Cuyahoga Heights gunning for a deep playoff run


Cuyahoga Heights Redskins

The Cuyahoga Heights Redskins missed the playoffs for the first time in ten
years in 2007 by a tiny fraction of computer points, but 2008 was another story.
The Redskins returned to the postseason and had a successful overall campaign.

What is the outlook for this season? Here is a look at the 2009 Redskins.

Players To Watch

Players To Watch: QB/SS/P Zach D’Orazio (6-2, 190, Sr.), CB/WR Nick
Simon (5-9, 150, Sr.), FS David Bronza (5-6, 145, Sr.), OL/DT Pat Meade (6-0,
180, Sr.), FB/ILB Alec Torgerson (5-8, 175, Jr.), OL/DL Anthony Eder (5-9, 175,

The Cuyahoga Heights Redskins missed the playoffs for the first time in ten
years in 2007 by a tiny fraction of computer points, but 2008 was another story.
The Redskins returned to the postseason and had a successful overall campaign.

“I thought we had a good year,” head coach Al Martin said. “We lost a tough
game to Kirtland somewhere towards the beginning of the season. We played well,
made a couple mistakes and they beat us 14-7. From there on out, I thought got
better. By the end of the season, we were a pretty good team. Then we drew
(eventual state champion) Ursuline in the opening round of the playoffs. We
played a very competitive game against them. I thought our kids played really
hard and really well. We were tied with them midway through the third quarter.

“Overall I thought it was a very good and very successful season.”

Despite a 9-1 record and one-sided wins over many of their opponents, the
Redskins once again had to sweat a little bit when it came to a playoff berth.
Martin thinks that the overall playoff experience will play a big role in the
development of this year’s team.

“We got in as an 8-seed,” Martin said. “I think obviously you want to go in
as a little better seed if you can so you don’t end up with such tough
first-round draw possibly. But I think we’ve got a lot of players coming back
who got a lot of experience last year. We did graduate some very important
seniors, but at programs like ours at our level — D-V and D-VI — that’s always
going to happen. You’re always going to have to have younger kids coming in to
replace them. But we really like a lot of the kids we have coming back and we
think the experience last year in the playoffs will be a big help to them.”

This year’s team returns six starters on offense and eight on defense, and
expectations will be high. Leading the way will be senior QB/DB Zach D’Orazio, a
verbal commitment to the University of Akron.

“He had a great year for us last year,” Martin said. “He threw for over 1,200
yards and ran for close to 800. Going into the playoffs, his touchdown to
interception ratio was 16 to 1. So he had a really, really good year and is a
really talented quarterback. He had a lot of schools come in and look at him
from the MAC. He’s someone obviously who we’re counting on heavily to have a
great season. He’s a very talented kid; he can throw and run, he’s very good
defensively, he’s very physical and makes a lot of plays.”

D’Orazio’s presence should go a long way in helping this year’s team

“I think at our level, if you have someone like that I think it sometimes
compensates for some other areas where you might not be quite as strong,” Martin
said. “When you have a quarterback who can do all the things you need him to do
and is also very intelligent, a good leader and a hard worker, I think it makes
all the difference. I think kids have a lot of confidence, no matter who you’re
facing, that you have a player like him who’s capable of making big plays in big
games. He kind of showed that in the Ursuline game where he broke off a 70-yard
run early to get us on the board and give us the lead. So we draw a lot of
confidence from having him out there.

“He’s a leader on the field, he’s a leader off the field. He’s one of the
hardest workers in the program.”

D’Orazio will have some fine talent and experience surrounding him, one of
whom will be senior WR/DB Nick Simon, who had 613 yards and 9 touchdowns on 32
catches as a junior.

“He’s a very good athlete, makes a lot of plays and has a lot of confidence,”
Martin said. “He’s a really, really good two-way player for us.”

Two other standouts to watch will be senior FS David Bronza and junior LB/FB
Alec Torgerson, who has started since his freshman year.

“As our free safety, (Bronza) does a lot of things for us in terms of
coverages and recognizing formations and stuff like that,” Martin said. “He’s a
leader on our team as well.

“(Torgerson is) a fantastic football player. Very physical, very hard runner,
very tough kid.”

One area of concern for the Redskins could be the offensive line.

“I think our offensive line’s going to have to develop,” Martin said. “We
only have two returning starters, and our sophomore class does not have a lot of
offensive linemen in it. We graduated three or four seniors who played on our
offensive line, so we’re counting on a lot of young kids to do well up front,
and I think it will take them some time. The offensive line is a unit that needs
to understand how to work together, and I think that’ll be a process for them. I
do think we’ve got young talent though and I do think we’ll get there
eventually, but I think early in the season we’ll rely on our skill kids who’ve
got a lot of experience and are very talented. I think we’ll rely on them to
maybe compensate early on for the lack of experience up front.”

One player Martin will be relying on to lead the offensive line group will be
senior Pat Meade.

“He’s kind of the foundation of our offensive line,” Martin said. “Being a
two-year starter already, he provides a lot of leadership there and really
understands what we’re trying to do schematically. We’ll have a lot of young
people on the offensive line this year, so we’ll be counting on him.”

Martin expects to see some new challenges on this year’s schedule, along with
what has become a big yearly showdown against Kirtland.

“We play Fairview in Week 2, who we’ve never played before, so that’ll be a
little different for our guys,” Martin said. “Then obviously Kirtland is a big
game for us. We’ve lost the last two years to them, and they’ve been a playoff
team the last two years. Independence is our rival, and we pick up Cardinal and
Berkshire in our crossover games this year. They’re teams that are usually very
competitive and physical teams. I think we’ve got a schedule where we won’t have
as many games this year that maybe are lopsided where some of the ones in years
past we’ve had a number of lopsided games at points in our schedule. I don’t
think we’ll have that this year.”

After having narrowly missed the playoffs in 2007 despite a 9-1 mark and
making last year’s field as an 8-seed, Martin is hoping that the margin for
error won’t be as small this year. But the team will still have to win as many
games as they can.

“I’m hoping there’s a little more room for error, but I think it’s tough,” he
said. “Our league, we have a lot of schools in it, and the thing with our league
is we’re split up into two small-school divisions, and we play three crossover
games. The last two years, our crossover games happened to be against teams who
were struggling on the other side. The two years prior to that, we had played
the better three teams in our crossover games. By winning against teams who are
winning more games, obviously you put yourself in a better position to make the

“The last couple of years, it’s been tough because our league dictates who
you play in the crossover games, and we played a couple teams who either didn’t
win or just won one game. This year, our crossover schedule is a little bit
better, so we’re hoping that will help us a little bit.”

Regardless, this year’s team seems to have the talent and desire to return to
the playoffs and make some noise once they get there.

“I think that playoff game against Ursuline, the fact that we played so well
I think gave our kids a lot of confidence, and they’re very excited about the
prospects this year of having another real good season and hopefully maybe
advancing a little further into the playoffs,” Martin said. “We’ve had teams in
the past year that have gone deeper into the playoffs, so I really think these
kids want to get to that point.”



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