Identifying Stow senior football player Brian Groves by just one position is a mistake.
Stow coach Mark Nori calls him “Slash” and so do his teammates.
The nickname is appropriate because of Groves’ versatility on the field.
Groves will line up at six different positions on most game nights — wide receiver, running back, quarterback, defensive back and as a kick returner and punt returner.
“Brian is just such a great athlete,” Nori said. “It is hard to keep him off the field. He is a competitor. He does a lot of things well. For us to handcuff him and do one thing on one side of the ball or just put in one position, wouldn’t be doing him justice or us justice.”
Mentor (10-1) will get to see “Slash” up close and personal when it clashes with Stow (10-1) in a Division I playoff game at 7 tonight at Solon’s Stewart Field.
Nori said he tinkered with the idea of playing Groves all over the place last year when Andy Wargo took over the reins at quarterback. Wargo, now a junior, takes a majority of the snaps, but Groves will sub in and play the position.
“There are times where we have to pull Brian off the field because he will not pull himself off the field,” Nori said. “He is that kind of kid. He will run a whole string of defense, then he’ll return a punt and we’ll throw him in at quarterback for the next six plays and he is spent. If we don’t keep an eye on him, he will just keep going. That is something we learned the hard way in the Kent [Roosevelt] game. He was doubled over trying to catch his breath. It was a warm night.”
Welcome back playoffs
Groves, who is 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, is also a standout baseball player and just one reason why Stow is in the playoffs for the third time since the playoffs started in 1972. Stow, 1-1 in 1988’s playoffs and 0-1 in 1995’s playoffs, has several talented players.
Center Joe Kollar, linebacker-running back Matt Beech and wide receiver-defensive back-punt returner Jonte Pooler join Groves to give Stow four senior captains who are impact players. Seniors Jake Flinn and Zaire Lewis are also key receivers.
“This is great and definitely something you are never going to forget,” Kollar said. “This is something that will stick with you for the rest of your life and you will look back on it and have the best memories ever saying ‘We turned around a losing football team into a powerhouse school.’ ”
A majority of Stow’s seniors were members of Stow youth teams that went undefeated between the ages of 7-12. Nori, in his fourth season as Stow coach, has helped turned the varsity team into a winner after having just three winning seasons in the past 18 years.
“One of the mottos we came out with early in the season is we are going to take one game, one day and one play at a time,” Nori said. “We have stuck to that game plan throughout the year and from week to week.”
Becoming a winner
Stow went 4-6, 4-6 and 3-7 in Nori’s first three seasons, but started this season with wins over North Canton Hoover, Kent Roosevelt, Firestone, Cuyahoga Falls and Shaker Heights. A loss to Hudson came in Week 6, but Stow recovered to defeat Mayfield, Medina, Elyria and North Royalton to conclude the regular season.
“The seniors bought into the philosophy and they also had to go through some pretty rough times,” Nori said. “For three years we were changing culture and changing philosophy.”
Kollar and seniors Ryan Ehrhardt, Christian Schmidt and Gino Falasca form the offensive line with junior Randall Smith. Senior Ransom McPhee, juniors Jonathan Watts and Andrew Groves and sophomore Jakob Madgar are vital defensive players.
“We have learned that no one player makes a team good,” Beech said. “Coming together as a team and playing as a team with chemistry is what really makes a team great.”
Stow beat Elyria in the first round of the playoffs last week to advance to play Mentor.
“Mentor is a huge football school,” Kollar said. “It is kind of like an honor to be considered that we are good enough to be put into a category with those elite football schools like Mentor, [Cleveland] St. Ignatius, [Lakewood] St. Edward.”
Pooler said he and his teammates will not be intimidated by Mentor.
“They are a really good team and they are a powerhouse in Ohio,” Pooler said. “Every year they are in the state playoffs. We just have to come together and play hard. They have a lot more players than us, so they have more depth, but I think we have better team chemistry. If we come together and play strong, I think we can win.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com. 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.