Monday, September 26, 2022

2019 CVC Football Preview: Metro Division

The expansion of Chagrin Valley Conference from 16 to 22 schools led to the reintroduction of the Metro Division, which now includes a total of seven schools.

Added to the mix are new CVC schools Brooklyn, Lutheran West and Trinity. The new schools will compete with Cuyahoga Heights, Fairport Harding, Independence and Richmond Heights, who all moved out of the Valley Division.

Here’s a look at each Metro Division team:

BROOKLYN

  • Head Coach: Sean Belveal (4th season)
  • 2018 Record: 3-7 overall, 0-5 in league play
  • Returning Offensive Starters: 5
  • Returning Defensive Starters: 4
  • Offense: Shotgun Wing-T
  • Defense: 4-4 Multiple

While the Hurricanes have plenty of team speed to be competitive in the CVC, they’ll rely on several younger players to make an immediate impact this season.

Two-way linemen Johnny Collins, a senior, and Adam Coyle, a junior, anchor the Brooklyn front.

“Johnny is a high-motor kid that plays with good technique and works very hard,” Belveal said. “(Coyle) has gotten a lot stronger this year and is an incredibly hard worker.”

Senior safety Gavin Supek, senior cornerback Jamiar Tate, senior running back/linebacker Brandon Jakubecz, senior quarterback/safety Tristan Peggs, junior linebacker Dominick Barry and sophomore wide receiver/tight end Tyler Elzholz provide the Hurricanes with a talented core group of players.

Tate is a defensive captain and Jakubecz is a four-year starter who led the team in rushing yards last fall.

CUYAHOGA HEIGHTS

  • Head Coach: Al Martin (23rd year)
  • 2018 Record: 11-3 overall, 6-1 in league play
  • Returning Offensive Starters: 7
  • Returning Defensive Starters: 8
  • Offense: Triple Option
  • Defense: Multiple

Under Al Martin, Cuyahoga Heights has developed into one of Ohio’s top small-school programs and 2019 is shaping up to be another banner year on E. 71st Street.

The Redskins return a total of 15 starters and with 15 seniors on the roster, the lineup isn’t short on experience.

There’s also no shortage of talent.

“Our special teams are good. We have a good kicker, good punter, and a good snapper,” Martin said. “We have a lot of experience and a good kicking game.”

Senior Sam Shafer returns at quarterback/outside linebacker after earning first-team all-conference honors last fall.

“Sam had a really good season as a junior, but he’s worked really hard, both physically and mentally to get better,” Martin said. “We are expecting really big things out of him this year.”

Seniors Kyle Polack, Jason Bartosik and Isaiah Durant all joined Shafer as first-team all-conference honorees and senior Joe Connors was a second-team selection.

Polack is a slot/cornerback while Bartosik is a split end/safety.

“Kyle is a really athletic kid. He made a lot of big plays in the passing game and he is one of our best two-way players,” Martin said. “Jason caught a lot of passes last year, but he has gotten faster and stronger, and we are counting on him to be a really good two-way player for us this year.”

Durant and Connors are both two-way linemen. Durant plays left tackle on offense and defensive tackle on defense while Connors is the center and a defensive tackle.

“Joe is strong and athletic and a returning two-way starter,” Martin said. “(Durant) had a really good year on the offensive end of the ball last year, but we are counting on him to give us the same type of play on the defensive side as well this year.”

FAIRPORT HARDING

  • Head Coach: Cameron Ruff (3rd year)
  • 2018 Record: 3-7 overall, 1-6 in conference play
  • Returning Offensive Starters: 7
  • Returning Defensive Starters: 6
  • Offense: Pro Style
  • Defense: 3-3

Fairport enters the 2019 season in good shape numbers-wise. The Skippers went from 20 players last season to 33 this year.

“We have a lot of young kids coming out, which is going to help our JV program a whole lot,” Ruff said. “Last year, we couldn’t field a JV team and this year we will be able to do that. Our strength is going to be a lot of guys that have the experience, upperclassmen- wise. All of those guys working hard in the weight room are coming back, bulked up, bigger and stronger than they were last year.”

The Skippers also have a pair of the state’s top players in senior running back/linebacker Cody Paugh and senior tight end Ethan Witt.

Paugh was named first-team All-Ohio as a cornerback and Whitt was third-team All-Ohio. Paugh will move to linebacker after gaining nearly 30 pounds during the off-season.

“Last year, (Paugh) was our second-string running back and our best corner. He has put a lot of work in this year. He is our best tackler on the team, so we are getting him closer to the football,” Ruff said. “(Whitt) was our best offensive lineman last year and now we have a lot of guys that are more similar to his style in the offensive line to match up next to him on the O-line. He is going to be a middle linebacker and tight end for us and both guys want to be all-state players again.”

Senior Sam Schuster returns at quarterback after being named honorable mention All-CVC last season. He’ll also play a key role on defense.

“He is the strongest kid on the team,” Ruff said. “We will move him around defensively. Linebacker, D-line, he will play a little bit of everywhere. He is going to be one of our key players.”

Senior Martin Mendoza returns on the offensive line with about 20 extra pounds on his frame.

“Another kid who has had a great offseason and last year he weighed about 150 pounds and now he weighs 170 pounds,” Ruff said. “He was one of our key players on the offensive line that nearly rushed for 2,000 yards last year. We are looking to get more of that this year. He will be one of our key pieces on the offensive line.”

Junior Dominic Knesebeck will play guard and inside linebacker and sophomore Josiah Cooper is slated to run the football and play linebacker.

“As a freshman three years ago, (Knesebeck) was benching 95 pounds and squatting 150 pounds and now he is one of our strongest players and he’s got a rush to play on the field,” Ruff said. “He is in the 800-pound club and one of our strongest guys and is a force to be reckoned with this year. Josiah has had a great offseason and is a kid with a great attitude. He always wants to learn more. He will be starting both ways for us as a sophomore.”

INDEPENDENCE

  • Head Coach: Rick Adams (5th season)
  • 2018 Record: 6-4 overall, 4-3 in league play
  • Returning Offensive Starters: 9
  • Returning Defensive Starters: 9
  • Offense: Spread, Single Back
  • Defense: 4-2-5

The good news at Independence is the Blue Devils return a total of 18 starters, nine on each side of the ball. The bad news is the Blue Devils don’t have much depth.

“We have a lot of experience coming back this season,” Adams said. We need to stay healthy. We are an experienced team but we’re not a deep team. We only have 28 players on the roster, so we need to stay healthy.”

Senior Braden Sears earned first-team all-conference honors last season for his work on the defensive line and he’s just as effective at tight end.

“He brings a lot of physicality,” Adams said. “He’s a three-year starter and brings size and strength at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds. He has good hands and runs good routes.”

Junior linebacker/guard Adam Miklovich and sophomore wide receiver/defensive back Kyle Zygmunt both earned second-team all-conference honors last season.

“(Miklovich) is physically tough on both sides of the ball and very explosive to the ball,” Adams said. “(Zygmunt) has an explosive gear at wide receiver and he’s very intelligent for a young receiver.”

LUTHERAN WEST

  • Head Coach: Frank Petroff (6th season)
  • 2018 Record: 6-4 overall, 2-3 in league play
  • Returning Offensive Starters: 7
  • Returning Defensive Starters: 8
  • Offense: Spread
  • Defense: Multiple Fronts

With 15 returning starters and a large senior class, the Longhorns enter the 2019 season with experience and talent that should put them in contention for a league title.

“We have a lot of seniors on our football team this year, a lot of great leaders, as far as that class goes,” Petroff said. “The strength of our team is our skill position players but we need some of our younger players who are competing for starting spots to step up.”

Senior Austin Kim returns at quarterback. He has a strong arm and can run.

The Longhorns also feature seniors David Buch, a tackle and defensive lineman, Johnathan Bradley, a running back/defensive back, Hunter Albers, a wide receiver/free safety who also will kick, Tyler Seagro, a two-way lineman, Sean Kessel, a two-way lineman and Luke Sword, a wide receiver/cornerback.

Buch and Seagro are three-year starters. Bradley returns after starting last season.

Juniors Michael Reddick and Xavier Burns and sophomore Eddie Lewis also are expected to make an impact this fall. Reddick is a running back/linebacker who has started for three seasons while Burns is a wide receiver/cornerback. Lewis plays running back and linebacker.

RICHMOND HEIGHTS

  • Head Coach: Dante’ Darby (1st season)
  • 2018 Record: 4-6 overall, 1-5 in league play
  • Returning Offensive Starters: 5
  • Returning Defensive Starters: 6
  • Offense: Multiple
  • Defense: 4-3

A new coach and several returning starters have the Richmond Heights football team excited for the 2019 season.

The Spartans return two all-conference performers in Jarrell Owens and Jaelen Johnson.

Owens, a senior guard/linebacker, and Johnson, a senior running back/defensive back, both were named second-team All-CVC.

“Jarrell is the heart and soul of the team,” Darby said. “Jaelen brings explosiveness.”

Senior slot receiver/defensive back Rico McPherson and junior wide receiver/defensive back Tre-Von Matthews bring speed and big-play ability to the lineup.

TRINITY

  • Head Coach: Jeff McSweeney (9th year)
  • 2018 Record: 2-8 overall, 0-5 in the North Coast League
  • Returning Offensive Starters: 9
  • Returning Defensive Starters: 10
  • Offense: Spread
  • Defense: 4-3

Last season, Trinity was young and it showed as the Trojans finished with just two wins. Things could be very different in 2019 with valuable experienced gain and a wealth of returning starters in the lineup.

Still, Trinity’s success hinges on its ability to limit miscues and maximize its strengths.

“We have to eliminate mistakes; we have to minimize those,” McSweeney said. “We don’t have 50 kids on our roster. We right now have 33 kids on our roster, so avoiding injuries and eliminating mistakes is huge for us. When you are so young, you make a lot of mistakes along the way. We hope as we grow up a little bit more this year, we start to eliminate more and more of those.”

Sophomore Ian Anderson was thrown into the fire as the starting quarterback. He returns this year with a year of experience under his belt.

He’ll benefit from the return of three-year starter Sean Arth, who plays left tackle and defensive end.

“He has gotten much bigger and stronger over the offseason,” McSweeney said of Arth. “He is an upperclassman leading, still, a young team. He’ll be the strength of our team.”

Seniors Joe Ziegler, Kirk Colvin, John Castella and Giandre Avery will play key roles for the Trojans this season.

Ziegler, a wide receiver/linebacker, is returning from an ACL injury. The speedy Colvin plays slot-back and safety and will also return kicks and punts. Castella is a tight end/defensive back and Avery will play in the secondary.

Sophomore linebacker Jehmarion Moore led the team in tackles last season despite playing just six games.

Steve Harehttp://www.ohiovarsity.com
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes OhioVarsity.com, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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