Gridiron Notebook: Bison Face Must-Win Saturday
The football playoffs are just two weeks away. Beachwood, Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights are all in the thick of the chase to qualify.
Beachwood’s playoff hopes took a hit last Saturday with a 31-28 loss to Cuyahoga Heights (7-1), the Bison — despite holding the ball for 15:18 in the first half — trailed 24-6 going into the locker room. A series of unfortunate events — a 70-yard interception returned for a touchdown and a blocked field goal, both by Tyler Gallo — gave Cuyahoga Heights momentum.
“We came back good in the second half, unfortunately we didn’t show up in the first half and that was the difference in the game,” Beachwood coach Ryan Williams said. “I’m proud of the way we came out in the second half and fought. We just have to find a way to play a complete game against good teams.”
Senior quarterback Corey Jones and junior running back Jordan Lane kept the Bison in it with key touchdowns. Jones scored on the opening possession of the second half from 6-yards out. Then on the very first play of Beachwood’s second drive went 64-yards to bring the Bison within three (24-21).
Just when Cuyahoga Heights went up 31-21, Lane ran 86-yards for a score on the first play of the ensuing Beachwood drive, giving the Bison hope with 4:06 left and three timeouts.
But Gallo struck again in a key moment. The junior wide receiver finished with five catches for 74 yards, none bigger than his 10-yarder on third-and-10 that gave Cuyahoga Heights a crucial first down with just under two minutes. The conversion sealed the game because Beachwood had used two of its timeouts to stop the clock on the previous two downs.
Jones finished with 188 yards on 19 carries while Lane added 137 on 13. Both scored twice.
The Bison are holding onto the eight seed in Division IV, Region 13, but have a tremendous opportunity to solidify their playoff standing with a win over Kirtland (8-0) this Saturday at Beachwood High School (1 p.m. kickoff). That, however, is much easier said than done as the Hornets are the defending Division V state champions, riding a 23-game winning streak with its last regular season loss coming in 2009 (20-10 to Cuyahoga Heights). Its last loss came in 2010 regional final to eventual Division V champion Ursuline.
This year, however, Cuyahoga Heights lost to Kirtland 40-7. The Bison were shut out 33-0 last year and 29-0 in 2010.
“They have a power running game with a tailback that’s like lightning,” Williams said. “We’re going to have to find a way to slow them down on offense because they’re probably averaging 50 points a game and only giving up a handful.”
That running back is Damon Washington — who has offers from schools in the Big 12, ACC and almost all the MAC schools — and he’s rushed for 1,133 yards, averaging about 14 yards per carry and 24 touchdowns. Washington rushed for 180 or more yards in four of Kirtland’s eight games, twice running for 202.
Washington isn’t alone, 83 percent of Kirtland’s offense comes on the ground (3,374 rushing to 685 passing). Fullback Sam Kukura has 593 yards with seven touchdowns and led the Hornets in rushing last week with 132 yards against Berkshire. Quarterback Scott Eilerman has 453 rushing yards and 628 through the air. Adam Hess also has 419 on the ground.
Should the Bison lose Saturday, it is unlikely a win over West Geauga (3-5) in Week 10 would bolster their playoff position significantly. Though the Wolverines are a Division II school, at best West Geauga would be 4-6 should the Bison emerge victorious in Week 10.
The Bison only have a 17 percent chance of making the playoffs with seven wins, according to Pasteur’s projections at Fantastic50.net. With eight, their chances are 100 percent.
Raiders Run Wild on Tigers
Warren G. Harding wanted to run the ball and it accomplished that in its 34-28 win over Cleveland Heights. Boston College commit LeShun Daniels totaled 227 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries while John Coleman added four more touchdowns and 89 yards.
“Truthfully, I got outcoached,” Cleveland Heights coach Jeff Rotsky said. “We made some mistakes, our kids were prepared, but we didn’t execute so that comes down to me. We had the lead the whole game, unfortunately we didn’t tackle very well and got beat on three or four trick plays.”
One was a reverse back to the quarterback, the other a fake punt. Both extended drives. Cleveland Heights (6-2, 3-2 LEL) took a 28-21 lead, but could not hold off Warren G. Harding (7-1, 5-0) down the stretch.
“We contained [Daniels] in the first half, but in the second half we didn’t tackle him well,” Rotsky said.
Cleveland Heights has to re-focus this Friday against Lorain, set for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Cleveland Heights High School. The Titans may only have a 2-6 record (2-3 LEL), but the team should not be overlooked. They lost to Bedford by a touchdown and Maple Heights by five points. Against Shaw, Lorain went down 21-6 in the first quarter, only to take a 28-21 lead into halftime and ultimately win 36-27.
Youth is a big reason why Lorain has been so inconsistent, but sophomore running back Sherman Saunders has 960 yards on 176 carries and 11 touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Eddie Williamson is 97-of-177 passing for 1,419 yards and 16 touchdowns. He’s also thrown 14 interceptions.
“Lorain is a very good team,” Rotsky said. “They’ve played everybody tough. I don’t know what happened [with Shaker] in the last ballgame, but by the grace of God we’re still alive because of the Shaker loss. We’re still very much in it and we’re going to be locked and loaded.”
Mistakes Cost Red Raiders
Coach Jarvis Gibson summed up Shaker Heights’ 22-21 loss to Brush with one word: undisciplined.
The Red Raiders put the ball on the ground three times in the red zone — on the 1-yard line, 3-yard line and 10-yard line — and lost two fumbles. The one Shaker Heights recovered came on fourth down and gave the ball back to the Arcs. Shaker Heights also had a field goal blocked after a drive into the red zone stalled.
Nursing a lead late in the game, Shaker Heights attempted to go for it on fourth-and-inches to try and continue to kill the clock, but an offensive guard false started.
But the dagger came with 1:21 left when the Red Raiders jumped offsides and put Brush kicker Brendan Burkholder five yards closer. Burkholder nailed a 23-yard field goal and the Arcs’ defense came up big on a fourth-and-1 to seal the victory.
“I believe when the kid kicked the field goal, it cleared the bar by maybe two yards,” Gibson said. “I’ll say what I’ve said from the beginning of the season, when we play our game — disciplined football — I don’t think there is anyone in the state that can stop us. Everything that happened was because of our penalties and mistakes. I’ll never put the blame in the referee’s hands, everything was our doing.”
Greg Claytor rushed for 196 yards and Jimmie Pope threw for 266.
The loss makes Shaker Heights’ shot at an outright Northeast Ohio Conference Lake Division title seem unlikely, unless Brush (5-3, 3-0 NOC Lake) loses its final two and the Red Raiders (6-2, 2-1) win out.
It also caused the Red Raiders to slide from No. 9 in Division I, Region 1 to No. 11, making their final two games must-wins. Garfield Heights (2-6, 1-2) is next, set for Saturday at noon at Shaker Heights High. The Bulldogs are led by running back Demetrius Collier and tight end David Wright while Aaron Jones is one of the bigger playmakers on defense.
Garfield Heights lost to both Valley Forge and Parma by a combined seven points. Shaker Heights beat both 55-0.