Gridiron Notebook: Bison Hang Onto Slim Playoff Hopes After Kirtland Loss
Beachwood, Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights are all in the hunt for a playoff spot, but need help to move up in the computer rankings.
There are no computer points for close losses, but Beachwood took one of the state’s best teams to the wire Saturday, losing 20-18 in overtime when the Bison couldn’t convert a two-point try against Kirtland.
Beachwood held a 12-0 lead at halftime, but the Hornets came up with big plays down the stretch.
“We had ’em,” Beachwood coach Ryan Williams said. “We had them the whole way.”
Kirtland running back Damon Washington was held in check for most of the game despite finishing with 124 yards on 11 carries. He rattled off a 71-yard touchdown to tie the score at 12 in the fourth quarter. Kirtland missed the extra point.
The Bison (6-3) had Kirtland (9-0) pinned with the Hornets facing a third-and-25 during the first possession of overtime. But the Hornets hit Washington on a screen for a 35-yard touchdown followed by a two-point conversion.
Corey Jones promptly answered on the first play of Beachwood’s possession, scoring from 20-yards out, but the Bison missed the conversion and Kirtland held on for the win. The defending Division V state champions extended their winning streak to 24.
“There is no moral victory, we don’t get computer points for beating a team that hasn’t lost in two years and averages 50 points a game,” Williams said. “But our kids came away confident as ever. They knew they played the best game they could, they know they’re going to play the same way against West-G this weekend and we’ll let the computers see where we are.”
Beachwood is not eliminated from postseason contention. The Bison are 10th in Division IV, Region 13 and could potentially wind up with the highest computer average among those teams vying for the eight seed based on Joe Eitel’s unofficial projections. Eitel’s rankings, however, use the same formula as the OHSAA and are identical to those just released, so his projections are reliable.
Beachwood is one of six teams vying for the eighth and final spot. Triway is currently in the lead (but does not control its own destiny), followed by Lakeview, the Bison, Tuslaw, Cleveland Central Catholic and Ashtabula Edgewood.
Another team to watch is No. 7 Northwestern (8-1). The Huskies control their own destiny but are underdogs against No. 3 Norwayne (9-0). A loss could put another postseason spot in play.
But assuming the seven teams with control of their own destiny win, Beachwood will need at least Cleveland Central Catholic — and probably Ashtabula Edgewood — to lose as both schools are projected to have better “best case” scenarios if they win out. After that, it comes down to which teams get the most help from key teams they’ve already beaten. Beachwood is unlikely to get such help as its key teams — Independence, Richmond Heights, Warrensville Heights and Gilmour — are all heavy underdogs. So, barring a major upset, the Bison must hope the teams they’re in contention with either lose or fail to get such help as well.
Beachwood is guaranteed some help as it will gain points from the winner of Berkshire and Cardinal having beaten both teams.
But under any scenario, the Bison must come away with a victory at West Geauga on Friday at 7 p.m. The Wolverines would provide a significant boost despite their 4-5 record because they are a Division II school. That also means the Wolverines are tougher than their record may indicate since Beachwood is Division IV.
Last year, West Geauga eliminated any hope of Beachwood making the playoffs with a 28-25 victory. The Wolverines are led by running back Domenick Varga, who has 809 yards and five touchdowns on 178 carries. Connor Krouse has nine rushing touchdowns and 606 yards on 131 carries.
“They’ve got a nice line and their quarterback likes to run as well, we’ll have to shut down their running game for sure,” Williams said. “The main thing with West-G is they’re Division II, we’re Division IV and it allows them to have many more one-way players.
"Our kids are confident, I’m confident in them and we’re going to go out to West-G this weekend and play like we did against Kirtland.”
Red Raiders Rebound Against Garfield Heights
Down 13-7 going into halftime, Shaker Heights rattled off 20 points in the third quarter and held on for a 34-27 victory over Garfield Heights, keeping the Red Raiders’ postseason hopes alive.
“We cleaned up all our mistakes,” Shaker Heights coach Jarvis Gibson said. “Early on we put ourselves in a hole and some very strong gusts of wind led to an interception. We had a couple of penalties too.”
Greg Claytor and Ramses Owens each had huge games anchoring Shaker Heights’ running attack. Claytor scored two touchdowns on 11 carries and racked up 118 yards. Owens led the team with 133 yards on 20 carries. Quarterback Jimmie Pope also scored a touchdown on the ground and threw for 72 yards on 6-of-10 passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“That’s what we’ve been looking for form both of those guys all year,” Gibson said. “That’s the one-two punch we know we have in that backfield and it finally took off last weekend.”
Shaker Heights is 10th in Division I, Region 1, trailing No. 8 North Olmsted and No. 9 Euclid. The Red Raiders are guaranteed help from the winner of Parma/Valley Forge. However, North Olmsted also beat Valley Forge, so Shaker Heights benefits more from a Parma victory.
In fact, each of the four contenders vying for the eight-seed in Division I are guaranteed some help from two teams on their schedule playing one another.
North Olmsted is unlikely to lose against Olmsted Falls (1-8), but with a rivalry anything is possible and the Bulldogs only lost by four to Avon Lake (7-2) — ranked 5th in Division I, Region II — last week. Assuming North Olmsted wins, the Red Raiders ideal world consists of Cleveland Heights losing and the following teams — Garfield Heights, Parma, Medina, Cuyahoga Falls, Cleveland Central Catholic (helps Euclid too) and John F. Kennedy — winning to provide the maximum points boost.
Furthermore Shaker will want Westlake, Amherst, Lakewood, North Ridgeville and Valley Forge all to lose to prevent North Olmsted from increasing its computer total.
Euclid is likely to win as heavy favorites over Warrensville Heights. The Panthers are a bit of an x-factor since it has a lot of overlapping opponents on its schedule with Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights, but Lorain losing to Warren G. Harding helps the Red Raiders as the Titans lost to both Cleveland Heights and Euclid.
But Shaker Heights’ playoff hopes will be crushed without a win at Normandy (2-7) Thursday night at 7 p.m. Drew Pasteur gives the Red Raiders a 93 percent chance of winning this game as 24-point favorites.
“I think in going to that Brush game everyone was worried about everything taking place for us,” Gibson said. “We worried about if we did win instead of saying let’s just go out and get a victory here. We put ourselves into a hole so we need to make sure that we come out Thursday night and take care of our business.”
Tigers Tame Titans
The Tigers dominated Lorain 41-13 behind Braxton Gamble’s five touchdown runs to keep their playoff hopes alive. The running back finished with 110 yards on 19 carries. Quarterback Taylor Jones added 135 yards on 11 carries.
“The kids came out and played very, very hard,” Cleveland Heights coach Jeff Rotsky said. “Our defensive line had one of the best games of the year and we were certainly pleased. We believe that it was probably one of our all-around better games.”
The Tigers took a 26-7 halftime lead and never looked back, controlling Lorain the entire way.
Cleveland Heights sits at No. 11 — behind North Olmsted, Euclid and Shaker Heights — in the latest Division I, Region 1 rankings. However, according to Eitel the Tigers can finish with a higher point total than both the Panthers and Red Raiders if everything breaks their way.
Like Shaker, Cleveland Heights will need help from North Olmsted — either losing or the teams it beat losing. Unlike Shaker Heights, the Tigers will want Lorain to win and Cleveland Central Catholic to lose — as the Red Raiders and Panthers both beat the Ironmen.
The Tigers’ non-conference opponents — Youngstown East, St. John’s Jesuit and John Adams — all winning helps Cleveland Heights’ computer total as well.
But Cleveland Heights has a tough final opponent in Shaw (5-4), set for a 7 p.m. kickoff Friday at Cleveland Heights High. The Cardinals are mathematically eliminated from contention in Division II, Region 6, so their sole motivation is to spoil the Tigers slim playoff chances.
The Cardinals are led by versatile quarterback Jacob King and running back Antoine Barbee.
“They’re very athletic,” Rotsky said. “This is a rivalry game so there’s no doubt records get tossed out the window. We have to control the line of scrimmage. They have a great quarterback and we have to contain him. We need to take advantage of our size and play quick since they have more two-way guys than we do.”