My observations from Archbishop Hoban's 27-26 overtime win against Garfield in the season-opener for both teams:
* MORGAN'S MVP: No question, my pick is 5-foot-9, 175-pound Garfield junior running back Tyson Gulley. He rushed for a game-high 225 yards on 25 carries. Gulley rushed for over 130 yards- just in the first quarter, with touchdown runs of 60 and 58 yards.
What I like about Gulley is the explosiveness he has once he hits the line of scrimmage. His quickness allows him to get to the hole, then, his speed and ability to change directions and cutback without losing much speed is the key to his impressive running style.
* OTHER MVP CONTENDERS: There were several, including Garfield freshman running back and defensive back Toneo Gulley, Tyson's little brother. Playing in his first varsity game, Toneo (5-7, 170) was impressive. He showed flashes of speed and quickness equal to his brother.
But what impressed me the most was his skills defensively. He registered eight tackles but he deflected several passes intended for Hoban senior receiver/tight end Chris Sarkis, that could have been big plays.
On two occasions, Sarkis was open and waiting to catch both passes on stride. But at the last moment, Toneo's speed enabled him to make up ground and get to the ball to knock it away. For a freshman, playing in a pretty overwhelming atmosphere for a youngster, he handled himself like a veteran.
For Hoban, there were two MVP contenders, in my opinion. The first was junior punter Paul Kramer. His play actually changed the entire complexity of the game and allowed the Knights to get back in the game.
For instance, Hoban had the ball to start the third quarter, after trailing 14-3 at halftime. The Knights opened the second half with an impressive drive, with nice runs from Laymon Carter III, who finished with 94 yards, and Dominic Williams, who had 74 yards.
However, Hoban's drive stalled and the Knights had to punt. Kramer's kicked was downed at Garfield's 2-yard-line by Chris Bernardo, who played a tremendous game on special teams. A few plays later, Hoban registered a safety to cut the lead to 14-5.
The Knights got the ball on Garfield's free kick and quickly scored cutting the lead to 14-12.
Then, in the fourth quarter, Kramer had another quality punt that was downed by Bernardo at Garfield's 5-yard line. The Rams couldn't move the ball and had to punt, and once again, Hoban scored and took the lead for the first time at 20-14 with 7:29 left in the game.
When Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel was the head coach at Youngstown State, he never failed to emphasis the importance of special teams. In fact, he always contended, and still does, that the punt is the most important play in football, because of the potential for some many things- good or bad- that can happen.
Hoban coach Ralph Orsini saw the punt work in his team's favor.
""We went into the game thinking that special teams would be a key for us because we have two pretty good kickers,'' Orsini said. ""He was referring to Kramer, of course, and also junior kicker Zack Christensen, who booted a 30-yard field goal and also had several deep kickoffs, helping the kickoff coverage limit Garfield's big returns.
Hoban's other MVP contender was senior quarterback Josh Masters. He couldn't establish a passing game in the first half, so he got things going with his running ability. Masters finished with two touchdown runs and converted on two rushing two-point conversions.
And finally, a special mention goes to Garfield junior offensive lineman Kenny Blevins. This young man is 6-0, 300 pounds and playing under hot and humid conditions, he played the entire game, both ways. His jersey was soaked after the game and although he was disappointed in the loss, he left it all on the field and that's all you can ask from the young man.
Even longtime Hoban team physician Joseph Congeni took notice of Blevins' performance. ""That young man played a heck of a game, especially given the conditions,'' Congeni said.
* QUESTIONABLE CALL SHOULDN'T BE QUESTIONED: Garfield coach Bob Sax opted to try to pass for a two-point conversion and win in overtime instead of running the ball. Some Garfield fans, as they left the stadium, thought the Rams should have run the ball as well.
But looking back, Sax's call made sense. First off, Tyson Gulley left the field a few plays before his little brother Toneo scored the game-tying touchdown in OT. Tyson left because of severe cramps.
Second, with the way Rams quarterback Darius Martin was playing- rolling out and making plays happen out of the pocket- Sax's idea was to let Martin do the same, thinking that Hoban would be expecting one of the Gully's to get the ball.
But Hoban defensive back Rahsheed Moore just did what good players do, he came up with a big play, stepping in front of Garfield wide receiver James Barnett at the goal line to intercept the two-point conversion ending the game.
* NICE TURNOUT: The Hoban-Garfield game always draws a health crowd because the game is on Thursday and everyone is ready to watch the first game of the season, especially players from area teams who don't open the season until the following day.
The players who are spectators crack me up because they wear their jerseys. That's not what cracks me up. It's the fact that they roll up their sleeves really high so they can let their biceps breath. I understand, after all that offseason weightlifting, they have to get those puppies some air.