Ellet senior football player Hussain Hamdan smiles as he sits down in the locker room and recalls hearing the chatter around the neighborhood as a child.
So do classmates and fellow captains Jake Fisher, Matt Geer and Dakota King.
“The parents and community told us that we could really be a special group and can really take this on,” Hamdan said. “Everybody was telling us that when we got to high school we could get to the playoffs.”
Ellet’s supporters were spot on with their prediction, as the Orangemen are preparing for their second consecutive Division II playoff appearance this week. Ellet (10-0) will host Perrysburg (8-2) in a regional quarterfinal in Region 4.
The Orangemen completed the first perfect regular season in the City Series since the 1983 Garfield Golden Rams, who finished as the Division I state runners-up. Ellet is aiming to join the Buchtel Griffins as the only members of the Akron Public Schools to win a state title in football on the field.
Buchtel accomplished the feat in Division II in 1987 and 1988. Ellet needs five more wins to hoist a state trophy.
“The playoffs was talked about a lot, and it is great to see for our seniors and our entire team that we actually showed them that we could go to the playoffs and be that team,” Hussain said. “The job is not done though.”
Ellet coach Joe Yost knows that. “We have had great moments on the football field,” said Yost, who is in his 35th season and has 211 career wins. “I will certainly think of those, but when I think of the personalities and the type of young men that we have had the privilege to deal with, from a personal standpoint this is one of the most enjoyable group of young men I have ever dealt with. They laugh, they cut up and they are ornery. The best part is when it is time for football they get serious real fast. They can get focused and play ball.”
Many of this year’s seniors got to know each other in elementary and middle school. They joined forces in seventh grade to earn the Buckeye Youth Football Conference championship in 2008 by defeating Hudson in the championship game at Green. The victory propelled them to a national tournament in Knoxville, Tenn. As an eighth-grade team, they posted a perfect record with wins over area teams, including Massillon.
Fisher is Ellet’s quarterback behind a line of Hamdan, seniors Casey Barker, Ray Greising and John Subick, sophomore Jacob Jones and freshman Lucas Renick.
Geer joins juniors Jacob Ivery and Cle’Von Burch to give Ellet a quality running game. King and seniors David Smethers and Jake Williams are the leading receivers.
“It is pretty amazing to see how far our group of kids has gone,” Fisher said. “Back-to-back City Series championships is a big deal. This is the first 10-0 season we have had and getting to host our very first playoff game is fun. The community is supporting us.”
Hamdan and Geer anchor the defense as linebackers with senior Austin Fink and junior Semir Ramic. The linemen up front are Ivery, senior Jacob Isenhart and junior Cody Hoskinson. Burch and juniors Jae’Vante Ray and Maurice Mackey are the defensive backs.
“We are excited to play and we are ready,” Hamdan said. “We are going to do what we do every week. We practice hard Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and then play the game on Friday. We do the little things. We do what our coaches ask of us and we got the experience we needed last year. Hopefully we will not make those same mistakes this year.”
Yost also praises kicker Andrew Neal, a senior, and punter Isenhart, along with two senior starters, Brandon Brake and Ray Cheek, who sustained season-ending injuries this year.
“I like the integrity of this team,” Yost said. “I think they take pride in so many areas of their life. It makes them really special. They are the kind of people you want to be around. They are good guys, they are positive and they are upbeat.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.