Sunday, November 27, 2011

Road to the 2014 World Cup, part 1

In a two-part project, Staff Writer Chris Lillstrung breaks down the current 2014 World Cup field:

It's a long way to the 2014 World Cup, but that doesn't mean we can't keep a close eye on what's transpiring on the road to Brazil.

Here is a look at what we know so far:

A total of 208 national sides started this World Cup cycle, and 72 have been eliminated - 69 in head-to-head competition and three by withdrawal. Syria was disqualified by FIFA in the Asian region and replaced by Tajikistan. The Bahamas, ranked 154th in the world, bowed out of CONCACAF qualifying (North/Central America and the Caribbean) because of complications with its new national stadium. Mauritius, an island nation in the western portion of the Indian Ocean, was forced to withdraw because it could not afford to travel to a qualifier match at Liberia in the African region.

The 72 teams eliminated thus far represent a staggering 3.7 billion people, approximately more than half the Earth's population. This number is particularly high because five of the planet's 10 most populated areas are already done with qualifying, including:

Home to nearly 1.4 billion, the Chinese are mathematically eliminated in Group A of Asia qualifying's third round, sitting at 2-3 on six points with one match to go. The top two advance from each group to the next round, and Jordan and Iraq have those spots secured. China is the highest ranked side in the FIFA rankings already done (No. 72) and was done in by consecutive 1-0 losses to Iraq in early November.

India: To be fair, India has never been considered a world power in soccer - in part because of its affinity for cricket - sitting at No. 160 in the FIFA rankings. In fact India, home to more than 1.2 billion people, didn't even make it to this group stage in Asia, having lost, 5-2, on aggregate to the United Arab Emirates.

The other surprise among early qualifying was the ouster of Trinidad and Tobago. The world's 86th-ranked side, which made the World Cup as recently as 2006, was edged in Group B of CONCACAF's second round. T&T paid dearly for a 2-1 loss to Guyana on Nov. 11 and a 2-1 upset defeat at the hands of Bermuda in October.

In Part 2, we'll look at the five teams with the lowest FIFA rankings to earn their way into 2012 on the pitch and not through automatic placement.

- Chris Lillstrung

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bowl politics ... what a joke

The Gator Bowl is in hot pursuit of an Ohio State-Florida matchup on Jan. 2 in Jacksonville, Fla.

It's really a hot pursuit of Urban Meyer, and everyone knows it.

The bowl says it's a matchup of the No. 6 team in the Southeastern Conference against the fourth-place team from the Big Ten. Yeah, sure.

Anyone who watched the pitiful display put on by the Gators on Saturday against Florida State knows a Jan. 2 bowl bid for that team is beyond laughable. As for the Buckeyes playing on Jan. 2? Let's get serious. The only reason this matchup has a chance is because in 2010, a rule change was made that allowed bowls to tender a bid to any team with a 6-6 record before one with more than six.

In other words, make your money anyway possible, and don't worry about more deserving teams.

This is a cheap ploy for a bowl that's struggled for years with New Year's Day credibility. The selling points won't be the teams. It will be Meyer, the ex-Florida coach who's expected to be named Ohio State's main football man this week.

It will be a sideshow, with little to do with the players. The college football world does not need this farce. At least not on Jan. 2, a day normally reserved for the game's top-notch teams.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Friday, November 25, 2011

Now it's rivalry week in college football

College football is getting something right.

With the Big Ten pushing the last conference games of the regular season back to the weekend after Thanksgiving, rivalry week isn't just a TV slogan anymore.

Most of the big rivalry games are being played this weekend. The Game (Ohio-State Michigan), the Iron Bowl (Alabama-Auburn), the Apple Cup (Washington-Washington State), the Backyard Brawl (Pitt-West Virginia), the Bayou Classic (Grambling-Southern), the Civil War (Oregon-Oregon State), the Egg Bowl (Mississippi-Mississippi State), the Battle for the Commonwealth (Virginia-Virginia Tech), Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate (Georgia-Georgia Tech), the Crosstown Showdown (USC-UCLA), Florida State-Florida and Clemson-South Carolina are all today or Saturday. Having them all on a holiday weekend makes for great timing.

A few rivalry games aren't being played this weekend. The other The Game (Harvard-Yale) was last week, as was the Big Game (Cal-Stanford). The Bedlam Series (Oklahoma-Oklahoma State) will be Dec. 3, mainly because the Big 12 doesn't have a championship game anymore. America's Game (Army-Navy) is scheduled for Dec. 10.

A couple rivalry games likely won't be played at all beginning in 2012. Texas-Texas A&M and the Border War (Missouri-Kansas) appear be off the schedule when A&M and Mizzou head for SEC riches beginning next year. The Backyard Brawl could be in danger when West Virginia leaves the Big East for the Big 12 and Pitt goes to the ACC.

Conference realignment also forced the Holy War (BYU-Utah) to be played in September this year. A couple other rivalry games are played early in the season - the Red River Rivalry (Oklahoma-Texas) and the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (Florida-Georgia).

- Howard Primer

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Chagrin Falls and Kirtland cut from same football cloth

So, if you don't have any allegiance to Chagrin Falls or Kirtland, but you want to go to a state semifinal and root on a local team, which one do you follow?

Criteria in this case is tough to separate.

Both teams are 13-0, state-ranked and were the No. 1 seed in their respective regions.

Both have elite head coaches who could easily be at bigger programs, but don't look like they have any interest in leaving their team anytime soon. Both Tigers coach Mark Iammarino and Hornets coach Tiger LaVerde are offensive coaches who call plays and let the defense run itself. Both have unbelievable talented defensive coordinators and dominating defenses that have led them to a spot in the final four.

Both Chagrin Falls and Kirtland are members of the Chagrin Valley Conference with avid support from tight-knit communities. Both pride themselves on running the football, but have the kind of athletes that make diversity an issue for the opposition.

The Tigers and Hornets are two teams that are very similar. Two head coaches on top of their game and two communities who are supportive and very close.

So, where are you going on Friday night? Heading to Uniontown Lake for Chagrin Falls, or Canton Central Catholic for Kirtland?

Tough call, either one is just like the other.

Good luck to both, and hopefully we will see you next weekend in the state championships in Stark County.

- Bill Tilton
Twitter: @NHPreps

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Week 12 football picks

Each week, Sports Editor Mark Podolski picks five games, four against the spread: one high school, two college and two NFL.

Not a good week at all, going 1-4, and the only right pick was Michigan! This is the week to turn it around and improve on that overall record of 29-25.


Kirtland vs. Bucyrus Wynford: Wynford rallied from a 27-0 deficit to win its regional final game, 56-48, in overtime. It's probably not a good idea to fall behind by 27 points against this stingy Kirtland defense. The Hornets seem determined to finish this season in historic fashion. PICK: Kirtland 31, Winford 10


Ohio State (7.5) at Michigan: The Buckeyes can't throw the ball, and the defense is struggling too. Then, there's that Urban Meyer thing lingering. OSU plays with pride and toughness, but it's not enough to bring home a win. Take the points though. PICK: Michigan 26, Ohio State 20

LSU at Arkansas (12.5): Don't sleep on the Razorbacks, who have won three of the last four in this series, including a 50-48 shocker when LSU won the BCS title in 2007. Arkansas has plenty of firepower to score an upset, but the Tigers' defense is nasty. LSU wins, but Arkansas covers. PICK: LSU 34, Arkansas 31


Green Bay at Detroit (+6): The Packers are 10-0 and the Lions are 7-3, but something tells me Detroit wants this landmark victory to tell the NFL we're legit. Upset special on turkey day. PICK: Detroit 38, Green Bay 37

Browns (+7.5) at Cincinnati: The Browns showed improvement on offense last week, but can they do it two weeks in a row? The feeling is no. PICK: Cincinnati 21, Browns 13.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Monday, November 21, 2011

Some suggestions for the OHSAA

As we enter the state semifinals, here's a few thoughts that will never get heard by the OHSAA but I felt like getting them off my chest anyway.

1. Do a little more due diligence in assigning neutral sites for rounds 2-4. The geography issues are there as well as some problems as far as accommodating the media with wireless, parking, programs,etc. That might not sound like a big deal to the fans, but if we can't do our job, you don't get proper coverage that night or the next day.

2. The Division I regional semis should be played at Browns Stadium. Make it happen, don't make excuses. That eliminates some of the "homefield" advantages and would make for a great doubleheader just like they have in Cincinnati in Region 4.

3. Don't give out passes to every regional director and his 5 kids for the state championship games. The pressboxes look like Laguardia Airport on Thanksgiving. It is more than slightly annoying.

4. TV games are great, but on Fridays with a 7:37 start and TV timeouts, it makes for a long night. How about 7 p.m. start for both nights?

5. Wouldn't statewide box scores and stats be nice? Especially once you get down to the state semis, there are only 12 games left to be covered so why not provide the fans with official numbers from the action? With all the "observers" and hangers-on that graze in the pressbox waiting for bottled water and pizza, maybe one of the OHSAA denizen could grab a pencil and a legal pad and jot down some rushing statistics.

Just a few thoughts.

- BTilton@News-Herald.c0m
Twitter: @NHPreps

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chagrin Falls, Kirtland playoff tidbits

With Chagrin Falls and Kirtland practicing for state semifinals to be played Friday, here are some playoff tidbits about the Tigers and Hornets:

Chagrin Falls is the second area team to advance to the state semifinals three years in a row. Chardon also did it from 1993-95. The Hilltoppers were 1-2 in that stretch with the victory leading to the 1994 D-II state championship. The Tigers are 2-0 in state semis with their third appearance set for Friday. Three other area schools have made appearances in state semifinals two years in a row – Hawken, Lake Catholic (three times) and Mentor.

Kirtland is the first area school to win a regional title in Division V (The O.J. McDuffie Hawken teams of the late 1980s and VASJ’s 2003 squad were in Division IV). After losing in the first round in their first four playoff appearances, the Hornets have won at least two games in their last three postseasons – 2008, 2010 and this year.

The Chagrin Valley Conference has three teams in the state semifinals – Aurora (12-1) in Division II, Chagrin (13-0) in Division III and Kirtland (13-0) in Division V.

Chagrin Falls is a state-best 40-3 since the beginning of the 2009 season.

- Howard Primer


Breaking down the seeds

Now that the state final four is set in each division for high school football, I thought it might be interesting to put together a breakdown of the 24 remaining teams and their seeds:

No. 1s: 11
No. 2s: 5
No. 3s: 4
No. 4s: 1
No. 5s: 2
No. 6s: none
No. 7s: 1
No. 8s: none

To the surprise of no one, 16 of the 24 left standing were in the top two - including our remaining N-H area contingent, Chagrin Falls and Kirtland, both No. 1s.

The lowest seed remaining in Ohio is Hicksville, a No. 7 which took Division V, Region 18 with a 34-7 win over longtime Northwest Ohio small-school power Patrick Henry in the regional final. The Aces started 0-2 with losses to Archbold and Coldwater and have not been on the business end since.

For the record, the only No. 8 seed to make it out of the opening round was Versailles, which pounded Region 20 top seed West Liberty Salem, 48-21, before bowing out to Clearwater. Also, there were only three No. 6s that made it to their respective regional finals - Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, West Jefferson and Minster.

In other words, Cinderella - at least by definition from the computer - has a tough time getting to the last dance.

- Chris Lillstrung

Mentor senior stands (on crutches) for everything right with high school football

Mentor senior linebacker Regis Coustillac lived out a nightmare on Saturday.

In his final game in a Cardinals uniform, he suffered a knee injury early in the first half and was unable to finish with his teammates as Mentor fell to St. Ignatius, 23-17, in a regional final at Lakewood Stadium.

Yet, during the Cardinals' rally in the second half, Coustillac was the team's biggest cheerleader, playing to the crowd and keeping his teammates on the sidelines in the game. It was a scene that won't get a lot of attention in the retelling of the Wildcats' win, it deserves to be mentioned.

Coustillac is an incredibly talented player and an articulate young man. He was rendered to the bench and saddled with crutches, but his passion for Mentor football and his teammates never took a hit.

It was more than refreshing, it was what high school sports - at the end of the day - should be all about.

Coustillac was a shining example on a somewhat bleak night for Mentor of how to conduct yourself as a student-athlete.

No doubt, he should be proud of his year on the gridiron, but equally proud of his attitude even while dealing with disappointment and injury.

- Bill Tilton

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Week 11 football picks

Each week, Sports Editor Mark Podolski picks five games, four against the spread: one high school, two college and two NFL.

Another 3-2 week is OK, but 0-2 making college picks isn't. The season mark is 28-21. Here we go:

Mentor vs. St. Ignatius at Lakewood Staidum: A spot in the Division I state semifinals is at stake here, and the team to make the fewest turnovers will likely advance. The Cardinals turned it over seven times last week against Solon and still won. Just a hunch, but Mentor takes care of the ball and survives for at least one more week. PICK: Mentor 38, St. Ignatius 31


Penn State (+5.5) at Ohio State: The Penn State scandal hits the road, but unfortunately for the Nittany Lions, they won't bring their offense because they don't have one. PICK: Ohio State 23, Penn State 6

Nebraska (+2.5) at Michigan: A chance at a top-flight bowl game and a possible 10-win season is on the line for both teams. Wolverines QB Denard Robinson is expected to play. PICK: Michigan 27, Nebraska 17


Jacksonville at BROWNS (+1): Team trainwreck continues to be a disaster for Browns faithful. This season is already a lost one ... again. PICK: Jacksonville 17, Browns 10

Philadelphia (+5.5) at N.Y. Giants: The Eagles dream team is now a nightmare, and it appears QB Michael Vick won't play for Philadelphia. PICK: N.Y. Giants 24, Phiadelphia 13

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo


Friday, November 18, 2011

The PAC should be renamed the Snow Belt Conference

Give credit to the new Lake Effect Conference, which Andrews Osborne will be joining in 2012-13, for being creative with its name.

It isn't easy for a league to come up with a name when the members share few characteristics. Take the Northeast Ohio Conference. The two things all of the schools in the NOC have in common are 1) they're public and 2) they're in suburban Northeast Ohio. It's not much to go off.

So we have a lot of Lakes, Eries, Valleys, Rivers and compass points that don't necessarily identify who's in the conference unless you already know.

One league doesn't have to settle for that, though. The eight schools in the Premier Athletic Conference -- Chardon, Geneva, Lakeside, Madison, North, Riverside South and University -- should embrace the area they are in and rename themselves the Snow Belt Conference.

It's an opportunity for instant identification. When the first band of flurries fly in off Lake Erie each winter, do the television stations send their news trucks to North Olmsted, Westlake, Brecksville or Bedford? No, they go to Chardon, the heart of the Snow Belt.

Principals shouldn't need a calamity day to think this over. It's a perfect fit.

Changing the name would address another issue, too. Since the league was founded in 1998, the closest the PAC has come to winning a state championship in a team sport was Chardon's state runner-up football team in the PAC's first year, the Hilltoppers' final four appearance in 2003, and the South baseball team making it to a state semifinal this past spring (University is not a member in swimming). The PAC has had some success in individual sports, for sure. But the "premier" part of the name could still use some boosting.

In the PAC's defense, it hasn't had numbers on its side. It had five teams from 1998-99 until 2006-07. Lakeside joined in fall 2007. US and Geneva joined two years ago in everything except football, and they're both full-time in football as of this year.

Now the PAC is at full strength, and now is a great time to brand itself the Snow Belt Conference.

Nothing under the sun is original, so I might not be the first to call for this name change. But I'm at least the most recent, and it's something that should happen.

- Howard Primer


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tebow, Broncos could be trail blazers

It's no secret NFL teams are concerned with the way quarterbacks are being groomed in college these days.

Turn on your TV on Saturdays and you will see a much different game then the one played on Sunday.

On Sundays, the QBs, for the most part, all play the same: under center, three-, five- or seven-step drops, and in the shotgun on third down.

In college, there are QBs acting as the team's running back, QBs playing in five-receiver sets, QBs running the option. Very few are in pro-style offenses. The most obvious is Stanford's Andrew Luck, which is why teams are drooling at his prospects.

Many others, Houston's Case Keenum, Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden, Michigan's Denard Robinson, Baylor's Robert Griffin III and Clemson's Tajh Boyd, to name a few, will be enigmas for NFL teams when draft eligible.

Tough, I say. Credit the Broncos, who have scrapped their offense and made it adaptable to the skills of Tim Tebow. Coach John Fox conceded the change, saying if Denver ran its regular offense with the former Florida QB, the Broncos "would be screwed."

Maybe if Tebow and the Broncos keep winning it will be proof that an offense other than the "pro-style" can work in the NFL. The league might not have any other choice.

College football is a free minor league for the NFL, and it has no control on how college QBs are developed, nor should it ever. Behind closed doors, you know the NFL would like to control development at the college level. Again, tough.

Maybe it's time the NFL adjusts to the new influx of college QBs soon to be entering its league, instead of making the college QBs adjust to the NFL.

It might make Sundays that much more enoyable for football fans.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why don't football playoff venues have wireless?

Last Friday, I drove to Warren to cover the Division III regional semifinal high school football game between Chagrin Falls and Ravenna.
What amazed me was Mollenkopf Stadium did not have wireless.
How does a stadium hold a playoff football game and not have wireless?
Instead of going back to the press box to write my story after the game, I had to drive to the nearest McDonald's.
I sat in my car for over one hour transcribing my notes and typing up my story. Luckily, I connected to the wireless at McDonald's just fine so I made my deadline which was before midnight.
I'm returning to Mollenkopf Stadium again on Friday to cover Kirtland's Division V regional final game against Columbiana Crestview.
At least now I know they don't have wireless.
Luckily, I know where I can find the nearest McDonald's.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

Monday, November 14, 2011

Things to do instead of watching NBA this winter

Doesn't sound good for NBA basketball any time soon. Some Cavs fans would argue that we didn't have NBA quality basketball in town last year, so what's the difference?

The owners don't want to budge and neither do the players. What's a few billion dollars between friends, huh?

If there is no NBA season, here are some suggestions on other things to do for those of you who aren't exactly heartbroken that the Association will be dormant.

- Take seven extra months to complain about the Browns

- Pay attention to the Cleveland State men's basketball team, the Vikings have earned it

- Reorganize your sock drawer

- Read the new ESPN book, if you start before Christmas you will almost be done before the NBA Finals would have concluded in June

- Take your talents - and your children - to South Beach and show LBJ what it's like to be on vacation instead of unemployed

There are plenty of options that can occupy the missing NBA season.

No crying for pro roundball from this corner.

- Bill Tilton
Twitter: @NHPreps

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Play the site assignment regional matching game

So, we know who is playing who, but where are they playing?

Here are just a few guesses for our local teams.

Mentor vs. St. Ignatius - The obvious choice and most people's consensus is Lakewood Stadium. Byers Field would be giving the Wildcats a home game. Brunswick is possible but that is a long way to send the top-seeded Cardinals. Lakewood is a 90% favorite.

Chagrin Falls vs. Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary - Buzz is there are only two sites in the running for this game. Bedford and Solon. Bearcat Stadium would be familiar to the Fighting Irish, who just knocked off Lake Catholic there on Friday. Solon would seem to favor the Tigers more geographically, but the OHSAA owes them one from last week's roadie to Warren Harding.

Kirtland vs. Columbiana Crestview - This is a tough one. Geographically, it is not an easy mesh. Word on the street is maybe Mollenkopf Stadium in Warren? How about Nordonia or Ravenna? At least the Hornets won't have to worry about being sent 65 miles south to Green again.

We will all find out at roughly 2 p.m. on Sunday.

- Bill Tilton

State champion - and that's it?

The aftermath of state finals in high school team sports is fascinating.

It's sad to watch the runners-up, teenage athletes who aren't entirely certain what to do with their understandable emotion but 99 times out of 100 show a great deal of class in defeat.

(There are exceptions, but we'll stay classy here and not cite examples that may or may not have involved throwing medals in the trash.)

It's exciting to see the state champions, watching countless hours of work culminate in the reward of being the best on the biggest stage.

Yet even when you reach such a goal, something you and your community will remember forever, there's one part of it nobody quite takes into account.

The finality is so sudden.

Take soccer, for example. In my decade covering the sport in this area, I've never had a state champion - area teams are 0-5 in state finals during my tenure. (Insert joke about me being the kiss of death here)

But watching the opposite touchline, it's such an odd circumstance if you think about it. You learn how to kick a soccer ball when you're, say, 7 years old, and you advance through to the high school ranks with the hope of one day bringing a state championship to your school.

Then when it does happen, you get the trophy, walk over to the goalmouth and get the team picture. And that's it. As soon as you get the trophy, you're on your way home.

Football is also a prime example. About a half-hour after the Division IV state title game last year in Massillon after it beat Chagrin Falls, I watched Columbus Hartley players quietly file onto their buses. The job was done, and apparently so was the celebration of a momentous occasion.

Let's be clear - no one is expecting if you win a state title in a team sport in, say, Columbus, that you're going to get a police escort up Interstate 71 in a victory parade with your fans lining the route.

Still, for all the rightful focus teams put on winning a state title, it's amazing to watch the aftermath when they actually do.

It seems like winning the lottery, and then wondering what you'll have for breakfast tomorrow morning.

It's all very odd.

- Chris Lillstrung

Friday, November 11, 2011

Area prep football record book gets a rewrite

The page in the area high school football record book for single-season totals underwent a rewrite this season. Here's a look at the top 2011 additions:

(Regular-season only)

-- South running back Kareem Hunt rushed for 2,289 yards and scored 240 points. Both are the best totals in those categories.

-- Mentor quarterback Mitch Trubisky set the area record for passing yards with 3,085. He's also second all-time in completions (196), fourth in attempts (305) and fourth in touchdown passes (31).

-- Ben Josipovic of North had 68 receptions, good for third all-time in that category.

-- Cameron Kavan of Mentor had 66 catches, putting him right behind Josipovic in fourth. He's also the third player to go over 1,000 yards in receiving in a regular season (1,037).

-- Danny LaRosa of Ledgemont scored 216 points, third-best in area history. He also became the fifth running back to go over 2,000 yards in a season (2,031).

-- South's offense gained 4,788 yards, second-best all-time (the 2010 Rebels are first). Mentor this year is third at 4,725.

- Howard Primer


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Week 10 football picks

Each week, Sports Editor Mark Podolski picks five games, four against the spread: one high school, two college and two NFL.

A respectable 3-2 week puts the season mark at 25-19, so let's go.


Mentor vs. Solon at Byers Field: The Cardinals dismantled the Comets the last time these teams met. Solon is a bit healthier this time around for the second round of the playoffs, so it should be more competitive, but in the end, Mentor has much too much offense. PICK: Mentor 34, Solon 21


Ohio State at Purdue (7.5): For a team that can't throw the ball a lick, it's difficult to lay more than a touchdown, especially on the road. The feeling here is it's a bit closer than Vegas predicts. PICK: Ohio State 27, Purdue 21

Nebraska at Penn State (3.5): My commentary of the week: This game should not be played at Beaver Stadium. The Nebraska brass is already saying its fearful for its team and fans on Saturday. Considering the actions of the student body after Joe Paterno was fired late Wednesday night, I can't blame it for feeling that way. As for a pick, I'm going with the team with no distractions. PICK: Nebraska 17, Penn State 7


St. Louis (+2.5) at Browns: Expect Rams running back Steven Jackson to gash the Browns defense, just like all backs have this season. With a healthy Sam Bradford taking snaps, I'll take St. Louis outright. PICK: St. Louis 21, Browns 10

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati (+3): Are the Bengals for real? I'm a believer, but this is the big-time in the AFC North. Cincy is close, but not there yet. PICK: Pittsburgh 24, Cincinnati 17

- Mark Podolski

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Andrews Osborne Academy holds first-class event for Kyle McPhillips

Andrews Osborne Academy held a special event Wednesday morning.
For the first time in AOA history, a student athlete signed a Division I athletic scholarship.
Senior Kyle McPhillips, one of the top junior tennis players in the country, announced she will be attending UCLA.
AOA Athletic Director Vance Linaman, Head of School Charles Roman, several faculty, students and staff were on hand for the announcement.
It was an all-around memorable day for a fun-loving girl who just happens to be a great tennis player.
"My life is not just tennis," McPhillips said. "I have other things going on in my life. My world doesn't revolve around tennis. It's my friends, my friends, my friends."
McPhillips has a solid support group which includes not only her friends, but parents, siblings, dedicated teachers, coaches and more.
The environment has helped her thrive.
She is in a good situation and it shows.
Her hard work is paying off.
It's been an exciting journey for the 17-year-old standout and it's about to get even more exciting.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The OHSAA has some explaining to do

Kirtland gets sent to Green High School? Chagrin Falls gets sent to Warren Harding?


The Ohio High School Athletic Association has a tough job, but you will get no sympathy from folks who root for the top-seeded Hornets or the top-seeded Tigers. The neutral site assignments came out for the regional semifinal high school football games, and Kirtland and Chagrin Falls were left shaking their helmets.

I don't understand the geographical explanation, but I guess it is what is. But what it is ... is wrong!

Treat No. 1 seeds better than that. Start figuring a way to be fair to all teams, there are too many venues available to believe this is the best you can do.

What a mess. Shouldn't bother either team, but as a high school football fan and a member of the media who deals with the OHSAA all the time, it bothers me.

Period, end of discussion.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

No. 32 will go down in history

These crazy first fall Saturdays in November every year - with Week 11 playoff football, regional final volleyball and soccer and state cross country - already have their place of fear among staffers at The News-Herald.

This particular edition, though, will be one I will not soon forget because of just how crazy it was - on my 32nd birthday no less.

Here's a quick recap:

- Watched Mayfield, our No. 1 area boys soccer team all year, lose a heartbreaker to St. Ignatius, 2-1, in overtime, with raw emotion understandably pouring out from the area squad, and that's always tough from a human standpoint

- Asked two Mayfield students how they were doing despite them not asking me initially even though I thought they were and getting a weird stare in the process

- Talked to Hawken boys soccer coach Dani Giulvezan on my cell in the car about the Hawks' 3-0 win over Doylestown Chippewa while in a traffic jam until a Rocky River policeman thankfully intervened and got cars moving (I wanted the cars to get moving, mind you - not Dani)

- Tried to figure out how to make it from a 3 p.m. soccer match at Rocky River that I left close to 5:30 p.m. to a 7 p.m. football game at Berlin Center Western Reserve (Mahoning County) in an hour and change legally

- Made great time down the Ohio Turnpike to the Lordstown exit that I needed - until the self-pay toll machine wouldn't accept tickets from the person in front of me and I and we had to use the truck driver's window, which meant opening the door, standing on my toes and feeding the ticket in, which had to make for funny surveillance video in what became a 15-minute process while pressed for time

- Finally made it to Berlin Center with 10 minutes to spare, and let's just say not a moment too soon for a certain reason to which we can all relate

- Watched the area team, VASJ, unfortunately go about 2 1/2 quarters between first downs in a 33-6 loss

- Had a "fool proof" plan to use the free wifi at a Turnpike rest stop on the way back to send my two game stories, only to discover at 11 p.m. the wireless didn't work, so I was stuck

- In turn, N-H clerk Jim Finlayson was very kind in taking dictation from me over the phone so our page layout people could get my stories at a decent hour

- Not doing my video analysis of Mayfield-Iggy until 12:30 a.m. - more than seven hours after the match ended

- Not eating anything for 12 hours from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m.

And then finally being done.

Special thanks to those who wished me a happy 32nd, and if you'll excuse me, I'm counting Sunday as my unofficial birthday now.

Sometimes, this is not a glamorous life, and this scenario on my birthday no less proves it.

- Chris Lillstrung

Friday, November 4, 2011

Ohio State or big-school state title game - how about both?

The Division I football state championship game might feature a lot of people with one eye on the field and the other on a smart phone beginning this year.

Ohio's big-school state final is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Dec. 3, about an hour before the Big Ten championship game kicks off in Indianapolis. If Ohio State advances to the conference title game, that will leave plenty of fans at Fawcett Stadium wanting updates during the second half of the prep game.

In 2006, the start of the Ohio State-Michigan game was pushed back to 3:30 p.m. from its traditional noon start. All of the high school regional finals scheduled for 7 p.m. that night were moved up to noon or played the previous evening. It wasn't for the convenience of fans. It was because volunteers who work the games wouldn't have arrived at the game on time.

The D-I state championship game would be much more difficult to move. It is broadcast live on television, and there are two other title games that day.

Beginning in 2014, the OHSAA has a two-year contract to play all six state finals in Ohio Stadium. It should make for an exciting weekend if the Buckeyes are playing in the Big Ten title game with a BCS bowl game or national championship game berth on the line.

It could affect attendance at the high school final, though. For example, it's highly unlikely you'll ever see the NHL play its New Year's Day outdoors game at a Big Ten stadium as long as there's a chance the home football team gets picked for the Outback or Capital One Bowl, which are played in the afternoon that day.

So you could have a scenario in which casual fans have to decide between sitting in the stands in December weather while checking Ohio State on the radio or on their phones, or relaxing on the couch in front of a TV in a warm living room. The Buckeyes would provide a convenient excuse not to go.

- Howard Primer

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Week 9 football picks

Each week, Sports Editor Mark Podolski picks five games, four against the spread: one high school, two college and two NFL.

A 3-2 week puts the season record at 22-17, so let's make it two straight winning weeks. Here we go:


Benedictine at Lake Catholic: I've picked against the Cougars two straight times, so I'm not doing it for a third straight time. Lake hammered the Bengals in the regular season. PICK: Lake Catholic 28, Benedictine 14


Indiana (+27.5) at Ohio State: The Buckeyes found some offense last week in their stirring win over Wisconsin. Expect OSU to run over the struggling Hoosiers. PICK: Ohio State 38, Indiana 10

LSU (+4.5) at Alabama: The Game of the Century is being played in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and with that nasty defense and running back Trent Richardson, I'll go with the Crimson Tide. PICK: Alabama 27, LSU 13


BROWNS (+11) at Houston: It's difficult to pick the Browns in any respect with their inept offense. PICK: Houston 24, BROWNS 6

Green Bay at San Diego (+5.5): Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has been awesome, and Chargers QB Phillip Rivers has not. Go with the Pack, big-time. PICK: Green Bay 38, San Diego 24

- Mark Podolski

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mentor freshman Kinsey Robinson impresses

Mentor freshman cross country runner Kinsey Robinson has impressed me this season.
She was the top area finisher at the Division I Boardman regional cross country meet last Saturday.
She finished ninth in 20:24.33.
Following the race, Robinson was simply grateful she qualified for this Saturday's state meet. She repeatedly complimented her teammates and coaches for helping her get through the race in a solid time.
Robinson is young with a bring future ahead of her.
I believe she has the potential to go to state every year of her high school career and to graduate as one of the top runners in Mentor (and area history).
She has what it takes.
It's nice to see kids like Robinson succeed.
She will be one to watch for many years to come.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia