Things went very well for Cuyahoga Heights last season. After rolling to
a 10-0 regular season that saw only four opponents score points on
them, the Redskins won two playoff games and then put a little scare
into Youngstown Ursuline before eventually falling short. What do they do for an encore?
2009 record: 12-1
* Players To Watch – ILB/FB Alec Torgerson (5-8, 180, sr.), OL/DL Anthony Eder (5-9, 185, sr.), SS/WR Jordan D’Orazio (5-9, 165, sr.), OL/DL Austin Lane (6-4, 225, jr.), WR/S Logan Matt (6-2, 175, jr.), ILB/RB Troy Janashak (5-9, 165, jr.)
* Outlook – Things went very well for Cuyahoga Heights last season. After rolling to a 10-0 regular season that saw only four opponents score points on them, the Redskins won two playoff games and then put a little scare into the state champions before eventually falling short.
“I thought we had a really good year,” head coach Al Martin said. “The kids really worked hard, and we got better, and we were playing much better football by the end of the year than we were at the beginning. We made a nice little run in the playoffs, playing our first two playoff games and then playing Youngstown Ursuline, the state champs, in the regional finals. We played a great first half; we were up 28-14 at halftime. They came out and played a great second half and kind of shut us down and ended up beating us.
“But for us it was a great year to be able to win two playoff games and to be able to win our fifth straight league title. So we were happy with how it ended up. We were a little disappointed that we didn’t come out and play better in the second half of the regional finals, but they’re a really good football team.”
Martin expects the overall playoff experience to be very beneficial to this year’s team.
“I think the experience of the playoffs for some of the young guys will be great,” Martin said. “One of the things we learned is when you have a lot of talent and you work hard, you have a chance to have a very good season. We had a lot of talent last year; we graduated really a great group of seniors. We had a lot of younger guys that gained some experience last year and participated in that playoff run, and I think that’ll help them down the road.”
This year’s team could be tough once again as six starters return on offense and five on defense. However, some new faces need to step up in the secondary, and the Redskins will miss All-Ohio star Zach D’Orazio at quarterback, who has since signed on to play football with the University of Akron.
“We lose our whole secondary, so I think defensively that’s a concern,” Martin said. “We have four new guys that have to come in and step in and play in the secondary. We’ll be pretty solid up front, especially offensively. We have three returning linemen and a couple other good guys that played last year, so I think our offensive line will be a strength of the team. Then we have our fullback coming back who’s a tremendous player – Alec Torgerson. He also played some linebacker for us.
“I think we’ll be able to move the ball on the ground. The question is we graduated a three-year starter at quarterback, and how well we come around at quarterback I think will have a big impact on how much success we have.”
D’Orazio’s absence may mean things will look a little different on offense – namely that the team might not have as many explosive big plays.
“Having Zach D’Orazio at quarterback made things much easier,” Martin said. “I kid with some of our younger quarterbacks that the run he had for 70 yards at Hawken, that’s a two-yard gain for you. But does that mean that we can’t score on that possession? It means it’s going to take a lot more hard work and a lot more execution – you’re just not going to get the big plays that Zach was able to give to us.
“But each team has its own identity. We need to create an identity and be able to move the ball efficiently and score. It’s not going to be a two- or three-play drive for us. We’re going to have to move the ball over 10 to 12 plays, and that’s going to take a lot better execution.”
With D’Orazio gone, one of the biggest keys for this year’s Cuyahoga Heights team will be for the skill positions and quarterback position to create chemistry before the start of the season.
“Last year, we had great chemistry because guys had been playing together some for 2-3 years,” Martin said. “Now with a new quarterback and new slot position guys, I think developing chemistry in the passing game, and we run the option – it’s going to be very important.”
* Schedule – Cuyahoga Heights renews their yearly rivalry with Kirtland, who missed the playoffs in 2009 but has been a rugged opponent in recent years. Also on the non-league slate is an interesting matchup with Cincinnati Taft, while the league schedule features games against playoff teams in Hawken and Independence.
“We play Kirtland again as a non-league game,” Martin said. “They’re in our conference, but not in our division. That’s always a big game for us; that’s going to be a Thursday night cable game. We’ve had a good rivalry with them for a very long time and had some good games recently, so that’s a big game on our schedule because we feel they’re going to be very good.
“Then obviously in our league, Independence and Hawken have been very good recently, and obviously those two games will be big for us.”
8/28 Cincinnati Taft
9/3 Fairview Park Fairview
9/10 Burton Berkshire
9/17 at Newbury
10/1 at Middlefield Cardinal
10/8 at Richmond Heights
10/15 Gates Mills Hawken
10/23 at Beachwood