* Players to Watch – QB/DB Rick Manco (6-1, 175, Sr.), LB Britt Musial (6-1, 190, Sr.), LB Dane Puterbaugh (6-0, 227, Sr.), OL/DE Dan Valore (6-2, 228, Sr.).
* Outlook – Brunswick reached the state final four for the first time since a runner-up finish in 1995. The Blue Devils won their first 13 games last year, including playoff wins over Canton GlenOak (49-25), Toledo Whitmer (37-23) and North Canton Hoover (24-17). The ride came to an end with a 39-14 loss to Mentor in a state semifinal game.
But duplicating that success could be hard in 2008 as coach Rick Nowak, back for his 17th year at Brunswick, returns just two starters on offense and two on defense.
“The thing about it is we have won our league championship (the Northeast Ohio Conference) seven straight years and we’ve been to the playoffs six straight years,” Nowak said. “We have a pretty good tradition. We do graduate some good guys every year. Last year was one of our better years. To get to the state final four is special.
“But we expect our guys to step up. We had an undefeated JV team and an undefeated freshman team. Hey, it’s not like anybody is feeling sorry for us.”
Brunswick lost prolific QB Sean Bedevelsky (3,300 yards) and WR Jordan Gribble (98 catches) to graduation. Manco was Brunswick’s leading tackler last year as a junior, but he will move to quarterback to try and replace Bedevelsky.
“We graduate 198 catches as well as Sean, who was an all-state quarterback,” Nowak said. “We graduated a lot of our skill position guys. We have to replace them. That will be the key.”
By going so deep into the playoffs last year, Nowak believes the four extra weeks of practice will help the young guys coming back.
“That’s what we figure,” Nowak said. “When we go to the playoffs, we dress everybody. Everybody travels when we travel. They were all with us at the state final four and for all of those extra practices.”
Musial will be a primary building block. He had 850 yards rushing last season.
“He started every game last year for a 13-1 team,” Nowak said. “He is certainly one of our best and he is going to get the ball a lot.”
Puterbaugh is another key player to watch on defense.
“He has started 20 straight games for us,” Nowak said. “We know we can count on him at the middle linebacker position.”
Valore is a pillar on both the offensive and defensive lines.
Nowak knows the Blue Devis will have their hands full to keep their Northeast Conference title streak alive.
“It has got to be one of the tougher leagues around,” he said. “You look at the schools with Strongsville, Medina and Solon. Elyria has been good in the past as has Lakewood. It is a tough league.”
Aug. 22 at Mansfield Senior
Aug. 29 at Lyndhurst Brush
Sept. 5 at Brecksville-Broadview Heights
Sept. 12 Macedonia Nordonia
Sept. 19 at Parma Normandy
Sept. 26 Elyria
Oct. 2 Solon, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 at Strongsville
Oct. 17 Lakewood
Oct. 24 at Medina