Redskins made the jump from Division VI to Division V with a streak of
ten straight playoff appearances intact. The team won all but one game,
but it wasn’t quite good enough as the Redskins missed out on the
playoffs by a microscopic margin of just 3.5 third level computer
PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB Zach D’Orazio (6-1, 175, jr.), QB/WR/OLB Zach Norenberg (5-10, 155, jr.), C Patrick Meade (6-0, 175, jr.), OT Matt Lader (5-11, 180, sr.), ILB/FB Alec Torgerson (5-9, 170, soph.)
2007 Record: 9-1
2007 was a memorable year for Cuyahoga Heights football – although not always in a good way.
The Redskins made the jump from Division VI to Division V with a streak of ten straight playoff appearances intact. The team won all but one game, but it wasn’t quite good enough as the Redskins missed out on the playoffs by a microscopic margin of just 3.5 third level computer points.
“It was really disappointing for the seniors particularly,” head coach Al Martin said.
“Since we’d been there 10 years in a row, I just think they had the expectations we’d be in. We had one tough game early in the season against a good team, and we didn’t play particularly well and lost it, but we‘ve lost a game or two in the past and always been able to get into the playoffs. So I think they expected to get in, and they played very well from then on and really were a lot better team by Week 10 than we were earlier in the year. It’s just unfortunate for them that they didn’t get to play in those games because those are really the fun games for the seniors, getting to play in those playoff games.”
Despite the postseason heartbreak, the team’s mark of nine victories – all of them by 19 points or more – was an achievement that the Redskins were able to take pride in.
“I thought it was very successful,” Martin said. “We set a record for the least points given up in our school’s history. We had a very good defense. A lot of experience came back last year from the prior year. We had three really good linebackers returning and three defensive backs returning, so our defense was very strong throughout. Even in the game lost to Kirtland, we really hung in there defensively for a long stretch and just couldn’t get the ball moving, so eventually they got some points on the board. So our defense was good throughout the year, and then we had two young quarterbacks who were both sophomores who kind of shared time throughout the season, and they really both developed really well and were playing really good football towards the end of the year. It was a good season overall.”
In addition, it sounds like the sting of narrowly missing the playoffs has subsided.
“I think it was a disappointment at the time, but at a small school like ours, the nice thing is kids move into other sports,” Martin said. “We don’t have a group of 15-20 football players who just play football, so they get a chance to bounce back in a few weeks either playing basketball or wrestling or doing something in the spring. Our kids are so busy here playing multiple sports and with their school that I think kids are pretty resilient. They get past things pretty quickly.”
This year’s team will face some big losses from graduation and will need several new faces to step up.
“We’ve lost a lot of skill over the last two years,” Martin said. “We had a really good senior class two years ago and we graduated a really good senior class two years ago in terms of the skill positions. We’re really going to have a lot of new kids in the skill spots, so I think that’s somewhat of a concern. We always have a turnover on the offensive line and are always looking to find people there. We don’t have a lot of size, so that’s nothing new for us.
“The good thing is we have two really good quarterbacks, and they gained a lot of experience last year. I think at the high school football level, particularly at our level, if you have pretty solid quarterbacks, your season will go pretty well, so we’re optimistic. Defensively, I think we have a long ways to go before we get back to how we were last year because we graduated a lot of talent on that side of the ball as well.”
With heavy losses in the receiving corps, this year’s team could be more reliant on the running game.
“I think we’re going to have to be able to control the clock offensively,” Martin said. “We graduated our top three receivers and our top slot pass-receiving type guys, so we’re going to need to be able to run the ball to be effective. We’ve got a couple of linemen returning; we’ve got some kids who are juniors who got a little experience last year that we’re counting on, so we really hope to be able to run the ball.”
Martin expects junior center Patrick Meade to be the one to step up and lead the line.
“He’ll kind of be the anchor of the offensive line this year and we really have high hopes for him,” he said.
But while the offense may be aiming to establish the run, one of the concerns of the defense will be stopping the run.
“Defensively, we’ve got to stop the run,” Martin said. “We did a really good job of that last year, but we graduated three very good linebackers, so we have a number of guys who are going to have to step in and learn very quickly on that side of the ball.”
One player who could step in to one of the linebacker spots is junior Zach Norenberg, who was one of the team’s quarterbacks last year.
“He’ll probably play some slot and some outside linebacker,” Martin said. “He also was a state qualifier in wrestling and a really tough kid and a good football player. He’s got speed and we’ll probably use him in a variety of ways on both sides of the ball.”
This year’s schedule is similar to the 2007 slate, including a big game with the team that dealt Cuyahoga Heights their lone defeat and edged them for the eighth playoff spot in Region 17.
“We’re locked into seven league games or crossover games in our conference, and those games are the same,” Martin said. “They rotate every two years, and this year’s not a rotation, so we have the same conference schedule this year. We’ve always got off to a pretty good start in the non-league schedule, and it’s important for us to do that because we’re usually so young that winning those games is crucial for us because we know we’ll get better as the year goes on. I think the schedule’s pretty similar; it’s just a matter of how quickly our inexperienced guys can start playing up to a pretty good level.”
Expect the anticipation for Cuyahoga Heights football to be high once again in the school and community this year, as is always the case.
“I think we have a real good following,” Martin said. “Our parents come out to our road games. We have a couple long road in our league, and we kind of notice we always have pretty good attendance on the road. Then obviously as the season goes on and we get to the playoff games, our attendance kind of perks up a little bit more. Our attendance is good. We have good support not only in the community, but also our students in the school here who don’t play football will come out and support. Friday nights are kind of a big thing. I wouldn’t say it’s the extent of some towns, like a Mogadore or something like that where the whole town shuts down, but we have a real good following and our kids are always excited to play in front of the home crowd.
“And we’re also adding artificial turf this year, so I think the community and kids are real excited about that as well.”
8/22 @ COLUMBIA
8/29 RHODES (CLEVELAND)
9/5 EAST TECHNICAL (CLEVELAND)
9/19 @ NEWBURY
9/26 HAWKEN (GATES MILLS)
10/3 @ FAIRPORT HARDING (FAIRPORT HARBOR)
10/17 @ RICHMOND HEIGHTS