Sunday, September 30, 2012

You're welcome, Austintown-Fitch

When putting together our annual region-by-region playoff outlook for the high school football preview, there is one team far outside of The News-Herald coverage area that always seems to be a conundrum for me to include. At this point, it's almost become a running joke of sorts.

There have been years I've seen what Austintown-Fitch has on paper in August and include them among the top teams in Division I, Region 1.

Then there's the years in which Fitch isn't included at all, because for whatever reason on paper there seems to be a case not to have them among the field.

Like clockwork, it always seems to work the same way every time this scenario plays out.

If they are included in the N-H season preview, forget about Week 11.

If they're not included in the N-H season preview, get ready for a memorable year 90 minutes down the road in Youngstown.

This year, there was no Fitch among Region 1 contenders, and they've officially made my projection look foolish. The Falcons are 6-0, fourth in Region 1 and have yielded 21 points the last four weeks.

Billy Price is a beast on the line (and a fantastic shot putter and discus thrower during track and field season, by the way), but it seemed like Fitch would have an issue offensively after graduating the prolific Demitrious Davis at quarterback.

Five games of 35 points or more later, that concern has officially been erased.

A lot of times, I can get a good feel for who will be in the Week 11 chase - News-Herald coverage area or not - despite having no games to rely upon.

But with Fitch, it's probably a favor to the good folks of that community if they keep not getting mentioned in The News-Herald, because that means big things are ahead on Falcon Drive.

- Chris Lillstrung  | @CLillstrungNH

Friday, September 28, 2012

It's settled: The 400 is a dash

Oh, the things we debate about in the newsroom.

The past couple track and field seasons, the big question has been: "Is the 400 meters a run or a dash?"

To settle it once and for all, I asked the two foremost authorities in the area on the 400, Robert Smith and Jessica Beard.

Both Euclid graduates, Smith holds the area boys high school record with a time of 46.41 seconds, set in 1989. Beard, an Olympic hopeful after a championship career at Texas A&M,  is the state prep record holder with a 51.63, set in 2007.

 Here's what they said:

Dash it is. Beard added:

There is a third side to the debate. As a copy editor, I would argue the 400 is neither. On first reference, it's 400 meters. Thereafter, it can be 400. Further description isn't needed.

- Howard Primer

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Podcast: Mentor football coach Steve Trivisonno

Mentor football coach Steve Trivisonno talks about his team's game with Brunswick on Friday, as well as scheduling thoughts in Division I, Region 1 of the state football playoffs.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Week 5 football picks

Each week during the football season, Sports Editor Mark Podolski will pick NFL, college and high school games.

Wow, another dismal 1-4 week puts the season mark at 5-15. This is pathetic. Well, here we go:


Chardon at South: Kareem Hunt is the real deal. PICK: South, 35-21.


Ohio State (+3) at Michigan State: The Spartans defense is solid, and the OSU offense goes as does QB Braxton Miller, who will make plays but not enough. The Buckeyes cover though. PICK: Michigan State, 14-13.

Tennessee (+13.5) at Georgia: The Bulldogs are sneaky up the polls and should roll here. PICK: Georgia, 38-23.


Browns (+13) at Ravens: The pass-happy Ravens should have a field day against the Browns secondary. PICK: Ravens, 27-6

N.Y. Giants at Eagles (+2): I always go with home underdogs, especially when the teams are evenly matched. PICK: Eagles, 28-24.  

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Coaches like Richmond Height's William Cloud are invaluable

A few weeks ago, someone sent me a tweet to let me know Richmond Heights girls basketball coach William Cloud had turned in his resignation.
I called Cloud to get his side of the story, but I could not reach him. I then called Richmond Heights Superintendent Dr. Robert Moore who confirmed Cloud had turned in his resignation.
I wrote some thing short for the following day's paper, and honestly, I was disappointed when I wrote the story.
Cloud was in his first year last season as the head coach of the Spartans. Whenever I went to their practices or games, it was obvious he cared a great deal for the kids and the kids felt the same way about him.
That is why it didn't surprise me when Cloud told me today he withdrew his resignation. He decided to come back one more year because he could not let his players down.
Cloud is an assistant security guard at Richmond Height and whenever his players saw him (after he turned in his resignation), they begged him to return. Their pleas worked.
Mostly, because Cloud has a big heart. Also, Cloud is committed to making a difference at Richmond Heights.
He is in his fourth year as the school's football coach and during that span, the Spartans have won just two games. This fall, when I went to the school to do a preview on the football team, Cloud explained to me the kids were finally starting to get what he was teaching them. He felt he was reaching them, and even though the Spartans haven't been successful, they are better people for how they've dealt with a rough situation at Richmond Heights.
It is obvious Cloud cares.
He is the kind of coach you wish would win because he so deserves it. He's the kind of coach you admire for sticking with it year after year through one awful season after another.
When I asked him if he was returning to coach the football team next year, Cloud said he was undecided. Honestly, I wouldn't blame him if he didn't return to either program. There is only so much one person can take.
For now, the Spartans should enjoy having Cloud at the helm.
He is a good coach, but more importantly, he is a good person and someone who strives to make a difference in his little corner of the world.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Unbeatens across Ohio

At the midway point of the season, I thought it might be interesting to see how many high school football teams across Ohio remain unbeaten (with News-Herald area teams in bold and CAPS):

Region 1 (6 of 32): Austintown-Fitch, Cleveland Heights, North Royalton, SOUTH, St. Edward, St. Ignatius
Region 2 (2 of 28): Canton McKinley (4-0), Toledo Whitmer
Region 3 (6 of 29): Dublin Coffman, Gahanna Lincoln, Hilliard Darby, Lewis Center Olentangy, Pickerington North, Westerville South
Region 4 (3 of 30): Cin. Colerain, Lakota West, Springboro
TOTAL: 17 of 119

Region 5 (2 of 28): CHARDON, New Philadelphia
Region 6 (4 of 30): Midview, Norwalk, Tiffin Columbian, Toledo Central Catholic
Region 7 (3 of 30): Licking Heights, Tri-Valley, Zanesville
Region 8 (5 of 29): Cin. Northwest, Cin. Turpin, Mount Healthy, Tipp City Tippecanoe, Western Brown
TOTAL: 14 of 117

Region 9 (1 of 30): Niles McKinley
Region 10 (4 of 30): Bellevue, Bryan, Elida, Napoleon (4-0-1)
Region 11 (2 of 30): Marlington, West Holmes
Region 12 (1 of 30): Kettering Alter (4-0-1)
TOTAL: 8 of 120

(If you're wondering about the ties, by the way, the Week 3 Napoleon-Kettering Alter game was suspended by lightning after playing a little more than two minutes and was never restarted, instead being declared a 0-0 tie.)

Region 13 (3 of 32): Brookfield, HAWKEN, Norwayne
Region 14 (5 of 31): Bishop Hartley, Bishop Ready, Genoa Area, North Union, Ottawa Glandorf
Region 15 (3 of 30): Ironton, Minford, St. Clairsville
Region 16 (3 of 29): Batavia, Cin. Hills Christian, Clinton Massie
TOTAL: 14 of 122

Region 17 (3 of 29): Columbiana Crestview, KIRTLAND, Sugarcreek Garaway
Region 18 (4 of 29): Lima Central Catholic, Northwood, Oberlin, Patrick Henry
Region 19 (2 of 29): Bucyrus Wynford, Lucasville Valley
Region 20 (5 of 30): Cin. Country Day, Coldwater, Covington, Dayton Christian, West Liberty-Salem
TOTAL: 14 of 117

Region 21 (3 of 31): Mogadore, Shadyside, Youngstown Christian
Region 22 (2 of 30): Leipsic, McComb
Region 23 (1 of 30): Colonel Crawford
Region 24 (1 of 33): Ada
TOTAL: 7 of 124

So, with 719 high school football teams across Ohio, 74 - or about 10.3 percent - are still unbeaten, and four are from the N-H area. It'll be interesting how much of a hit that percentage takes as the second half of the season plays itself out.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Friday, September 21, 2012

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Grading new prep conference names

In 2011, I called for the Premier Athletic Conference to change its name to the Snow Belt Conference, which is more fitting. PAC officials haven't taken me up on it, but I'm still hoping.

We've had two more leagues form this year. The Lake Effect Conference gets a thumbs up for its name. But the Great Lakes League get a generic thumbs down.

If you hadn't heard of the Great Lakes League until the previous paragraph, what would you have guessed it consisted of? That's a trick question, because a conference with that name could include any group at any educational or recreational level between Buffalo and Minnesota.

For the record, it's a group of high school hockey teams that are breaking away from the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League for the 2013-14 season. This new association needs something more specific. At the very least, it needs a reference to the sport it plays.

The Power Play Conference would be accurate, because its members are the most competitive in Northeast Ohio.

If that's too over the top, how about the Crooked River Hockey League? How about just adding "hockey" and calling it the Great Lakes Hockey League? Or more specifically, the Lake Erie Hockey League?

The Lake Effect Conference, on the other hand, needs no tweaking. It consists of small private schools and home-schooled student-athletes. Andrews Osborne athletic director Vance Linamen is the league president. Kudos to him and the LEC for coming up with a name that reflects the region while being creative.

- Howard Primer

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Week 4 football picks

Each week during the football season, Sports Editor Mark Podolski will pick NFL, college and high school games.

It couldn't get worse than a 1-4 mark two weeks ago, right? Wrong. How about 0-5? Yikes. That puts the season record at 4-11. How pitiful. This is the week to turn it around. Here we go:


Kirtland at Cuyahoga Heights: This is usually one of the best small-school rivalries in Northeast Ohio every season. Both teams are 4-0, but the Hornets have had the Redskins' number lately. PICK: Kirtland, 31-10


Michigan (+3.5) at Notre Dame: The Irish defense was nasty in a win at Michigan State. Has Michigan recovered from that humbling loss to Alabama on opening night? The Wolverines have beaten Notre Dame seven straight times. PICK: Michigan, 21-20

Clemson (+13.5) at Florida State: The Seminoles rolled through two cupcakes, then hammered ACC foe Wake Forest while Clemson has look decent. This could be FSU's first step back to relevancy in terms of the national championship race, but don't count on the Tigers. PICK: Florida State, 34-28


Bills at Browns (+3): This is must-win territory for the Browns, who can't afford an 0-3 start, not with trips to Baltimore and the Giants in Weeks 4 and 5. The good news is QB Brandon Weeden and RB Trent Richardson looked good last week. PICK: Browns, 27-24

N.Y. Giants at Panthers (+2.5): This will be Cam Newton's first appearance on national TV. Don't bet against the multi-talented QB. PICK: Panthers, 34-31

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

NFL Films made Hank Stram a star

Of all the great things co-NFL Films founder Steve Sabol did for the NFL, one of the best was putting microphones on coaches during games.

It humanized the coaches and brought viewers closer to the sidelines. The results were great, and it started with Kansas City Chiefs coach Hank Stram.

Stram was an underrated coach, leading the Dallas Texans of the American Football League to the 1962 title. A few years later, he and the Chiefs lost the first Super Bowl to the Packers. In 1969, he guided the Chiefs back to the Super Bowl and were underdogs to the Vikings, but won, 23-7.

Sabol asked Stram to wear a microphone during the game, but balked at first. Later, he agreed, and the video from Super Bowl IV continues to live in NFL Films lore.

For anyone who's watched the footage, it comes down to this play: 65 Toss Power Trap.

Click here to watch highlights of Stram in Super Bowl IV.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Podcast: North football coach George Burich

North football coach George Burich talks to Staff Writer John Kampf about the youth of his team, some changes the Rangers have gone through and this weekend's game against Riverside.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Video interviews are an important part of the job

Our philosophy here at The News-Herald is digital first and print forever.
Over the years, our jobs have evolved into not just writing stories for the newspaper. We tweet, blog, post stories to the web and also do videos.
At the end of games, my responsibility is to do a video with preferably a competitor from the winning team in our coverage area.
Some athletes like to do videos while others loathe it.
I myself think it's a great addition to our print version of the story.
In fact, I believe it helps tell the story. It puts a face to a name. It allows the viewer to see the contest through the eyes of a reporter.
When I first started doing videos, I wasn't sure what to tape. The camera is kind of small and shooting plays on a football field for example doesn't make a big impact in a little video.
It's the player interviews that I think really make a difference.
For example, at the end of a volleyball game, I may interview an athlete who had the most kills on the team. I may interview a team captain, the libero or someone who really stood out on the court.
It's always exciting to hear what they have to say. In a few minutes or less, they are able to sum up an entire game in their own words. It's like listening to a mini story.
Honestly, it helps me write a better story because the athlete's perspective is so important.
If you are an athlete and you are asked to do a video interview, thank you in advance for taking the time to do it.
You are helping reporters breathe live into our stories.
We are grateful for your time.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

Sunday, September 16, 2012

National rushing standards impressive

This weekend, featured a link on its front page with the exploits of high school running back and Oregon recruit Thomas Tyner, who set the Oregon state record for rushing yards in a single game by going for - get this - 644 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Talk about a Madden-like total.

Some weeks, at the pace on which he is currently this fall, it's hard not to wonder around our area if South's Kareem Hunt could challenge the Ohio state record - 532 yards by Williamsburg's Jason Bainum in 2001.

While 644 yards by Tyner is impressive, and if Hunt were able to make another charge at 500 yards, it would be talked about for years around here, everyone has a long way to go to catch the top performances nationally.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, including Tyner, there have now been six games around the United States all-time with a running back recording more than 600 yards.

No. 1 will be tough to track down.

In a 1950 game in New Jersey, a running back named John Giannantonio apparently ran for - hopefully you're sitting down - 754 yards. If you have a moment, check out this NFHS feature story on Giannantonio - it's a great read about his record-setting exploits.

So while we rightfully marvel at our area's premier running backs through the years when they break 200-, 300- and even now 400-yard games, amazingly there's a long way to go to even break into the national conversation.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Friday, September 14, 2012

Minor league baseball playoffs tough to gauge

Baseball minor leagues crowning their champions through a playoff format sounds like a good idea. But they might was well put the team names in a drum and hold a raffle.

For this year's postseason:

-- In the Double-A Eastern League, one of the Akron Aeros' starters has been the Indians' Carlos Carrasco. He's made two one-inning rehab appearances going into Friday.

-- When the Captains started the Midwest League playoffs, their roster included 2012 first-round draft pick Tyler Naquin, an outfielder, and infielder Joseph Wendle, neither of whom played for Lake County in the regular season.

-- Attendance for the Captains' three home playoff games was 892, 887 and 789. Even combined, that crowd wouldn't fill half of Classic Park.

-- In a best-of-three series, the team with the home-field advantage could lose Game 1 on the road and go back home facing elimination. Some advantage.

The major leagues don't use best-of-three series, and they have rules about who can be on the playoff roster. But the purpose of minor leagues is to develop talent, so getting experience for players, even if they have been in a different league all season, or getting work for big-leaguers on injury rehab assignments is more important.

Regardless of who's on the roster or how they got there, it's tough to get anyone to show up to watch. Minor-league playoffs start right after Labor Day. Going by the attendance figures, they should be over by then.

Either that, or move the playoffs to spring-training facilities and hold them in advance of the fall leagues.

- Howard Primer

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Week 3 football picks

Each week during the football season, Sports Editor Mark Podolski will pick NFL, college and high school games.

Major hall-of-shame performance this week, going 1-4. The season mark stands at 4-6, so a turnaround is badly needed. Here we go:


Aurora at Chagrin Falls: This matchup has turned into a heck of a rivalry the past few seasons. The Tigers are 3-0, but have had some shaky moments. PICK: Aurora, 17-10


Michigan State (+2.5) at Notre Dame: The Spartans' defense is elite and so is running back Laveon Bell. PICK: Michigan State, 23-10

USC at Stanford (+6.5): The Cardinal has won three of their last four vs. the Trojanns. Expect Stanford to slow the game with its rushing attack, but that might not last long. PICK: USC 34-17


Browns (+10) at Bengals: The odds should be with Brandon Weeden, who can't possibly be this bad two weeks in a row. He'll improve, but it won't be enough for a win. PICK: Bengals, 27-13

Bears (+6.5) at Packers: Green Bay can't afford to start 0-2, so expect urgency from Aaron Rodgers and Co. PICK: Green Bay: 31-27.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Podcast: Lake Catholic football coach Mike Bell

News-Herald staff writer John Kampf talks with Lake Catholic football coach Mike Bell in advance of Saturday's game against Erie Cathedral Prep.

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Where we stand: Week 3

With the bulk of nonconference games in the books and league play about to commence, now is a good time - albeit an early time - to check in quickly and see how many News-Herald area football teams are currently among the top 12 in their region, courtesy of the wonderful Joe Eitel, who thankfully is back for another year of computer projections:

Region 1: The only N-H team in the top eight is South, sitting in second after its 3-0 start and one of eight unbeaten teams in the region. Mentor sits in 11th, and faces a interesting stretch coming up that features fellow N-H squad Mayfield (12th) this coming week and a trip to Brunswick in Week 6. Getting a good head of steam into that Week 7 showdown with Solon is a must. Mayfield got its lone Division II game of 2012 out of the way this past weekend, a win over Olmsted Falls.

Region 5: After some struggles in recent years, kudos to Chardon for sitting in the No. 1 spot in this region, albeit with a lot of season left to play. One of the key factors down the stretch for any team, if available, is jumping on larger-division points, and the Hilltoppers have that coming this week against winless, but Division I, North. Madison sits in eighth after its dramatic win over neighborhood rival Perry. A Week 5 trek to Chardon will be vital for both teams, needless to say.

Region 9: Big shocker - Chagrin Falls tops this region. No one saw that coming (kidding of course). After that N-H wise, Benedictine (10th) really did itself a favor edging Bedford in Week 3 after a hard-luck setback at always-formidable Steubenville. For a 1-2 Lake Catholic squad, a big game looking far ahead, building on the larger-division point mentioned earlier: The Cougars have only one D-II game remaining, Week 9 at Walsh Jesuit.

Region 13: In my preseason prognostication for this region, I did not forecast an N-H team in the mix. So far, I'll raise my hand and admit I was wrong. Kudos to Hawken for a 3-0 start that has it sitting in third, and how about Cardinal? A year after going 1-9, the Huskies are 3-0 and sitting in fifth. The folks in Middlefield have good reason to be excited. Wickliffe is in 12th, with the least points of the 2-1 teams in this region. A tip of the hat to them, but nevertheless the Blue Devils would need a lot to go right in CVC Chagrin play in order to make a move.

Region 17: Defending state champion Kirtland is the only N-H squad really factoring into the race at the moment, on track as expected at 3-0 and currently in fourth. Due to the CVC Valley schedule coming up, it might be tough to make a charge at No. 1 here because of Ursuline's hot start. The Fighting Irish are back with a vengeance and have D-II (Zanesville) points available this week.

Region 21: Fairport was a big playoff sleeper in the estimation of not only this pundit but many others before the season, and the Skippers have done nothing to disappoint at 3-0 and in second. With all due respect to the rest of the N-H area, though, the feel-good story of the year so far - even though it's on the outside looking in - is Newbury. The Black Knights are 3-0 and ninth. Yes, they have Kirtland coming up in their home opener, and in all likelihood that's probably not going to go well from their perspective. Still, considering the struggles they've had over there, they have every right to be excited right now.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Friday, September 7, 2012

Browns face a big challenge in AFC North

Playing in the AFC North has added to the difficulty the Browns have faced in their 13-year building process.

In the NFL alignment of eight divisions with four teams each, which has been in place for 10 seasons, only the NFC East has been more competitive than the AFC North. Some statistics:

-- The North has earned five of the eight AFC wild cards the past four seasons, including both of the two available in 2011. The North has earned seven of the 20 wild cards available in the 10 years of this format, the most of any AFC division. Only the NFC East bests the AFC North as far as wild cards earned. Since the alignment change in 2002, it has nine of the NFC's 20 berths.

-- In the 10 years of the current alignment the Steelers (third, 105 wins) and Ravens (seventh, 94 wins) have two of the best win totals in the NFL.

The Patriots (AFC East) and Colts (AFC South) dominate these statistics, of course. New England has 123 victories and four Super Bowl appearances in the 10 years of this alignment. Indianapolis has 111 victories and two Super Bowl appearances.

What's different about this from the Browns' perspective is they have to get past two of the AFC's best in their division instead of one. For example, the Jets made back-to-back appearances in the AFC championship game in the 2009-10 seasons. After New England, New York's divisional foes -- the Dolphins and Bills -- have only won 42.1 percent of their games since 2002.

The Browns, meanwhile, have to get past Steelers and Ravens, who have been consistently good since Cleveland re-entered the league in 1999. Even the Bengals have had their moments.

A maximum of three teams can make it from each division each year, as the AFC North did last year. You already know the Browns weren't one of those three.

If the Browns ever get it together, they'll have to do it in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL. Whenever they make it back to the playoffs, they will have been tested.

- Howard Primer

Super Bowl victories:
AFC East: 2
AFC North: 2
AFC South: 1
AFC West: 0
NFC East: 2
NFC North: 1
NFC South: 2
NFC West: 0

Super Bowl appearances:
AFC East: 4
AFC North: 3
AFC South: 2
AFC West: 1
NFC East: 3
NFC North: 2
NFC South: 3
NFC West: 2

Wild-card spots earned:
AFC East: 4
AFC North: 7
AFC South: 6
AFC West: 3
NFC East: 9
NFC North: 5
NFC South: 4
NFC West: 2

Most wins in the past 10 seasons:
1. Patriots 123
2. Colts 111
3. Steelers 105
4. Eagles 99
5. Packers 99
6. Chargers 96
7. Ravens 94
8. Saints 90
9. Giants 88
10. Falcons 87
T-29: Browns, Raiders, Rams 56

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Week 2 football picks

Each week during the football season, Sports Editor Mark Podolski will pick NFL, college and high school games.

Last week was respectable with a 3-2 mark, but it's time for a 5-0 week, especially with the NFL season kicking off. Here were go:


Mentor at St. Ignatius: Last season, Mitch Trubisky and the Cardinals posted an impressive win in the regular season, but lost to the Wildcats in a Division I regional final. The jury is still out on how good Mentor is, but the buzz on the street is St. Ignatius is for real. The guess is this one will be Trubisky's shoulders, and I expect the senior to be up for the challenge. Pick: Mentor 24-23.


Central Florida (+18) at Ohio State: Like the Buckeyes, UCF is ineligible for postseason play, but that's where the similarities end. There's been plenty of preseason buzz about the Knights, but like many teams that venture into Ohio Stadium, it can be an eye-opening experience. Pick: Ohio State, 37-14

Florida at Texas A&M (+1.5): The Aggies will be playing their first-ever game as a member of the Southeastern Conference, and, at home, that should count for something. Pick: Texas A&M: 17-16


Eagles at Browns (+8.5): The Browns will likely have cornerback Joe Haden for this one, and that's huge. Just as important is having first-round pick Trent Richardson, who plans to play. Can QB Brandon Weeden make enough plays? Probably not. Pick: Eagles, 27-10.

Steelers (+1.5) at Broncos: Let the Peyton Manning lovefest begin! Pick: Broncos: 24-17.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Running with a friend makes all the difference in the world

The other day, I got a call from my best friend Michelle.
Michelle and I went to high school together. Her mother was my piano teacher in grade school.
We got in trouble together.
We went on double dates together, threw parties together, celebrated many New Years Eve's and talked our way through many ups and down in our lives.
A few years ago, Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer. The news was devastating to my friend who is married and has four young children.
Michelle lost her hair, but she never lost her will to live despite having double mastectomy surgery.
Today, she is cancer free.
That is why I was so excited she called me with an exciting proposition.
"Want to run a 1/2 marathon together?" she asked.
"Sure," I said without hesitating.
If all goes well, we are going to run in a half marathon in Nashville next year on April 27. Running such a long race will be a stretch for me, but knowing that I am going to run the race with Michelle makes all the difference in the world.
If she can beat cancer, I can certainly run 13.1 miles with her.
It will be an exciting adventure for both of us. It's already motivated me on my recent runs in which I've easily gone four and five miles (which is big for me).
So here's to a winter's-worth of training to run a race with my best friend.
It will be worth every ounce of sweat and wear and tear I'm about to put my body through.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Podcast: Kirtland football coach Tiger LaVerde on the Hornets' fast start

News-Herald staff writer John Kampf talks with Kirtland football coach Tiger LaVerde about the Hornets' fast start in 2012, trying to repeat as Division V state champions and more.

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Some thoughts heading into Week 3

It's hard to believe we are already heading into Week 3 of the high school football season. It won't be long until we'll be at the halfway point and looking attentively to the playoff pictures.

As we head into Week 3, here are some random thoughts:

-- You've got to love the gritty determination of Mayfield's Larry Pinto and Chardon's Mitch Hewitt when the game is on the line.

In Week 1, Pinto's team defeated Nordonia when the Wildcats went for 2 instead of a game-tying kick in a one-point win over Nordonia.

Last week, Hewitt did the same when the Hilltoppers went for 2 in a 29-28 win over Kenston.

The trust Pinto and Hewitt showed their players in choosing to go for the win is a difference-maker. When a coach pokes his head in the huddle and says, "Guys, we're going for the win here," it shows the players the confidence he has in them.

Even if the Wildcats and Hilltoppers hadn't scored on their conversion plays, the confidence the coaches showed would have been beneficial long-term.

Plus, there's something exciting about a game in which a coach is aggressive and goes for the victory.

Kudos, guys.

-- The Cardinal Huskies breathed a relieving sigh last week when Jon Farmwald was able to play some against Pymatuning Valley.

It was thought that Farmwald might have sustained a severe ankle/foot injury in Week 1 against Garrettsville. It wasn't severe, though.

Coach Eric Cardinal said Farmwald played only one way - on defense - against the Lakers. He had five tackles in the first half and was able to rest the remainder of the game as the Huskies improved to 2-0.

Said Coach Eric Cardinal, "We took him out of the game and Jon spent most of the second half with his foot in a bucket of ice with an eye on the full return for (this) week and the rest of the season."

-- Don't put TOO much emphasis on Lake Catholic's 38-10 loss to Brunswick last week. That is a very good Brunswick team, and the score is not indicative of what kind of game it could have been.

However, the Cougars need to bounce back, and soon. How is the question. The next three games are against Youngstown Ursuline, Erie Cathedral Prep and Youngstown Cardinal Mooney.

Translation: No gimmes.

Lake Catholic has its hands full.

-- The AP's state rankings start after the Week 3 games. Don't be surprised if there are a good number of teams who are ranked in the top 10 or get votes. The News-Herald area has very strong representation this year.

- John Kampf

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Social media and a prep sportswriter

It seems archaic even thinking about it.

Before Twitter truly hit it big, my first experience with live updates from a high school sporting event came a handful of years ago at the Baron Cup, Greater Cleveland high school hockey's city championship tournament at Brooklyn. I set up a new story on our website and throughout a tripleheader of games involving News-Herald area teams that day essentially made it a live blog - posts with times and the most recent first on the list, publish the site and there it was - a blog, albeit a basic one. Even better, I was online via - gulp - dialup.

Twitter has made the process a lot easier, of course, both for the purpose of posting updates and also for people to find those updates.

It's still an evolving process, but I thought it might be worthwhile to share a few of the lessons I've learned in the social media age and utilizing that platform in my job:

1) Keep it simple: Most of my Twitter followers are coaches, athletes and parents from my main high school beats - soccer, hockey, swimming and track and field. They want live information from events - score updates, state qualifiers and event winners if applicable, some opinion mixed in about games in team sports, etc. They don't want to see a Twitpic of what I'm having for dinner or a rant about tooth pain. Non-work tweets happen from time to time, but for the most part respect why your followers are following you in the first place.

2) Get used to convenience follows: The practice is nothing personal. From time to time, you'll cover a particular event that will appeal to someone on a given day. Case in point: I covered the Mentor at Erie McDowell football game Friday night. Since a lot of people didn't make the trek to Pennsylvania, I picked up followers who were interested in updates on that game. The reality is, after the fact, those Mentor fans will see I'm not covering the team every week, will not be interested in tweets about, say, high school soccer, and subsequently unfollow. Again, it's not personal - it's simply a matter of convenience. 

3) Let work speak for itself: Tweeting a link to a story, of which your followers may potentially be interested, is another way of building rapport. It becomes something else, however, when it's a subliminal practice of, "Hey, everybody, look how great my work is." The people who read your work will be the judge of that. They'll decide if it's good, subpar or indifferent. Link, but don't be a smoaster (social media boaster).

4) A list of scores can go a long way: One way I've been fortunate enough to build a following is to tweet area scores. In soccer season, for example, whether I'm covering a match or not, I'll tweet a list of scores we've received that day, along with scores available from the state coaches association website. It doesn't take very much effort but gets information out for which there's an interested audience.

There are many more lessons, but the bottom line is simplicity works best.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Saturday, September 1, 2012

John Carroll, Notre Dame College teams to watch this fall

Can't get down to a Buckeyes' game this fall?

Do the Browns already have you down?

Is high school football not your game?

There's good news. The John Carroll and Notre Dame College football teams might ready for breakout seasons in Division III and II, respectively.

The Blue Streaks opened the season with an impressive 40-3 win over St. Norbert in Dublin, Ireland. The Falcons were dominant as well, rolling a solid D-II program in Mercyhurst, 59-42.

NDC did nearly everything right on Thursday night, forcing eight turnovers, amassing over 500 yards of offense and scoring eight touchdowns. South grad Ray Russ is fun to watch at quarterback He threw five TD passes in his first career college start. The Falcons run a no-huddle offense from the shotgun, and Russ looks so comfortable it's difficult to believe he's just a sophomore. Two years from now when Russ is a senior, we might be talking about the best Division II quarterback in the country.

At John Carroll, the team is loaded with area athletes. Offensively, receiver Lane Robilotto (Riverside), all-purpose player Randy Greenwood (Fairport) and tight end Ben Madden (Kirtland) should benefit greatly from the addition of Pitt transfer Mark Myers, who threw for 457 yards and five TDs in the win over St. Norbert. On defense, there's linebacker Jimmy King (Lake Catholic) and defensive backs Marty Gibbons (Lake Catholic) and Ryan Winchell (South).

If you can't make it out to multiple games at either school, here's one game for each you shouldn't miss: Sept. 15, when John Carroll hosts crosstown rival Baldwin-Wallace, and Oct. 6 when Notre Dame College hosts Lake Erie at Brush High School.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo