Sunday, September 29, 2013

Looking back on region-by-region preview after Week 5

As we've reached the halfway point of the season, it's a good time to take a look back at my annual region-by-region outlook for our high school football preview.

Some projections went well, others not so much.

Obviously, only the top eight make it in each region except for Region 1, which will have 16. A 12-team group is always used in other regions to account for playoff-bound teams and those who are relatively close:

(News-Herald area teams are in bold and CAPS; teams crossed out are not currently in the top 12 for all regions except for Region 1, which was top 16)
Region 1
(in alphabetical order)
Projected top 16: Austintown-Fitch, Canton GlenOak, Canton McKinley, Cleveland Heights, Elyria, Hudson, Massillon Perry, MENTOR, North Canton Hoover, Shaker Heights, Solon, St. Edward, St. Ignatius, Toledo Whitmer, Warren Harding, Westerville Central
Missed on: Brunswick, Marysville, Massillon Jackson, Medina, Stow, Wadsworth
Total: 10 of 16

Region 3
(in alphabetical order)
Projected top 12: Bedford, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, BRUSH, Glenville, Kent Roosevelt, MADISON, Maple Heights, MAYFIELD, North Olmsted, RIVERSIDE, SOUTH, Westlake
Missed on: Garfield Heights
Total: 11 of 12

Region 7
(in alphabetical order)
Projected top 12: Akron Buchtel, Akron SVSM, Alliance, Aurora, CHARDON, Hubbard, KENSTON, Marlington, Poland Seminary, Ravenna, Warren Howland, WEST GEAUGA
Missed on: GENEVA, Louisville, Norton, Tallmadge
Total: 8 of 12

Region 8
(in alphabetical order)
Projected top 12: Clyde, Defiance, Elida, LAKE CATHOLIC, Mansfield Madison, Napoleon, Norwalk, Sandusky Perkins, Tiffin Columbian, Toledo Central Catholic, Toledo Rogers, UNIVERSITY
Missed on: Cloverleaf, Maumee, Medina Buckeye, Padua
Total: 8 of 12

Region 11
(in alphabetical order)
Projected top 12: BENEDICTINE, Cardinal Mooney, CHAGRIN FALLS, Cleveland Central Catholic, Cortland Lakeview, Edgewood, John Hay, Minerva, NDCL, PERRY, Streetsboro, Struthers
Missed on: CVCA, Fairview, Orange, Woodridge
Total: 8 of 12

Region 15
(in alphabetical order)
Projected top 12: Akron Manchester, BEACHWOOD, Canton Central Catholic, Columbiana Crestview, Garrettsville, GILMOUR, Hanoverton United, HAWKEN, Independence, Ursuline, Warren Champion, Youngstown Liberty
Missed on: Black River, Fairless, Harrison Central, WICKLIFFE
Total: 8 of 12

Region 19
(in alphabetical order)
Projected top 12: Brookfield, Cuyahoga Heights, Dalton, Jeromesville Hillsdale, KIRTLAND, McDonald, Mogadore, Newcomerstown, New Middletown Springfield, Salineville Southern, South Range, St. Thomas Aquinas
Missed on: New London, VASJ
Total: 10 of 12
(For the record, yes I know that's a big miss on VASJ. I honestly believed on paper it was a year away from this, but it's great to see the Vikings rise up and start 5-0. My bad, Viking Village.)

Region 23
(in alphabetical order)
Projected top 12: Berlin Center Western Reserve, Danville, FAIRPORT, Lucas, Mineral Ridge, Monroeville, Norwalk St. Paul, Plymouth, Southington, Trinity, Wellsville, Youngstown Christian
Missed on: Leetonia, Lowellville, Mapleton, Vienna Mathews
Total: 8 of 12


So it's not a fantastic percentage, and wow were there some misses in there. All things considered, though, since this exercise is done when everything is on paper and no football has been played, I'll take 71 percent and move on.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Saturday, September 28, 2013

College football history 101: Hurricanes roll in 1 vs. 2

Sept. 27, 1986: Top-ranked Oklahoma, led by controversial linebacker Brian Bosworth, was hammered Miami (Fla.) in the Orange Bowl, 28-16, in a matchup of Nos. 1 vs. 2 in the Associated Press poll. Quarterback Vinny Testaverde, the eventual Heisman Trophy winner, torched the Sooners with 261 yards and four touchdown passes. The Hurricanes defense shut down the vaunted triple-option rushing attack of the Sooners, limiting them to 186 yards. Bosworth (14 tackles) did his best to keep Oklahoma in it, but a Testaverde TD pass to Michael Irvin gave Miami a 21-3 third-quarter lead, and cruised from there. Said a dejected Sooners coach Barry Switzer after the game: "I don't want to play them again."

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Friday Night Live: Week 5

Bookmark this page and come back Friday night to follow along with all of our Week 5 high school football coverage.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why is there so much drama on high school girls teams?

I have a question for high school girls who play sports.
Why is there so much drama involved during a season?
Why are girls so critical of one another?
Why is there so much pettiness?
Why can't everyone just get along and work together as a team?
How hard is it?
You practice together every day, you compete together a few times a week and you probably spend at least some of your free time with your teammates.
Wouldn't it be easier if you worked together and got along?
What a difference it can make for you in all areas of your life, not just with sports, but in your academics and personal lives.
It's easier to be nice than it is to be mean.
Mean girls are not cool.
Mean girls get nowhere.
Mean girls cause problems on their teams.
Because I am a female sports reporter, I can usually tell what girls teams are getting along and what teams are having troubles. The teams that are getting along, win with smiles on their faces. The teams that have turmoil, struggle on the court. They get rattled easily and give up when they are down.
Let me tell you from experience, life is to short not get along with people.
If you learn to get along with people at an early age in high school, it will make the rest of your life so much easier.
Wouldn't it be fun to go to practice if you knew girls weren't talking behind your back?
Wouldn't it be fun if you could be friends with everyone on your team from the freshmen to varsity levels?
Please try. It makes all the difference in the world.
You'll see, it will be worth it.
Trust me.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

Sunday, September 22, 2013

World Cup 2014 update

As is the case from time to time in this space, let's take a look at where World Cup qualifying stands as we inch closer to Brazil next year:

AFRICA - There are 10 teams left paired into five home-and-home series. They are Tunisia-Cameroon, Ghana-Egypt, Ivory Coast-Senegal, Burkina Faso-Algeria and Ethiopia-Nigeria. The winner of each home-and-home wraps up the five African spots in the World Cup field. These matches will take place on Nov. 11 and 15.

ASIA -The four automatic qualifiers are already set: Australia, Iran, Japan and South Korea. Uzbekistan and Jordan, who were each third out of group play, took part in a home-and-home series to determine who would play for a World Cup berth in an intercontinental playoff. Jordan won a penalty-kick shootout to advance and awaits the fifth-place team from South America.

EUROPE - Late in group play, Italy and the Netherlands have already clinched their groups to earn automatic spots. Beyond that, there are 27 sides still mathematically alive to advance - some with a better chance than others of course.

NORTH AMERICA/CARIBBEAN - The United States is through to Brazil and leads the hexagonal with 16 points, followed by Costa Rica (15), Honduras (11), Panama and Mexico (8) and Jamaica (4). The top three qualify, and the order could very well change. But on these points, Costa Rica is virtually a lock for second, Honduras needs a point to clinch third and the others need wins and some help. Mexico is in a lot of trouble.

OCEANIA - New Zealand awaits the fourth-place team from North American/Caribbean, commonly called CONCACAF, in a home-and-home playoff in November.

SOUTH AMERICA - Brazil is automatically through as the tournament host. Of the nine remaining sides, only Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay are eliminated. The top four automatically qualify, and as mentioned previously the fifth-place team will go into a playoff against Jordan. Argentina leads on 29 points.

So we're getting closer, and we'll know much more about the broader picture when I check back in on this topic Oct. 20.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Whose Cleveland sports jersey is it safe to buy?

After the Browns traded Trent Richardson on Wednesday, a friend reminded me about the blog I wrote in 2011 about the safest jerseys to buy in Cleveland sports.

Richardson wasn't on it because he hadn't joined the Browns yet. But he would have been, right up until he was sent to the Colts.

The blog was posted June 24, 2011, right after the Cavs drafted Kyrie Irving. As a top overall pick with a multiyear contract, Irving was the best jersey investment with his combination of star power and potential longevity.

Let's revisit the topic and see whose jersey would be a good investment now.

Browns: Back in 2011, I wrote: "Forget it. The roster turns over every 18 months." That hasn't changed. The only player you can reasonably assume will be on the team for the next few seasons is Joe Thomas. Maybe Alex Mack, Joe Haden, Jordan Cameron, Barkevious Mingo or T.J. Ward? Even then, buyer beware.

Cavaliers: Besides Irving, you have some choices, as long as you don't think GM Chris Grant is headed on a cap-clearing trading spree. Stranger things have happened. Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller are young players with some years on their contracts. If you're a glass-half-full type of Cavs fan, you can get a No. 6 and leave the nameplate blank to be filled in next summer.

Indians: Jason Kipnis is an all-star who isn't arbitration-eligible until 2015. Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn are locked up and presumably are key pieces for the next few seasons. Pitchers? No way. At the beginning of this season, you could have reasoned that a Vinnie Pestano jersey would have been a good idea as the heir apparent to Chris Perez as the Tribe's closer. That hasn't worked out. Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana could be options, too.

-- Howard Primer

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Wild-card playoff hypothetical

Imagine the Indians rip off six straight win against the Astros and White Sox, then take care of business in Minnsota to cap off the 2013 regular season.

Let's say the Tribe takes three of four against the Twins. A 9-1 finish would give Cleveland a 91-71 record, which would likely give it one of the two wild-card spots in the American League.

Let's also say the Indians' 91-71 record is enough to secure the first wild-card spot. That would give the Tribe a home game in a one-game playoff to advance to the divisional round.

Which would bring us to the elephant in the room, fan attendance at Indians' home games. Would a one-game playoff be a sellout at Progressive Field. I'd like to think so, but my head tells me no way.

Average attendance for Indians' home games has been a shade under 20,000. To expect 22,000 more to show up? That's a tough sell.

It will be interesting to see what happens if the above scenario unfolds. Maybe everyone - teams, the media and critics - needs to realize this might be a new era of fandom. Staying home, ordering a pizza and watching the game on a 50-inch HD TV can be just as enjoyable as being there in person.

Fans have choices. That's the reality.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Friday Night Live: Week 4

Bookmark this page and come back Friday night to follow along with all of our Week 4 high school football coverage.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Richmond Heights girls basketball team gives back

The girls basketball season may be a few weeks away, but Richmond Heights is already hitting its stride.
The Spartans have been coming together as a team to do community service projects this offseason under first-year head coach Demarris Winters.
On Sept. 7, they put on a "Funny Fashion Show" for the residents of Waterford Nursing Home. They dressed in goofy clothing and modeled their fashions for residents.
I commend the girls for taking time out of their busy teenage lives to do something to put a smile on a stranger's face.
I also commend Winters for suggesting the idea.
Even if the Spartans don't win a game this upcoming season (and I'm sure that won't be the case), they are already winners.
Nice job girls.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

Sunday, September 15, 2013

High school football unbeatens around Ohio

Here is a look at the teams who remain perfect after three weeks in Ohio, with News-Herald area teams in CAPS (shout out as always to the Ohio gridiron's great friend Joe Eitel for the easy reference point on this):

Region 1: Austintown-Fitch, Canton McKinley, Elyria, Hudson, Marysville, Shaker Heights, St. Edward, Stow, Wadsworth
Region 2: Centerville, Cin. Colerain, Cin. Elder, Cin. Moeller, Cin. Sycamore, Fairfield, Hilliard Davidson, Pickerington North

Region 3: Bedford, Garfield Heights, North Olmsted, SOUTH
Region 4: Akron Ellet, Avon, Canton Timken, Copley, Massillon, Medina Highland, Nordonia, Tol. Bowsher
Region 5: Col. Northland, Lewis Center Olentangy, Licking Heights, Mansfield, New Albany, Zanesville
Region 6: Cin. LaSalle, Cin. Northwest, Cin. Winton Woods, Loveland

Region 7: Akron SVSM, Aurora, Canton South, Hubbard, Louisville, Poland Seminary
Region 8: Clyde, Norwalk, Sandusky Perkins, Toledo Central Catholic
Region 9: Chillicothe, Dover, New Philadelphia, The Plains Athens, West Holmes
Region 10: Celina, Kenton Ridge, New Richmond, Springfield Shawnee, Tippecanoe, Western Brown

Region 11: Fairview, Orange, Struthers
Region 12: Bryan, Galion, Genoa Area, Kenton, Millbury Lake, River Valley, Upper Sandusky, Wauseon
Region 13: Bloom-Carroll, Col. Bexley, Indian Creek, Indian Valley, John Glenn, Maysville, Steubenville
Region 14: Bishop Fenwick, Clinton-Massie, Eaton, Greenfield McClain, Miami Trace, Minford, Springfield Northwestern, Taylor, Urbana, Valley View

Region 15: Akron Manchester, Columbiana Crestview, Fairless
Region 16: Columbia, Liberty-Benton, Liberty Center, Loudonville, Orrville
Region 17: Liberty Union, Martins Ferry, South Point, St. Clairsville, Union Local, Wheelersburg
Region 18: Chaminade-Julienne, Cin. Hills Christian, Cin. Madeira, Dayton Northridge, Hamilton Badin, Jamestown Greeneview, Richwood North Union

Region 19: Brookfield, KIRTLAND, Mogadore, South Range, VASJ
Region 20: Ada, Ayersville, Colonel Crawford, Delphos Jefferson, Elmore Woodmore, Kansas Lakota, Wayne Trace
Region 21: Centerburg, Col. Bishop Ready, Fort Frye, Lucasville Valley, Oak Hill
Region 22: Cin. Country Day, Cin. Summit Country Day, Miami East, St. Bernard-Elmwood Place, Tri-County North, West Liberty-Salem

Region 23: Berlin Center Western Reserve, Mineral Ridge, Plymouth, Wellsville
Region 24: Arlington, Leipsic
Region 25: Racine Southern, Shadyside, Steubenville Catholic Central, Trimble
Region 26: Cedarville, Covington, Manchester, Marion Local, North Lewisburg Triad, Paint Valley, Portsmouth Notre Dame

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Saturday, September 14, 2013

First college basketball preview magazine is out

I did a double-take when I saw it at the store last week: Lindy's Sports college basketball preview is out.

Did it seem early considering some leagues just announced their schedules and college football is in Week 3? Absolutely.

Did that stop me from dropping $7.99 for it? Of course not.

Here are a couple notables regarding Northeast Ohio interests:

-- Lindy's ranked Ohio State sixth nationally and second in the Big Ten, with Michigan State No. 1 in both cases. It ranked Aaron Craft as the second-best point guard behind Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart, LaQuinton Ross the 15th-best small forward and Amir Williams the 22nd-best best center. It also said the Buckeyes have the fourth-best backcourt in the country.

-- In the MAC, Lindy's picked Akron to win the East, followed by Kent State. It has Toledo reigning in the West.

-- It has Cleveland State third in the Horizon League. In its conference rankings, Lindy's had the Horizon 16th with the comment, "Butler used to play in this fun, competitive league." That's all they could say?

-- Howard Primer

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday Night Live: Week 3

Bookmark this page and come back Friday afternoon to follow along with all of our Week 3 high school football coverage.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

College football history 101: Wolverines letdowns

Each week, we'll take a look back at some of the most memorable games, moments and storylines in college football history. Here we go:

1988: On Sept. 17, Michigan led the No. 1 Miami Hurricanes, 30-14, with 5 minutes, 23 seconds left in the game, but lost in stunning fashion, 31-30, when Carlos Huerta made a 29-yard field goal with 43 seconds left. Trailing, 30-22, the Hurricanes scored a touchdown but missed a two-point conversion and still trailed, 30-28. They recovered an on-side kick, then drove into field-goal range for Huerta. Miami quarterback Steve Walsh threw for 335 yards and three touchdowns.

1989: On Sept. 16, In the 25th matchup of Nos 1. vs. No. 2 teams in the Associated Press poll, top-ranked Notre Dame used two kickoff returns for touchdowns by Rocket Ismail to beat second-ranked Michigan, 24-19. The Fighting Irish attempted just two passes in a game played in the rain.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Thursday Night Live: Week 3

Sunday, September 8, 2013

N-H area college football players master list

Ever wonder how many area players are currently in college football and where they are now?

We now have the answer.

Out of curiosity during some down time this past week, I was curious to find out. After rattling through NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I) programs, it didn't seem too difficult to scroll through rosters and look further into it. So then came the Football Championship Subdivision (I-AA). Then Division II. And then Division III.

This master list of college football players from News-Herald area schools is below for your perusal.

Before scrolling through the list, just a few caveats:
  1. Players should be included as long as their college's roster specifies a hometown and school from The News-Herald coverage area, and as long as they were on their college's roster page this past week.
  2. A handful of players are included who are originally from an area school but finished their careers at another school.
  3. In the cases of an area native who played their high school football for a school outside the N-H area, they are NOT included.
  4. A capital R before a player's year specifies a redshirt.

So if you ever wanted to know where players from recent years are plying their trade - whether it's familiar names from the N-H school you follow or the N-H schools your team takes on - they should be accounted for here.

- Chris Lillstrung | | @CLillstrungNH

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sign it could be the Browns' year

Looking for a sign this could be the Browns' year? How about turning to Pittsburgh, of all places.

For the longest time, teams like the Pirates, L.A. Clippers, Arizona Cardinals and Kansas City Royals were, in pro wrestling terms, "enhancement talent."

In order for the Lakers, Yankees and Patriots to win all those games, someone had to lose them. That's where those teams came in. They were the Iron Mike Sharpes of North American pro sports.

Not anymore. The Pirates are charging toward the MLB playoffs. The Clippers have been in the NBA postseason two years in a row. The Cardinals made their first Super Bowl appearance in February 2009.

Even the Royals are above .500.

In a perfect world, that means the Lions and Browns would be facing off in the Super Bowl (forget the Texans and Jaguars. They haven't been in existence long enough to be considered long-suffering).

While there have been plenty of reasons to be pessimistic about the Browns since 1999, look at it this way: If 2008 can be the year for the Phillies and their 10,000-plus all-time losses, why can't 2013 be the year for the Browns?

- Howard Primer

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Friday Night Live: Week 2

Bookmark this page and come back Friday night to follow along with all of our Week 2 high school football coverage.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sideline reporters add value, just maybe not with this question

Ideally - and contrary to the belief of some observers - sideline reporters in sports television can add tremendous value to broadcasts. Well-timed information such as injury updates, on-field observations and player background, and postgame interviews with coaches featuring pointed questions add a layer to the presentation that can't be accomplished just by having an announcing team in the booth.

ABC/ESPN's Heather Cox is one of the better sideline reporters in the business - pleasant, informative and clearly well-prepared. Saturday night after the Clemson-Georgia game, though, her opening question in a postgame interview seemed slightly overthought.

In what was a great Saturday night game on ABC, Clemson staved off Georgia, 38-35. As Clemson students rushed the field after the game, Cox landed the obligatory interview with the winning coach, Clemson's Dabo Swinney.

Her first question wasn't about a particular play or the standard, "How proud are you of this team?" Instead, Cox referenced a Swinney team theme for 2013 - of accomplishing the "unthinkable" - and attempted to tie it in, asking Swinney if the Tigers' win was unthinkable.

Well ... not so much. Clemson came into the game ranked eighth in the country, while Georgia was fifth. Clemson has a Heisman Trophy candidate in QB Tajh Boyd and, clearly, one of the best teams in the country. How an all-top 10 game in Week 1 could translate into an "unthinkable" win for the victor doesn't sound right.

In fairness to Cox, the unthinkable theme was a nice anecdote - the link above was the only one I could find referencing it online, and it likely came up in meeting with Swinney during game week.

But using it in that instance was at the very least not the best timing in the world.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH