D-III State Football Primer: Aurora, Columbus Eastmoor making first title game appearances


Aurora and Columbus Eastmoor make their first trips to the state football finals on Saturday.

There are no guarantees in sports. But if one thing is guaranteed in the 37th Annual OHSAA State Football Finals it is that there will be a new state champion in Division III. Both Aurora and Columbus Eastmoor Academy are making their first appearances in the title game in what promises to be an exciting match up.

There are few guarantees in sports.

One is that there will be a new state champion in Division III in the 37th Annual OHSAA State Football Finals.

Both Aurora and Columbus Eastmoor Academy are making their first appearance in the title game in what promises to be an exciting match up.

After Aurora (12-2) knocked of defending state champ Sunbury Big Walnut and Eastmoor (13-1) topped last year’s state runner-up Newark Licking Valley in the state semifinals, these two first-timers will meet Sat., Nov. 29 at 11 a.m.

Going Green

Back in September, a state championship was the last thing Aurora had in mind after starting the season 1-2.

“At that point we were not talking about a state championship, we were talking about righting the ship,” head coach Bob Mihalik said.

The 38-24 win over rival Perry was the turning point in the season and sured up a fourth consecutive Chagrin Valley Conference title.

The Greenmen finished out the regular season undefeated and became the only Region 9 team to qualify for the postseason for the fourth straight year.

“As we started Week 11, we talked about how we still had a ways to go and we had five one-game seasons and as long as we took care of business each week we knew we had a chance and, sure enough, here we are,” said Mihalik.

When Aurora Has The Ball

In a run-first offense, Aurora is led by senior back Steve Yung. He has 206 carries for 1,516 yards and 24 touchdowns. Yung averages 16 carries per game but had 24 last week against Big Walnut – the most in his three-year career.

Yung also has seven touchdowns receptions.

“He continues to do a great job but we have some other weapons with our fullback and slot back and we’ll also run the quarterback at times,” Mihalik explained.

Under center for Aurora is second team All-Ohio selection Brendan Gallagher. He is 124-of-192 passing on the season for 2,030 yards, 22 touchdowns and five interceptions.

He has also added five rushing touchdowns.

“I can’t say enough about him,” Mihalik said of his two-year starting signal caller. “It is a cliché but he is an extension of the coaching staff on the field. We give him a lot of responsibility at the line of scrimmage checking us out of bad plays and he just does a great job.”

Senior receiver Dee Brizzolara has been Gallagher’s favorite target, reeling in 30 catches for 470 yards and seven touchdowns.

“They look like a team that is well-coached,” Eastmoor head coach Jim Miranda said. “They have a little bit of size to them and they emphasize the running game over their pass.

“They look like they have some weapons and I think it is going to come down to who can make mistake free football.”

Big Man On Campus

Aurora senior offensive lineman Adam Bellamy was a first team All-Ohio selection and is verbally committed to Ohio State.

Bellamy (6-4, 285) is ranked No. 13 in the top 100 players in the Class of 2009 by Ohio High magazine.

‘Unfinished Business’

Eastmoor finished the regular season 9-1 and was the No. 4-seed in Region 12 heading into the playoffs.

The Warriors finished 9-1 last season as well but did not qualify for the playoffs.

“We went to bed thinking we were in (the playoffs) and we woke up and were crushed in the morning,” Miranda said of the 2007 campaign.

“The kids talked about unfinished business and the goal was to get to the playoffs and get it done. They were willing to sacrifice. Unfinished business was our thing and now we have a chance to get the ultimate goal in high school football.”

When Eastmoor Has The Ball

Like Aurora, Eastmoor likes to run the ball with a roster riddled with fast, athletic players.

But the Warriors also like to throw the ball around a bit in a balanced attack.

Senior quarterback Malon Johnson is 75-of-126 passing for 1,206 yards, 14 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Senior wideout Alex Coleman has 39 catches for 529 yards and six touchdowns.

On the ground, running back Touche Hopkins has 891 yards on 75 carries and 16 touchdowns while back R.J. Wallace has added 736 yards on 128 carries and 12 touchdowns.

“We have a lot of kids that are pretty talented and we try to spread the ball around to try and get a lot of kids to touch the ball. Those kids have been productive throughout the season,” Miranda said.

“We’ll look at defenses and exploit match ups if we can. We’ll put kids in one-on-one situations and we think we have good kids that can use their talent.”

Senior offensive lineman Ryan Wilborn (6-3, 250) earned second team All-Ohio honors.

“For us, we cannot let them get the big, quick-strike plays offensively,” Mihalik said of his opponent. “If they are going to score, we want to make them go on the long drives and let them chip away at us. With their athletes, we need to keep them in front us and make them earn it.”

Getting Defensive

Eastmoor has two players that earned first team All-Ohio honors: lineman Darryl Woods and linebacker Victor Rodriguez.

Miranda likes his personnel in the secondary as well.

“We have a tremendous secondary and have tremendous confidence in their abilities in man-on-man and in the zone,” he said.

Aurora does not have any All-Ohio players on defense but the Greenmen are allowing just 14 points per game in the playoffs.

“We need to play good, solid defense, not give any plays up and get off to a fast start offensively,’ said Mihalik.

Familiar Territory – Kinda

While Eastmoor will be making its first appearance in the state football title game, it will not be Miranda’s first time coaching for a state championship.

He coached the Eastmoor girls basketball team to a state runner-up finish in 2005 and the final four in 2007.

“One thing I have learned is you want to stay in a routine and keep (your players) relaxed and comfortable,” Miranda said. “We’re trying to just keep (the team) focused on the goal and the prize.

“It seems a little different with football, though. There is tremendous excitement for football in Ohio so the kids are looking forward to it but it is kind of a surreal experience getting back here but I am enjoying every minute of it.”

The girls basketball season tips off Friday but Miranda said his assistant coaches have taken over coaching duties until football season ends.

Easmoor’s first girls basketball game is Dec. 9.

Alumni Support

Eastmoor’s most notable alum is former Ohio State running back and only two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin.

Griffin still has close ties with the Eastmoor football program.

“He’s involved and has a standing scholarship for the students here,” Miranda said. “He has also been involved in checking in throughout the year and being in contact with the administration. He is always looking out.” 

Prediction Sure To Go Awry

This game could be a toss up. Aurora has righted the ship after starting the season 1-2 and has a lot of momentum, knocking off some formidable opponents in the playoffs.

Eastmoor has a lot of momentum as well with the sense of unfinished business after being left out of the postseason last year.

I like Eastmoor’s athleticism and I think a couple of big plays in the game will have Aurora on its heels.

I pick Eastmoor 24-17.


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