High School Spotlight - Week 7
This week the seventh edition of our High School Spotlight series takes an in-depth look at some of the local Independent football programs in the area.
Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy Royals
Head Coach – Dan Larlham (4th season)
2017 Record – 7-3
Key Returners: RB/WR Tre Tucker, RB Jordan Decatur
Key Losses: QB Elijah Payne, RB/DB Jack Atwood, WR Isaac Strausser
After a 1-9 finish in 2016 the Royals bounced back to deliver a 7-3 campaign in 2017, just narrowly missing out on a playoff spot.
Head Coach Dan Larlham loses his quarterback Elijah Payne but the return of do-it-all playmaker Tre Tucker should ease the pain and help push the CVCA football program into the playoffs in 2018.
Garfield Heights Bulldogs
Head Coach – Lance Reisland (4th season)
2017 Record – 5-5
Key Returners: LB Donald Willis, OL Greg Kunka, OT Jordan Sims, WR/LB Marlon Jordan, WR Dre’Von Lindsay, WR/RB Tyreke Smith
Key Losses: QB Jermaine Camp, WR J.T. Gamble, OL/DL De’Shawn Walker, OL/DL Aaron Watson
The upward trajectory continued in 2017 for Head Coach Lance Reisland as the Bulldogs football program finished with a 5-5 record. Coach Reisland was happy with how the team finished the 2017 campaign and is excited about a lot of talent returning on both sides of the ball.
“Last year we had a really tough schedule and face some really good teams early,” said Reisland. “We finished strong and we have a ton of kids back this year. The biggest thing is experience, we have four or five kids back up front on both sides of the ball and we have a very good linebacking crew. So, we have high hopes and the kids have worked hard since January.”
Coach Reisland didn’t hold back when talking about what star linebacker, and University of Minnesota commit, Donald Willis brings to the team in 2018.
“Donald’s the number one guy who’s taken a big step leadership wise,” said Reisland. “Being vocal and being that leader that we need on and off the field.”
Willis himself is excited about what lies ahead and see big things for his football team this season.
“We were 5-5 last season, but I think this year we have a chance to be really good,” said Willis. “We have good players, good receivers, and good young quarterbacks that are learning. I think we have a great shot of getting into the playoffs”
Lutheran East Falcons
Head Coach – Adam Bickel (4th season)
2017 Record – 7-3
Key Returners: RB Kaylin Heard, WR/DB Ivan Percy
Key Losses: DB Aviyon Fitz, QB/DB Mike King
Despite a 7-3 finish for Head Coach Adam Bickel and the rest of the Falcons football program in 2017, Lutheran East just missed out on a playoff spot.
This season, the team returns their dynamic running back Kaylin Heard as well as athletic wide-out and defensive back Ivan Percy. The Falcons are out to make sure there is a spot for them in the OHSAA playoffs in 2018.
St. Edward Eagles
Head Coach – Tom Lombardo (4th season)
2017 Record – 10-2
Key Returners: DB Caden Kolesar, RB Jordan Castleberry, QB Garrett Dzuro, LB/DB Daylan Jernigan, WR Quintel Kent
Key Losses: DL Donte Cilenti, LB Omar Fattah, DB/WR Michael Dowell, DB/WR Devin Maddox, DB Darnell Shields, K Blaine Stencil, P Mason Lawler, OL Edward Rogowski, WR Damerisse Freeman, RB Tylan Rice, QB Zach Kincaid, DL Will Henry
A legendary high school football program in the state of Ohio, the St. Edward Eagles are coming off a 10-2 campaign in 2017, featuring wins over teams like Glenville, Cincinnati Elder, Akron Buchtel, Cincinnati Moeller and Canton McKinley. The season came to an unexpected early end in the second round of the playoffs, falling to Mentor, 21-13.
As usual, Head Coach Tom Lombardo and the Eagles lose a ton of talent on the offensive and defensive side of the ball heading into 2018. The team returns plenty of talented athletes, none more talented than defensive back Caden Kolesar, running back Jordan Castleberry, and wide receiver Quintel Kent.
St. Ignatius Wildcats
Head Coach – Chuck Kyle (36th season)
2017 Record – 11-2
Key Returners: LB Tommy Eichenberg, TE Aidan Wells, DB Jett Elad, LS Sean Wracher, OL Grant Abbott
Key Losses: RB Mark Bobinski, WR/DB Connor Kennedy, WR/DB Michael Drobnick, OT Darian Kinnard, OL Jack Jamieson, DB Cameron Topping, DB Justin Sands, K Matthew Trickett, LS Aidan Gill, QB Daniel Alexander
The other premier high school football program in northeast Ohio, the St. Ignatius Wildcats are coming off an 11-2 season, also posting wins over well-known football programs like Akron Hoban, Mentor, Cincinnati Elder, Cincinnati St. Xavier, and their rivals, the St. Ed’s Eagles. In the postseason, the Wildcats ran over Perry and Euclid before losing their rematch with Mentor in the regional final, 23-21.
Legendary Head Coach Chuck Kyle enters his 36th season at the helm and the team returns star linebacker, and Boston College commit, Tommy Eichenberg. On the offensive side of the ball, tight end and Harvard commit Aidan Wells returns.
St. Vincent St. Mary Fighting Irish
Head Coach – Robert Nickol (1st season)
2017 Record – 10-4
Key Returners: QB Luke Lindsay, WR Jalen Ross, OL Gabe Hamilton, DB Russell Cooper, RB Terrance Keyes, DL Damien Palmer
Key Losses: FB Tyler Lattea, OL Adam Neill, OL Cameron Ervin, DL Eric Taggart, DB Scott Walter, DB Leonard Younger
St. Vincent St. Mary fell just short of an appearance in the Division 3 State Championship game in 2017. The Fighting Irish picked up victories over Woodridge, Tallmadge, and Canfield before falling in the state semi-finals to Tri-Valley, 24-6, a team the Irish had beaten in opening week of the regular season.
This year, Robert Nickol takes over the head coaching duties after a stint as an assistant in Barberton. The team returns junior signal-caller Luke Lindsay as well as running back Terrance Keyes in 2018, giving the Irish a great chance of making another deep run into the playoffs come November.
University School Preppers
Head Coach – Ben Malbasa (4th season)
2017 Record – 7-4
Key Returners: WR Nic Pujolas, WR Jake Kapp, TE Jack Voudouris
Key Losses: QB Jayden Cunningham, RB Joe Kadlic, OL Michael Fedeli, OL Michael Cassese, WR/TE Tim DiStefano, OL Nick Kosir, FB/DL Camryn Hubbard, DL Dino Comber, LB Kevin Douglas, LB Lewis Allen, DB Steven Richmond, DL Jacob Brooks
Head Coach Ben Malbasa’s Preppers made the playoffs in 2017 with a 7-3 regular season record. Unfortunately, the team fell to Padua Franciscan in the first round, 48-41.
This season, the Preppers lose a rather large senior class, including their star quarterback Jayden Cunningham to graduation. University School does return some key skill position players on offense, including wide-outs Nic Pujolas and Jake Kapp.