The Kinsey brothers don’t want this playoff run to end and neither do their Highland football teammates.
Highland will meet Avon at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Judy Kirsch Field in Brunswick in the Division II, Region 4 final. The Hornets are coming off a dramatic 17-14 victory over Massillon last week.
The No. 1 seed Hornets overcame a 7-3 halftime deficit to knock off the No. 4 seed Tigers at InfoCision Stadium.
“I give credit to our kids, our staff, the school and the community,” Highland coach Tom Lombardo said. “Our kids never panic and just keep playing. They know when you strip everything away, it is a football game. There is a lot that goes with it when you play a Massillon, but our kids stuck with it and stayed focused like they have been all year.”
Bruce Kinsey is the Hornets senior quarterback and junior Coltin Kinsey starts as a defensive back and wide receiver.
“Every time Bruce throws me a touchdown pass, my mom and dad just love it,” Coltin Kinsey said. “It is great to do this with him and all of these other kids on this team are my brothers, too. When Bruce and I are older, we will have a lot of stories to tell our kids.”
The Kinseys are key reasons why Highland (12-0) is playing No. 2 seed Avon (12-0) with a state semifinal berth at stake.
“It was unbelievable to get that win,” Bruce Kinsey said. “Being brothers and this close in age, this is something we will never forget for the rest of our lives. Beating a great team like Massillon is one memory as a team we will never forget. We have to move forward, though, and prepare for Avon just like we did Massillon. They are just as dangerous and just as good of a team. We have to keep playing together.”
Highland is making its sixth football playoff appearance, all since 2000, and joins the 2008 team as squads that have advanced to a regional final. The Hornets also featured solid teams in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s before the expansion of the playoff format.
“We hear stories of Highland teams that were really good and we hope that we can become one of those stories,” Coltin Kinsey said. “Our theme [assistant Kevin] Bowers had for us was ‘Write your own chapter.’ That is what we are trying to do.”
The Kinseys line up on offense with junior center Tanner Ramey, senior guard Myles Houska, sophomore guard Tyler Frederick, junior tackle Michael Doak, senior tackle Tyler Gienger and junior tight end Conor McCune.
Senior Alex Harris is the running back and seniors Cory Moncol and Collin Paich also start as receivers.
“The atmosphere was awesome [Friday],” Houska said. “You could definitely get used to playing there [in a college stadium]. The win means a lot because we work so hard in the offseason. The cliché saying ‘Hard work pays off’ really does apply in a lot of things you can do in life. This is a good example. We stuck together during all the games — Wadsworth, Nordonia, Massillon — where we faced adversity. Our team pulls through.”
Houska and Frederick join juniors Nick Corvo and Nick Haas along the defensive line.
Seniors Jonny Zaz and James Friedl III and junior Grant Wallace are solid linebackers. Moncol, Paich, Coltin Kinsey and junior Blake Phelps are the defensive backs.
“Once we got out on the field, we just lock down and play our game,” Friedl said. “We didn’t notice any of the fans and anything on the other side [Friday]. Of course, we heard our crowd. They were doing a great job supporting us and we appreciate that.”
Moncol also contributes as the punter and junior Luke Allen is the kicker.
“We take every week one week at a time and never look ahead,” Harris said. “We were not intimidated against Massillon. I didn’t see any intimidation in anyone’s eyes. We knew they were high school kids just like us and we could play with them.”
Highland finished last year with a four-game winning streak and a 7-3 record. This year’s team beat nonleague foes Wooster, Olmsted Falls and North Royalton before sweeping through the Suburban League, and beating Avon Lake and Massillon in the playoffs.
“We play hard, think positive and play together,” Paich said. “I was always thinking we would do well, but I had no idea that we would do this well. This season is amazing and a dream come true.”
Lombardo coached Mentor Lake Catholic to a Division III state title in 2001 and would love to win a second state crown.
“To see Highland develop through the seven years that I have been associated with the program and our staff has been awesome,” Lombardo said. “To get to a point where you can play a team like Massillon in an environment like that and not panic and just play football is a real great testament to the kids.”
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.