The Suburban League will be well represented this weekend in the football playoffs with its top three teams — Highland, Wadsworth and Nordonia — in action and five wins from a state championship.
Undefeated Highland (10-0) enters its matchup at 7:30 p.m. Friday with Avon Lake (8-2) as the No. 1 seed in Division II, Region 4. Highland officials decided to move the game to North Royalton due to field conditions.
The Hornets defeated visiting Wadsworth (24-23) in Week 4 and host Nordonia (28-25) in Week 9 in the regular season and have a 14-game winning streak.
“The key is really from the beginning of double sessions through our scrimmages, independent games and league games, we really tried to get better every contest,” Highland coach Tom Lombardo said. “This group stays focused on the task at hand and doesn’t look ahead. We have kept that mantra all season long and it has worked for us. We are looking to continue that going into the playoffs.”
Highland features senior captains Bruce Kinsey, Myles Houska, James Friedl III and Collin Paich.
“There is good senior leadership,” Lombardo said. “It starts with quarterback Bruce Kinsey, running back Alex Harris, wide receiver Cory Moncol and lineman Myles Houska.”
Kinsey gives Highland a dual-threat quarterback.
Junior Coltin Kinsey, Bruce’s brother, is a valuable player as a wide receiver and defensive back. Houska and junior Nick Corvo are key defensive linemen, Friedl and senior Jonny Zaz make an impact as linebackers and Paich is solid in the secondary.
Wadsworth (9-1) earned the No. 8 seed in Division I, Region 1 and will host Cleveland Heights (9-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday. The Grizzlies defeated the host Knights (34-33) in Week 10 and lost to the Hornets (24-23) in Week 4.
“Like all good teams everybody just seems to know their role and everybody makes plays when we need them to make plays,” Wadsworth coach Greg Dennison said. “We have been playing good defense, the offense keeps the ball out of the opponents’ hands and we have been playing good on special teams too.”
The Grizzlies also have four senior captains in running back Martice Jackson, two-way lineman Chandler Martinez, free safety-wide receiver Ryan Looser and cornerback-running back Scott Campbell.
Dennison said Wadsworth returned seven starters on defense this season: Looser, senior linebacker Nick Winkler, senior linebacker Spencer Shelton, senior end Greg Young, junior back Austin White, senior back Cyler Caldwell and senior lineman Jake Lamp.
“We came in and knew we would be good defensively,” Dennison said. “We had question marks on offense at some positions, but we have had guys step up.”
Dennison’s son, junior Adam Dennison, is excelling in his first full year as the starting quarterback, throwing to senior receivers Looser, Mark Casalinova and Eric Perebzak.
Nordonia (8-2) is looking to rebound following consecutive losses at home to Highland and Wadsworth by a combined four points to conclude the regular season. They will have to do it at Massillon (8-2) in a Division II, Region 4 game at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Knights coach Jeff Fox relies on junior quarterback David Murray, senior playmakers Ty Hampton, Trey Lincoln and juniors Alex Alders and Denzel Ward. Seniors Desmond Filey and Sterling Brabson are quality defenders.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org.