Thursday, September 23, 2021

Al Martin pulls double duty at Cuyahoga Heights

When it comes to time management, Al Martin has proven to be an expert…or a magician.

The Cuyahoga Heights coach pulled off a rare feat last weekend by leading the Redskins to a 38-8 win over Danville in a Division VII state football semifinal on Friday then on Saturday he coached the girls’ basketball squad to a 62-51 season-opening win over Lincoln West.

“It’s easier when you’ve got really good people you’re working with, both on the football staff and on the girls’ basketball staff,” Martin said. “I have two coaches that work with me on both teams, so some of them are the same.”

Kyle Manfredonia and Tony Rinella assist Martin on both staffs while Steve Harris is an assistant basketball coach who also fills out the football team’s drive sheets during games.

This isn’t the first time Martin faced a time crunch coaching both sports.

Last fall, the Redskins reached the Division VI state football championship game by defeating Newark Catholic, 30-14, on Nov. 25. The next day, the girls’ basketball team opened the season with a 36-17 win over Martin Luther King. The Redskins also defeated the Berkshire Badgers, 38-32, during the week while Martin was preparing his game plan for the state football final.

“Our girls on the basketball team are really a good group,” Martin said. “Our coaches do a good job and they know sometimes the schedule gets adjusted a little bit, but they’re always prepared for them.”

On a typical Friday during the football season, Martin invites the rest of the coaching staff to his house for a post-game meal and film session in order to prepare for the next week’s opponent.

That didn’t change last weekend after the Danville win.

“We got home right around midnight and the coaches always get together at my house,” Martin said. “Usually it’s eat and then we watch film to try to get that all statted and watched and evaluated so we can move on to the next day. At this point in the season, we just start working on the next opponent figuring out what videos we want and doing some research, which is what we did this Friday night. We’ll work until 2:00 or 2:30 in the morning getting that done and then we have practice on Saturday morning. We watch film at 9:00 and then at 10:30 the kids go and do their work out.”

Martin began his two-sport balancing act on Oct. 27 when the girls’ practice season began.

The football team practices after school every day except for Thursday, when the squad has study tables, leaving the girls the 6:00-8:00 p.m. practice slot most days.

As the playoffs progressed, the intensity and pressure increased forcing the coaching staff to spend even more time evaluating film and preparing game plans.

The same held true for the basketball team.

“We played (Lincoln West) last year, so we looked at that film just to be sure if they did some of the same stuff that we’d be ready,” Martin said. “They had some of the same personnel, they have two really nice players, so we wanted to be prepared.”

After Saturday morning’s film review with the football team, Martin shuffled over to the gymnasium where the girls’ JV squad opened the season at 12:00. The varsity tipped off at 1:30 p.m.

The basketball team plays at Columbia on Wednesday and hosts Chagrin Falls on Saturday while the football team plays for the Division VII state title on Friday morning, so Martin has a few more days to split his time between the two squads.

“This week we have Columbia and Chagrin, so that’s a little bit more of a tall order because you have two programs that have been good for quite some time with coaches who have been there for quite some time,” Martin said. “Our staff spent some time working on Columbia and Chagrin to be sure we are ready and one of our other coaches is also preparing. We’re going to practice Monday, Tuesday nights after football so we’ll be ready to put in our Columbia stuff. Thursday we’ll start preparing for Chagrin and Friday, I assume school will be shut down, so we’ll probably come in on Saturday. Thankfully Chagrin is at home, so we’ll come in a little bit before the 1:00 JV tip and do a walkthrough for Chagrin.”

Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, 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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