With Week 1 of the high school season in the books I’m really excited
about Week 2. Of course this is the week for the annual Herbstreit
Series. Unfortunately I’ll probably only be able to see two
of the games due to it being the opening week
of Ohio State’s season. As much as I love high school football in
Ohio, I have the privilege of covering Ohio State and the Buckeyes
always come first.
With Week 1 of the high school season in the books I’m really excited about Week 2.
Of course this is the week for the annual Kirk Herbstreit Varsity Football Series pitting Ohio schools against teams from across the country. Unfortunately I’ll probably only be able to see probably two of the many games on tap this weekend due to it being the opening week of Ohio State’s season. As much as I love high school football in Ohio, I have the privilege of covering Ohio State and the Buckeyes always come first.
The fact that Ohio State is playing the Youngstown State Penguins makes it even a more special game in my eyes. I understand completely the fact that many Ohio State fans, including many of you who frequent the Huddle, don’t want any part of this game with YSU, the team I covered in my early years as a reporter.
But Jim Tressel wouldn’t be the kind of man he is now unless he saw to it that his former team, the same team that he once lobbied hard for to play OSU back when he was leading the Penguins to those four national titles, got the chance to play in Ohio Stadium. Granted playing Youngstown State two years in-a-row, however, might be considered a bit over the top to many but when the 12-game schedule was adopted, YSU was an easy addition under the circumstances.
Looking Back To Week One
I really enjoyed the opening week of the high school season. It was a three-day weekend filled with some pretty good football and even better weather.
I don’t think I could have picked a more exciting game to start the season off than when I traveled to Aurora to see Adam Bellamy and the Greenmen take on quarterback Ryan O’Rourke and the Eagles of Avon. Bellamy, of course, is a stellar two way lineman for Aurora and an Ohio State commit.
Unfortunately for the home team in that game, O’Rourke found Matt Logan in the end zone for a touchdown on a third-and-goal play from the five with just five seconds left on the clock in the final period to give the Eagles a shocking 27-24 victory.
The game was just one snap away from going in the win column for Aurora, when a fumbled exchange from center on a fourth-and-one play for the Greenmen gave Avon the ball back and one last shot at getting a victory with 2:07 left in the game. That’s when O’Rourke marched his Eagles right down the field, completing one big pass after another, for that last second score and the victory.
O’Rourke was terrific in the game completing 18 of 39 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns. Garrett Gronowski caught five of those passes for 109 yards including one touchdown covering 20 yards. At 6-3 and 200 pounds, Gronowski is a good-looking two-way senior prospect at receiver and defensive back. Brett Jensen, another senior receiver, also had a fine game for the Eagles grabbing four tosses for 88 yards including one
56-yarder for a touchdown. And finally senior running back Marquis Harrell also played well rushing 15 times for 85 yards with a 33-yard touchdown scamper. O’Rourke definitely became a hot prospect to keep an eye out for if he wasn’t already one.
Aurora, who rushed for over 200 yards as a team, was led by senior running back Steven Yung on the ground with 17 carries for 91 yards while senior quarterback Brendan Gallagher completed 14 of 20 passes for 109 yards and one touchdown. Bellamy was more than solid at left tackle on offense and he also had his moments on the defensive line when he wasn’t being rested on the sideline or attracting double and triple teams when he was in the game.
On Friday I went to Cortland where I saw Ben Moody and the Lakeview Bulldogs host Chris Fields and the Harvey Red Raiders from Painesville.
Fields is a speedy wide receiver and another Ohio State commit.
Harvey managed to keep the game relatively close in the first half trailing 21-12 at the intermission before Lakeview put the game away in the second half en route to a 34-20 victory. For the Bulldogs, the Clark twins,
Jarred and Justin, provided most of the fireworks with Jarred scoring twice in the second period, once on a 61-yard punt return and the other coming on an 18-yard pass reception from his brother. Fields caught a short pass for Harvey and raced through the Lakeview defense from 20 yards out in the first quarter to open the scoring in the game.
Moody quietly led Lakeview on the ground with 123 yards on 15 carries and he had a touchdown from two yards out. Jamil Javey had 5 carries for 65 yards in the game for the Red Raiders including a 60-yard burst right up the middle of the field that went for a touchdown. Fields had seven catches in the game for 95 yards and that one touchdown.
And finally on Saturday night, I witnessed a last-second field goal from 30 yards out by Marvel Brooks that allowed the Glenville Tarblooders to beat a talented St. Ignatius Wildcat team, 20-17. It was Brooks’ second field goal of the game after the first one barely hit the cross bar and bounced over from 27 yards out to give the Tarblooders an early 3-0 lead in the first period.
A 3-3 defensive struggle at halftime turned into a fourth-quarter barn burner after sophomore sensation, Shane Wynn, returned a kickoff 98-yards for a touchdown to give Glenville a 17-10 lead with 4:39 remaining in the game, some 12 seconds after St. Ignatius tied the game at 10-10 on a seven-yard touchdown run by senior running back Michael Anter, who just barely stretched with the ball far enough to penetrate the goal line while he was falling down.
After Wynn’s kickoff return, St. Ignatius responded with another score of their own when Anter struck pay dirt for the second time in the game on a one-yard touchdown run for the Wildcats with just 2:07 left in the contest.
And on the ensuing kick off this time, St. Ignatius wisely chose to kick the ball short, away from Wynn, to junior Christian Bryant who returned the ball to the midfield area. Glenville managed to keep their composure and drove down the field with time running down when a pass interference penalty gave the Tarblooders the ball at their own 13 yard line to set up the game-winning kick.
In the end, Jonathan Newsome, Marcus Hall and the rest of the Glenville Tarblooders defeated Dan Fox and the St. Ignatius Wildcats for the fourth-consecutive time.
Along with Newsome, another OSU recruit, and Hall, the top player in Ohio who has yet to commit to anyone, Wynn, Bryant, Davon Coleman, Travis Freeman and Rodnell Pierce were some of the stellar performers in the game for Glenville as were their lockdown cover corners, Mike Edwards and Jason Pinkston. And on offense Terrence Owens was efficient at quarterback when he needed to be and Ethan Cargill was a load at running back in the second half for the Tarblooders.
As for the Wildcats, along with Fox, a Notre Dame commit, and Anter, the Wildcats showed that they have the potential to have a very lethal passing attack behind senior Andrew Holland at quarterback and a pair of terrific senior receivers in Joey Parris and Connor Ryan. This trio could be as good as any in Ohio. Defensively for the Wildcats, junior linebacker Scott McVey just may have been the best overall defensive player on the field, sacking Owens three times in the game.
My Game MVPs
For the efforts of the Avon students in the stands as well as the performance of Ryan O’Rourke on the field, he connected on touchdown passes of 40, 56 and 5 yards, and in particular for the way he led the Eagles down the field for the game winning score, O’Rourke is that game’s MVP.
In the Bulldog victory over Harvey, Jarred Clark made a couple of the obvious big plays for the Bulldogs but Justin Clark played well enough in managing the Lakeview offense to share the MVP award with his brother in their game.
And in the Glenville victory, even though Wynn had that electrifying kickoff return for a touchdown, where he went untouched right up the middle of the field, and he threw a perfect option pass to Edwards good for
51-yards and caught a terrific pass of his own 38 yards down the field, where he was flipped in the air after making the catch and hung on to the ball for the completion, I still have to give the MVP award in this one to Brooks for kicking the 30-yard game-winning field goal. But make not mistake about it, Wynn is a very bright star in the making if he’s not one already.
What a great weekend of high school football.
My Regular Weekly Feature
As I scour the Huddle each week looking for top achievers to share their accomplishments or I’m made aware of incredible feats or stories by student-athletes in any sport in Ohio through an e-mail that anyone reading this can send in to firstname.lastname@example.org, one particular football player’s performance caught my eye for this week.
In Southern Ohio there is a player at Division IV Waverly High School who had a game that some might consider a pretty good season.
“It was pretty amazing,” said Derek Roback, the versatile junior quarterback for the Tigers. “I played receiver last year but I never played in a game like that before.”
Waverly trailed 53-38 with just under four minutes left in the game but that’s just about when things started to get interesting.
“We got down and we never quit. We were down 15 points with four minutes left in the game but we never quit,” Roback said. “It was a great effort by everyone and it was amazing that nobody quit.”
Roback is certainly one of the players for the Tigers that gave a great effort and never quit and his stats are certainly a reflection of it.
Unofficially on the evening, Roback was responsible for 610 all-purpose yards including what turned out to be the game-winning 90-yard punt return for a touchdown. On the evening, Roback completed 28 of his 48 aerial attempts for 422 yards and six touchdowns. And he rushed for 98 more yards and another score.
But when Keifer Reed scored on a one-play, 57-yard run touchdown drive that gave their Pike County rival, Piketon High School, that 53-38 fourth-quarter lead, Roback and the Tigers roared right back and took over the game.
“We went down and scored. They got the ball back, we stopped them and they punted,” Roback said. “We returned (the punt) for a touchdown and got the two-point conversion to win the game.”
What Roback neglected to say when he mentioned that punt return is that he was the guy that returned the punt for the score and he was also the guy that just happened to throw the pass that was completed for the game-winning two-point conversion.
“It was a great catch,” he said.
But what’s even more remarkable is that this was Roback’s first game as the varsity quarterback at Waverly and he never came anywhere close to having the kind of prolific performance as a receiver in the past like what he did as a first-time signal caller against Piketon.
“The (best performance) that I had last year was like eight catches for 140 yard or something,” Roback said. “But it was nothing even close to this week.”
It was definitely a wild start to a much-anticipated season with a terrific atmosphere for a game on the road for Roback and his Tiger teammates.
“They’re only like four miles from where we are,” he said. “The stadium was completely packed. There were people standing three and four deep around the fence. The atmosphere was amazing. When we got there on the bus our stands were already full at about 5:30.”
The two Region 15 teams were renewing their rivalry for the first time in a decade.
“We’re in the same county and we played them every year until about ’98,” Roback said. “And then we picked them back up this year for the first time. So it’s the biggest rivalry that we have other than probably
Admittedly Roback didn’t anticipate himself having a big game like he did in his first time playing quarterback for his beloved Tigers.
“I was just hoping to make it through and let our other guys do a lot of it,” he said. “I was nervous. I threw the ball like crap all week. I was all tense and I was not expecting anything like what happened.”
But it all seemed to click for Roback when he got out on the field.
“On the very first drive we went down and scored and that kind of calmed me down a little bit,” Roback said. “I threw a little dump pass to one of our receivers and he took it for 65 yards and scored. And then after that it was like game-mode clicked in and it just happened.”
Waverly operates out of the gun probably 90 percent of the time with four receivers and a fullback behind Roback so their prodigious offensive outburst didn’t exactly come as a total surprise.
“We figured it would be a shootout but we didn’t figure it to happen like it did, us getting down by two scores,” he said. “But we figured it would be high scoring and we figured it would be close.”
And indeed it was in part to Roback who did a lot of everything for the Tigers in gaining the victory.
In his freshman year at Waverly Roback punted and also played a little bit as a receiver while serving as the backup quarterback. And last year he played wide receiver, safety, punted and returned kicks and punts. A versatile athlete, he also plays basketball and baseball for his school.
And to top that all off, Roback is a 4.0 student in the classroom.
He was a kid who grew up around the Waverly football program.
“I’ve been a ball boy since first grade and my dad (Mike Roback) is the offensive coordinator,” said Roback who admitted that he really enjoys having the chance to play for his dad now. “It’s just nice being able to come home and talk about stuff that happened and just having the extra time to watch film together. It’s really nice.”
Waverly has been to the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.
“Our last two years have been the best that we’ve ever had, going to the playoffs in back-to-back years hosting a playoff game and winning a playoff game at home,” Roback said. “We went 10-0 in 2006, my freshman year, and last year we went 9-1 and then we beat Union Local in the first round of the playoffs. (In 2006) we had was our first-ever playoff victory, we beat Jackson in the first round and that was our first victory. And then last year was our second. So these last two or three years have just been amazing.
And now Roback is hoping the beat goes on.
“I want to win games and I want to get in the playoffs again,” Roback said.
“The playoff atmosphere is just amazing and I love playing in the playoffs and I just want to get back there.”
You can be certain that Roback, with the help of his many talented Tiger teammates, will do his part, in whatever capacity on either side of the ball, to get his team back there.
“I’m the quarterback and I throw it but I run the ball and I just try to do whatever I can to score points. And we have skill guys as far as you can see. It’s awesome,” said Roback. “And on defense I play free safety.”
The season-opening win was definitely a big one the way Roback sees it.
“I think it really jump-started us,” he said. “I think it was either a make-or-break kind of game for us and it can be a jump-start, I think, to a really good season.”
But no matter how the season turns out, Roback will always have at least one indelible memory from his first game as Waverly’s starting quarterback that he’ll carry on with him forever.
“We didn’t quit at all and we very easily could have,” Roback said. “We could have just quit and got it over with and gone home but we didn’t. We kept fighting. Our whole summer, our coaches have been saying, their big thing for us this summer was ‘finish’ and we did. That’s what’s makes it the best.”
The odds are, with a talented player like Roback running the show for these next two seasons, that there are even better things to come for the Waverly Tiger football program.
What’s On Tap For Week Two
If it wasn’t for that last-second touchdown by Avon against Aurora I would have been a perfect three-for-three in my picks for the games I attended in week one. Picking Lakeview and Glenville as winners gave me a 2-1 mark overall.
For this week, with Ohio State hosting Youngstown State University in their season opener, my high school schedule won’t be as exhaustive as it could have been but it should be a busy weekend nonetheless.
On Friday I travel to Garfield Heights to see the Bulldogs host the Parma Redmen. Of course Heights, behind the play of their talented defensive end and Ohio State commit, Melvin Fellows, hopes to rebound from a disappointing season of a year ago where an off-the-field incident in the summer all but crippled their season.
Duane Long and Ohio High Magazine rank Fellows as the top prospect in all of Ohio for the class of 2009 and for that reason alone, I’m picking
Garfield Heights to get the win in a good game in this one.
After the Buckeyes take care of business with the Penguins, I’ll travel back up I-71 where I hope to catch most if not all of the Mooney game against Covington (Ky.) Catholic. I saw Covington Catholic play La Salle last year in Cincinnati and I know they will be a major challenge for
Johnny Simon and the Cardinal Mooney Cardinals. Too big of a challenge in fact. I’ll have to give the win to Catholic in this one.
And on Monday, the Labor Day holiday, I’ll travel to Wheeling, W.Va. to see Glenville play Thomas Jefferson. Although they’re a quality opponent, no doubt, I don’t give the smaller division team from Pennsylvania a chance to win in this one as I expect the Tarblooders to come away from that game with an impressive 2-0 record.
And finally, I just want to remind everyone who is reading this collection of words that make up this week’s version of On The Lighter Side, to help me find about student athletes in Ohio from your school or even from your family who have a success story of their own that I can share with everyone in this forum. If anyone you know has a personal success story to tell or has achieved some degree of greatness or accomplishment against all odds then I want to know about it so I can share their story with you all just I did with Derek Roback this week. Make sure you drop me an e-mail at email@example.com and tell me all about him or her.
Have a great weekend and see you back here next week.