. Shutout for most of the game...    (4581 reads)

Dream season continues as Mustangs blank Bees

It took a little over four years in the making, but Austin Platt\'s dream finally came to fruition Friday night. A senior who Strongsville football coach Larry Laird called \"a frustrated running back,\" the 6-foot-3, 225-pound defensive linemen made the play that lifted Strongsville to a 20-0 Northeast Ohio Conference cross-division win over Medina at Pat Catan Stadium. Playing defensive tackle and with Medina on the Mustangs 35-yard line, Platt saw a Bees running back sneak out into the flat. Medina quarterback Collin Minor lofted one out...    (4139 reads)

Football '14: Friends meet as Mustangs host Bees

Strongsville football coach Larry Laird will walk to midfield before Friday\'s game with Medina and see a friendly face. That the friendly face will belong to Bees head coach Dan Sutherland is the irony of the situation. Sutherland was an assistant coach under Laird when the Mustangs mentor was the lead man during Medina\'s magical playoff season in 2010. \"It\'s always tough when you go against guys you respect that you\'re friends with,\" Laird said. \"That was a special year for all of us involved. \"For our kids to accomplish all that we accomplished, we were very proud of that fact. No one felt prouder than I did,\" he said. Don\'t get Laird wrong. Once the game starts, it\'s all about improving to 5-1 and staying in the Division I, Region playoff hunt. Strongsville is ninth and would open at Westerville Central if the playoffs started today. The Bees are still looking for a victory, which would be...    (8968 reads)

Titans keep goals in sight, trample Shoremen 47-7

It\'s only the midpoint of the regular season, but head coach Ray Hradek said he and his coaching staff periodically remind their Berea-Midpark football players that one of their goals is to reach Week 11. The Titans took several more steps toward making that postseason objective a reality in Week 5 with their 47-7 Week 5 victory Friday night over perennial power Avon Lake at Tressel Field. They scored on six of their first seven possessions at Baldwin Wallace University\'s George Finnie Stadium. Behind Nick Gassman\'s record-setting performance that featured five touchdowns in the first half, Berea-Midpark topped the Shoremen in a Southwestern Conference clash. Meanwhile, the Titans\' defense limited them to just...    (5809 reads)

Football '14: Titans jump into the DI playoff chase

The last time Berea made the playoffs in football, Desmond Howard was a rookie in the NFL. The last time Midpark reached Week 11, Gladiator was starring on the silver screen. The years were 1992 and 2000, respectively. Fast forward to 2014, and Berea-Midpark is ready to write an incredible chapter on the gridiron. Currently 3-1 as they head into a key game with Southwestern Conference foe Avon Lake, there\'s a buzz around the Titans, and it is very real. \"The kids are knowledgeable of what this could mean, in terms of a drive in football,\" Titans head coach Ray Hradek said. \"Avon Lake has...    (7733 reads)

'He's the real deal:' Tupa leads Bees past Bulldogs

Olmsted Falls\' football team made it a game on the road at Community Stadium in its Southwestern Conference opener against Brecksville-Broadview Heights. But the Bees had one thing the Bulldogs didn\'t: Tyler Tupa. The son of former Ohio State great and Super Bowl champion Tom Tupa, the junior was just about everywhere Friday night and it added up to a 28-21 win over Olmsted Falls. \"He\'s the real deal,\" Bulldogs coach Tom DeLuca said. \"He\"s every bit as good as advertised. Seventy percent of the time we put two guys on him. We tried jamming him...    (4130 reads)

Football '14: Big road challenge awaits Blue Devils

Brunswick\'s football team knows exactly what is on the line this week in a key Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division game with Hudson. It\'s more than just a league game. It\'s arguably THE best matchup in the state. The Explorers (3-0) are unscathed and ranked fourth in the state poll. The Blue Devils (3-0) haven\'t lost either and are ranked fifth. Hudson, which plays host to Brunswick, is coming off a huge win over Brecksville-Broadview Heights. The Blue Devils knocked off Austintown-Fitch 41-27. \"I know the physicality in which they play is really good,\" Explorers coach Ron Wright said. \"I was impressed with them...    (8311 reads)

Resilient, unbeaten Mustangs hold on to top Titans

How impressed was Strongsville head football coach Larry Laird with Berea-Midpark after his Mustangs beat the Titans in a slobberknocker for the ages on Friday night? The first-year coach said Berea-Midpark could make a seamless transition to the Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division after his team handed the Titans\' a 35-28 loss at Pat Catan Stadium. Consider that the league boasts reigning Division I state runner-up Mentor and playoff regulars Solon and Hudson, not to mention Brunswick, and that\'s saying something. \"Berea-Midpark is a big school with a lot of talent,\" Laird said. \"That\'s a good team. Coach (Ray) Hradek has done a great job in two years. They\'re real good. They would fit right in our conference.\" The Titans, now 2-1, gave the Mustangs all they could handle. Strongsville, now 3-0, had to come back with...    (4253 reads)

Football '14: Unbeaten Titans, Mustangs to clash

It took until Week 5 for Strongsville\'s football team to find its third win last season. Berea-Midpark had to wait until Week 8 for that to happen in 2013. That will change Friday evening as the Titans travel to Pat Catan Stadium on Friday in a key non-conference game with the Mustangs. Both teams enter the game with 2-0 records. \"We\'re confident, but understanding that we have to work to get what we want,\" said Berea-Midpark coach Ray Hradek, whose team lost to Strongsville 29-19 last year. \"It\'s the biggest game right now because it\'s our next game. We know they\'re talented and confident because it\'ll be at their place,\" he said. Hradek also knows the Mustangs have multiple looks to show offensively. In Week 1, Strongsville lost...    (4339 reads)

Bees turn Bear turnovers into Gold to retain Shoe

Brecksville\'s football team has been ballyhooed in recent years for its playmaking offense. In this year\'s installment of the battle for the Golden Shoe, however, the defense put its best foot forward. The Bees capitalized on all three of North Royalton\'s turnovers and limited it to 22 yards of total offense in the first half as they topped their neighboring rival 26-8 Friday night at Serpentini Stadium. \"We focused a lot on our turnovers,\" Brecksville coach Jason Black said. \"We focused a lot on a quick change of pace after turnovers. We focused on getting a lot of people the football in a hurry. All of those things were working for us...    (3838 reads)

Football '14: Coaches voice opinion on mercy rule

The new mercy rule in high school football was just as much the talk of the weekend as the first games among the Southern Hills coverage area for Of the five games played, Medina and Brunswick played each other as did North Royalton and Berea-Midpark, two ended much earlier than expected because of the new rule. The rule states if a team is down by 30 points or more in the second half, the game will go to a running clock. As an example, Brunswick went up by 33 points at the 10:06 mark of the third quarter in what was eventually a 36-0 win. The clock started...    (4067 reads)

Titans find their rhythm to roll past North Royalton

The Berea-Midpark football program is a year older, a year wiser and certainly a year more skilled. It took less than 24 minutes to demonstrate all of these improvements in the season opening victory over North Royalton. The Titans blew open the non-conference win with four touchdowns in the second quarter as they romped to a 47-7 win at Tressel Field in Berea. The program, in its second season of reorganization following the merging of Berea and Midpark high schools, rode the talents of several athletes as five different players reached the end zone that game. \"There\'s always a rhythm to the game...    (4979 reads)

Brunswick opens fast, bedevils Bees with shutout

Steven Ficyk, the sequel, might be a heck of a lot better than the original. Then again, so might Brunswick\'s football team. With Ficyk starting for the Blue Devils for the second year in a row, the quarterback who snapped Brunswick\'s three-game playoff-less streak in 2013 picked up right where he left off Friday night in a 36-0 win by the blue and white at Brunswick Auto Mall Stadium. The Blue Devils might have beaten the Bees by even more, but a new mercy rule instituted by the Ohio High School Athletic Association made it a running clock for the final 22:06 of the contest. Under the rule, a team down by 30 or more in the second half will forfeit regular time...    (4128 reads)

Football '14: Versatile Tupa to lead Bees' fortunes

Two years ago, Brecksville-Broadview Heights coach Jason Black already knew what he had. He just didn\'t open it up until last season. On a squad loaded with Tupas, Tim and Tom, Black kept budding freshman Tyler Tupa under wraps for a year before unleashing him. What followed was an offensive display as the versatile sophomore helped lead his team to the playoffs in 2013, while racking up team highs in receptions (56), yards (864) and touchdowns (10). Add things up and the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Tyler Tupa averaged 15.4 yards per reception. But he\'s more than that as he will punt, kick, play safety and return kicks this season for Brecksville. In other words, if the Bees aren\'t dragging their star junior to the bus, they didn\'t use him enough in the game. \"It\'s always great to have Tyler on your team,\" Black said. \"To know...    (6000 reads)

Experienced Blue Devils poised for '14 playoff run

What used to be a yearly tradition turned into reality for Brunswick\'s football team last season. A school in the playoffs from 2001-09, the Blue Devils were more a sure thing than death and taxes. Then a few just-missed seasons turned into questioning, and Brunswick was hoping it could return to the Division I promised land. The three-year drought ended in 2013 as a 6-4 regular season locked up the 15th spot in Region 1. And though the Blue Devils lost to eventual state runner-up Mentor the next game, the swagger was back and the school was ready to make the postseason a regular thing again. \"Making the playoffs, it\'s completely different...    (3620 reads)

With 2013 behind them, Bears set to bounce back

There\'s a sign just outside the locker room of North Royalton\'s football team counting down the days, hours and minutes until the Bears open the season with Berea-Midpark. The ticker isn\'t as much about a lid lifter with the Titans as much as it is a countdown until North Royalton can put 2013 in the rearview mirror. It\'s not that the Bears don\'t want to learn from their 3-7 record as it is the fact they want to get back to a team that was a regular to win Northeast Ohio Conference titles and push on to the playoffs. Last season, injuries depleted the team. So much so that North Royalton never started the same five...    (3564 reads)

Their growing pains over, Titans are ready to rock

In 2013, a giant took its first steps when the high schools of Berea and Midpark combined, as simple as it sounds, to become Berea-Midpark. Longtime Midpark coach Ray Hradek was given the unenviable task of fusing two teams together and making it one cerebral unit. It took a while to get everyone on the same page, but now the Titans are one heartbeat and ready to make noise on the gridiron. \"We\'re pretty far ahead from where we were a year ago,\" Hradek said. \"We\'re now one team, one group of guys with one big goal. We\'ve been working in the gym relentlessly since January. There\'s no separation. \"We\'re the Titans. It\'s been good, and it\'s easier than it was a year ago. There\'s no concern of which school you came from, we\'re one team. Football-wise, we know what we\'re good at and what we don\'t need to work on. For me as a coach, that\'s...    (4272 reads)

Strongsville looking to end its long playoff drought

If there\'s one thing Larry Laird knows how to do, it\'s make a first impression. One-year coaching stints at Medina and Avon Lake, even though he was a longtime assistant with the Shoremen, led to postseason appearances for both schools. Laird is now at Strongsville, and the veteran coach has seven words for those wondering how the Mustangs will be. \"We will be back in the playoffs,\" he said. Laird takes over for Russ Jacques, who had been a stalwart at Strongsville for years...    (4205 reads)

After playoff season, Bees looking to reload in '14

Brecksville-Broadview Heights\' football team returns 864 yards receiving, 10 touchdowns, 37 tackles and three interceptions as starters from last year\'s playoff team. Well, that, and a whole bunch of attitude. That\'s the way Bees coach Jason Black looks at it as his team comes off a 10-2 season that included a playoff win at home. Back for the squad is Mr. Everything in 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior wide receiver, kick returner, punt returner, safety, punter, kicker Tyler Tupa. So is 6-foot, 150-pound junior Dan Shirilla...    (3460 reads)

Experience, consistency will be keys for Bulldogs

Tom DeLuca doesn\'t need a \"Hello, My Name Is\" tag this year. There\'s no getting used to his Olmsted Falls football team, or introducing new lingo to a squad ready to turn the page after 25-year veteran Jim Ryan retired. Now in his second season with the Bulldogs, the former Westlake defensive coordinator is pushing forward with Olmsted Falls. \"It\'s been much smoother this summer as far as getting our practice plans going and implementing our stuff,\" DeLuca said. \"The kids don\'t need to be introduced to any drills. They know...    (3948 reads)

Medina football looks to take the next step in 2014

When Medina\'s senior class was in eighth grade, it watched a Bees team that many turned their back on become a squad of destiny. An 8-2 regular season begat the final spot in the Division I, Region 2 playoffs. What followed was magical as heavy underdog Medina knocked off Canton McKinley at Fawcett Stadium before falling in the regional semifinals. The 2014 season could be much like it as Dan Sutherland heads into his third season at the helm. \"This senior group was there and saw that, they want to get back,\" Sutherland said. \"They see the pictures hanging on the walls. We had a great offseason, great camp and great...    (4189 reads)

Football '14: Choat makes a big impression in Indy

Often times, a kid is just excited to be part of the experience. When a coach gets to share in things, it can be a dynamic few get a chance to take part in. Chris Medaglia, who coached the Browns team at the NFL High School Player Development 7-on-7 national tournament for the sixth straight year, had the chance to see things through Gerett Choat\'s eyes and came away very impressed by the Avon wide receiver. Choat made the cut from 1,500 hopefuls and traveled with a select few to Indianapolis on July 14-15 for the 32-team event...    (9166 reads)

Football '14: Laird prepared for Mustang challenge

The adage around coaching circles when taking over programs is you want to be the man that replaced the man that replaced the legend, not follow the legend. Larry Laird doesn\'t know how to do that. In taking over as the head coach for Strongsville\'s football team, Laird follows Russ Jacques. That\'s Jacques, who led the Mustangs to 12 playoff appearances, eight conference titles and three Division I Regional final appearances. Jacques also had assistant coaching stints at Wisconsin, Northwestern, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Ohio University and Bowling Green...    (8876 reads)

All-Star Notes: Muldoon, Smith to team up this fall

For Berea-Midpark\'s Mason Muldoon, the 42nd annual East-West Cuyahoga County All-Star Game was old hat. For North Royalton\'s Austin Smith, it was brand new. In the fall, the two will merge as one as freshmen on Baldwin-Wallace\'s football team. Muldoon, who has played his high school career at BW\'s George Finnie Stadium, knows every hash mark of the turf. Friday night, the defensive end was there Friday to help his future running back, who was playing in Berea for the first time. \"I told him it\'s quick, doesn\'t feel good when you fall, but it\'s good running,\" said Muldoon, who registered six tackles. \"I told him \'Let\'s see if you can keep up with me.\'\" While the tandem\'s West squad couldn\'t keep up...    (8918 reads)

Fourth-quarter rally falls short as East bests West

With 9:46 left in the game and his team trailing 14-7, North Olmsted quarterback Brad Novak found himself in familiar territory. During the regular season, Novak and his Eagles had been involved in a number of close games that came down to the final minutes. On a cool Friday night in Berea, Novak drove the West All-Stars all the way down to the East 23-yard line as the Finnie Stadium clock ticked down to under five minutes remaining. As he had in the first quarter, he looked for Cuyahoga Heights\' Jack Alpert in the end zone. Novak\'s pass nearly found its mark, but Beachwood\'s Julio Stevens closed in to knock it away at the last minute and...    (8902 reads)

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