Monday, March 27, 2023

Blue Devils dominate Friday Night Futbol

INDEPENDENCE—Friday nights in the fall have long been reserved for high school football but on Aug. 21 soccer stole the show at Alumni Field at Stan Skoczen Stadium.

Independence opened the 2015 season with an 8-0 win over visiting Trinity in what was dubbed by the Ohio High School Athletic Association as, “Friday Night Futbol, presented by Columbus Crew SC.”

“It was a lot of fun,” said Independence coach Ryan MacRaild. “It was a great initiative by the OHSAA sponsored by the Columbus Crew to offer this opportunity to start the season a day early. It was great to have the community out here. We’ve never had that many people in the stands for a game probably ever.”

The Blue Devils played in front of a packed house that included the marching band, cheerleaders and dozens of youth players.

“The marching band was great,” MacRaild said. “We’ve got 12 kids in the marching band so it was kind of nice for them to pull double duty tonight.”

Freshman Sam Belitz banged the drum during the band’s pregame show then he went out and performed a magnificent solo act on the field. Belitz scored three first half goals as the Blue Devils built a 7-0 halftime lead over the Trojans.

“Sam is one of those kids that always had a soccer ball with him dribbling around the community,” MacRaild said. “I was looking forward to him getting up here (at the high school). It’s nice that he’s got a great crew around him to get him the opportunities to score. A lot of attention is going to be paid to him now but we’ve got a lot of other talented players that are going to draw attention too, so that’s going to open up a few different people this season to score. “

Senior Kevin Mewhinney added a pair of goals in the win.

“Kevin was great,” MacRaild said. “He’s got a lot of speed and he’s a big kid. He’s got a lot of hustle. He works hard out on the field. He’s a good senior to have in my back pocket for sure.”

David Wisniewski, Wyatt Kunevicius and Tim Marcinko also scored for the Blue Devils.

Sophomore Tyler Korecko and junior Jake Laski combined to shut out the Trojans. Korecko and Laski are slotted to share the goal keeping duties in place of Joe Bernstein, who graduated in June after setting a school record with 12 shut outs last season.

“It was nice because Joe “The Wall” was sitting in the stands,” MacRaild said. “He helped us a little bit in preseason camp. We’ve got a sophomore and a junior that are going to pull double shifts this season and work together. The future is bright at goalkeeper. They’re working hard and improving every day.”


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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