Northeast Ohio has long been considered a hotbed for high school football. This weekend during the 41st annual Ohio High School Athletic Association State Football Championships, two local teams will be competing for the ultimate prize.
In Division III, the Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary Fighting Irish will go after the school’s fifth state football title when they take on Bellevue. Led by head coach Dan Boarman, the Irish finished the regular season with an 8-2 record and then, racked up wins over Chardon NDCL, Hubbard, Chagrin Falls and Dover in the postseason.
Akron SVSM was led by senior QB Clayton Uecker, who solidified his role as the starting quarterback after splitting time with junior Aaron Bushner early in the season.
“Clayton has really come a long way,” Boarman said. “It seems like every game he’s been getting better. He’s been delivering the ball on time and reading the secondary properly. He has also been able to utilize all of our skill and we needed someone at that position to do that.”
In addition to his players, Boarman credits his coaching staff for the success of the season.
“I’ve got to give total credit to my staff,” he added. “I laugh sometimes because my wife says, ‘What do you do?’ and that tells you how good my staff is. I’ve done less this year than I’ve probably ever done.”
The Irish will face a Bellevue team that knocked off AP #1 Napoleon 35-20 in its regional semifinal game, and then, went on to defeat AP #4 Dayton Thurgood Marshall 34-33 in the state semifinal.
“One of the big things we are going to have to do is stop the quarterback,” Boardman said. “He seems to be the catalyst to their offense.”
Bellevue finished the regular season with a 9-1 record.
Kickoff for Saturday’s game is 11 a.m. at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium.
The Division V final will feature a rematch of last year’s championship game, as the Kirtland Hornets will once again face Coldwater in hopes of securing back-to-back state titles.
Both squads enter the game with 14-0 records and the Hornets come in riding a 29-game winning streak after running the table in 2011.
Even though they are considered a “small” school by size standards, Kirtland head coach Tiger LaVerde knows he has a special team.
"I think both teams are very capable of playing football with anybody in the state," LaVerde said. "There are some big schools that would probably beat us pretty handily, but I think this is going to be a great high school football game. I know it's a small-school game, but I think these are two of the better teams in the state."
While much of Kirtland’s offense revolves around running back Damon Washington, the play of QB Scott Eilerman has blossomed during his senior year.
“After going 15-0 last year, he became a very confident leader in the offseason during our 7-on-7’s, in the weight room, and in August when we started our two-a-days,” LaVerde said. “He’s a vocal guy that kids respect. He has a 4.2 GPA and he is an Eagle Scout, which doesn’t happen often. He is a fine young man and happens to be a good football player, which makes it special.”
Kirtland’s offense will need to be clicking on all cylinders, as Coldwater has only given up 29 points all postseason.
Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. Saturday at Massillon’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
Be sure to check back Sunday morning for complete highlights on both games.Both Akron SVSM and Kirtland will be honored at halftime of the Browns-Chiefs game on Dec. 9 for their accomplishments during the season.