Saturday, August 31, 2013

College football history 101: Buckeyes in the Kickoff Classic

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:

1995: Ohio State dominated Boston College, 38-6, on Aug. 26 in East Rutherford, N.J., in the Kickoff Classic behind Shawn Springs' 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Eddie George rushed for 99 yards and caught a 14-yard TD that capped a 99-yard drive before halftime.

1986: Alabama hung on for a sloppy 16-10 Kickoff Classic win over the Buckeyes in East Rutherford. OSU had a shot in the final moments as quarterback Jim Karsatos drove his team to the Crimson Tide's 18-yard line, but on the last play of the game his pass to Cris Carter in the end zone fell incomplete. Buckeye linebacker Chris Spielman had 16 tackles.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

If OHSAA had solved competitive-balance sooner, seventh football division wouldn't have been needed

The competitive-balance controversy in Ohio high school sports might finally come to an end with a take-it-or-leave-it vote in 2014.

If the debate had been settled a couple years ago, I wonder if the football playoffs would have been expanded.

When the new seventh division has come up in conversation this summer, most of the reactions from people who didn't know about it were along the lines of: "Huh?" "Really?" "Why are they watering it down?"

The additional bracket wasn't added to keep pace with Ohio's slow population growth or solve any geography problems (if anything, it created geography issues).

It's all about competitive-balance. Bigger Division I schools vs. smaller D-Is, public vs. private -- take your pick or fill in your own. Handing out another trophy is supposed to help solve those problems.

It doesn't, though. It just makes us wonder what the difference between Divisions V and VI is.

If the OHSAA membership could have agreed on a competitive-balance proposal -- a boundary multiplier, for example -- and included the smaller Division I for football, it would have been better than creating another division.

Would it have been perfect? Of course not. But as we've found out during the competitive-balance discussion, there isn't an ideal solution.

- Howard Primer

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Friday Night Live: Week 1

Bookmark this page and come back Friday night to follow along with all of our Week 1 high school football coverage.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

VASJ graduate Ryan Barry enjoys giving back

If you attend Villa Angela-St. Joseph's opening football game against visiting Our Lady of the Lakes on Saturday, there's no doubt you'll see Ryan Barry standing on the sidelines.
The 2004 VASJ graduate is in his fifth year as the Vikings' equipment manager.
He starts attending camps and two-a-day practices in July and fulfills his responsibility through the final game of the season which is Nov. 2 this year at Holy Name.
His duties include making sure athletes have proper uniforms. He's also ready to do anything that is asked of him which includes inflating footballs and filling water bottles.
Barry continues to come back season after season because he loves the school.
When football season ends, he goes right into basketball.
This winter will be his 15th with the Viking basketball program.
A year ago, he was the video and equipment coordinator for the Vikings who brought home the Division IV state championship. He plans to return this year.
"That championship meant the world to me," he said. "I saw my first St. Joe's game in seventh grade. I remember seeing all the banners. Coming here as a student, winning a state championship was my ultimate dream. I wanted the championship for the school."
Barry did not play sports at VASJ, but he was involved in the football and basketball programs. He was a student-manager for the boys basketball team from freshman to senior year. He was also a football manager as a freshman and sophomore.
"It means something to wear the Viking uniform," Barry said. "When you wear the uniform, you are representing all of the players from the past including Clark Kellogg, Desmond Howard, Elvis Grbac and the Golics.
"There is a lot of history here."
VASJ boys basketball coach Babe Kwasniak, a  1994 Viking graduate, knows the history well.
The former All-Ohio point guard helped lead the Vikings to state basketball championships in 1992 and 1994 when his dad, Ted Kwasniak, was the head coach.
Kwasniak said he is grateful to have someone as dedicated as Barry involved with the program.
"Ryan's devotion to VASJ has been unwavering," Kwasniak said. "It's not just him; his entire family has been that way.
"Ryan does whatever we ask of him, and many times those jobs are not very attractive. I don't think he has taken off his championship ring since we received them in May. I was very happy to see him get that, because he waited longer than anyone."
When asked how long he will assist the football and basketball teams, Barry said he plans to help out as long as he can.
It's his way of carrying on the Viking tradition.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Region preview is ultimate guessing game

On Sunday online and in Monday's print edition was my annual region-by-region playoff projections for our high school football preview.

With every team 0-0 and no way of knowing how teams will respond to new personnel, adversity and game situations all unique on to themselves, it's admittedly and obviously total guesswork.

I know how seriously people take it, and I strive to match those expectations with my level of research. Sometimes, projections are right on the money. Others couldn't be further off base for whatever reason. Either way, it's commonly interpreted as a form of respect.

In the office, I'm fond of telling the story about a year during which a News-Herald area team was not projected to be a factor in its region, either as one of the four favorites or as one of the eight contenders. After the fact, it came to light that the coach took the region preview, made copies of it and put it up in each player's locker - classic bulletin board material. For the record, I was right about that team, which finished around .500 and was out of playoff contention by Week 8.

The point is, whether you believe your team is getting the respect it deserves or not, we can all agree what matters much more than that is getting on the field and letting things play out there.

We can all prognosticate, but reality trumps it all.

Best of luck to all N-H area teams this fall, and let's see how close this dart gets to the bull's-eye.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Saturday, August 24, 2013

College football 101: Playoff talk, AP poll expansion

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:

1989:  The College Football Association (CFA) floated the idea of a 16-team playoff plan to member schools, which voted it down by a 3-1 margin; the Associated Press poll expanded from 20 teams ranked each week to 25; Michigan debuted as preseason No. 1 in the AP poll, with Notre Dame No. 2. The teams were set to meet in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Sept. 16.

1993: Penn State officially began play as the 11th member of the Big Ten.

1975: After 41 years at Tulane Stadium, the Sugar Bowl was moved to the Loisiania Superdome.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Thursday, August 22, 2013

College footbal 101: The Junction Boys and Gatorade

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:

1954: On August 31, more than 100 Texas A&M players departed College Station for Junction with Coach Bear Bryant for a grueling 10-day camp in blistering heat and only 35 stuck it out. Those 10 days were the inspiration for Jim Dent's book, The Junction Boys, which later became an ESPN TV movie in 2002.

1966: During the summer of '66, two University of Florida professors completed their year-long research on a new product to help Florida football players - including future Heisman Trophy winner and future college coach Steve Spurrier - replenish electrolytes and stay hydrated during practices in hot and humid weather. The lime-flavored fluid became known as Gatorade.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Photos help bring life to the paper and website

We are lucky to have three full-time photographers here at The News-Herald who cover everything from crime scenes to county fairs and sporting events.
Photo editor Duncan Scott, Maribeth Joeright and Jeff Forman are flexible and willing to take on just about any assignment they are given.
Week to week, they don't know where they will be headed.
They just know they'll either be working a day shift or a night shift.
With our upcoming football preview coming up, the trio has been busy traveling to area fields to shoot features, portraits and action shots.
Without them, our football preview section, the overall paper and website would be lifeless.
Among them, they've won countless awards. It is obvious they take pride in what they do. As a reporter, I appreciate their efforts.
I know I don't thank them enough for what they do.
I just wanted to take the time to let them know they're doing a great job.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hitting the road for Week 11

With the new regions and subsequent geographic alignments in high school football this fall, it makes for mixes of teams you wouldn't otherwise put together in the same breath.

It could make for some long road trips for The News-Herald area contingent as well, depending of course on who makes the Week 11 field.

Considering that, I thought it may be interesting to see what could potentially be the most extreme road trips that could face N-H teams and their opponents. Regardless of who hosts, someone would probably need a long playlist for their MP3 player.

So here they are, the longest possible road trips featuring an N-H team in each region, with mileage and time needed to get there according to Google Earth. These in all likelihood will never come to fruition, but with everybody 0-0 at the moment it's possible:

Region 1
MENTOR vs. Olentangy Liberty: 161 miles; 2 hours, 38 minutes

Region 3
BRUSH vs. Boardman: 73 miles; 1 hour, 12 minutes

Region 7
GENEVA vs. Louisville: 100 miles; 1 hour, 44 minutes

Region 8
LAKE CATHOLIC vs. Defiance:183 miles; 2 hours, 58 minutes

Region 11
BENEDICTINE vs. East Liverpool: 102 miles; 1 hour, 47 minutes

Region 15
BEACHWOOD vs. Harrison Central: 110 miles; 1 hour, 54 minutes

Region 19
KIRTLAND vs. Newcomerstown: 110 miles; 1 hour, 49 minutes

Region 23
FAIRPORT vs. Danville:124 miles; 2 hours, 21 minutes

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Saturday, August 17, 2013

College football 101: BCS begins

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:

1998: The Bowl Championship Series (you might have heard of it) is launched in an effort to have the Nos. 1 and 2 teams play at the end of the season for the national championship. How the two teams were determined caused much of the controversy. The criteria seemed to complicate matters and confuse the fans. The first BCS plan employed a four-point plan: a combined tally of the Associated Press and USA Today/Coaches poll; a combination of  computer polls from Jeff Sagarin, The New York Times and Seattle Times; a strength of schedule formula; and a team's number of losses. Also in 1998, Ohio State is the preseason No. 1 team in the AP poll, but the bigger news is the eligibility of star linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer, who eventually received passing summer school grades and played his entire junior season.  

1968: Ohio State's "Super Sophomores" that helped the Buckeyes win the '68 national championship were a relative unknown heading into the season. OSU was ranked No. 9 in the preseason with fellow Big Ten member Purdue winning the the preseason top spot over No. 2 Southern California, 584-536.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Friday, August 16, 2013

OHSAA should consider dropping Roman numerals

Earlier in the week, one of my colleagues accidentally listed the Kirtland football team as Division V in a Tweet.

It had more to do with a smartphone typo on a short night's rest than not knowing what division the Hornets are in this year (VI). But it's an example of some confusion that will be happening from to time as high school football fans adjust to the new OHSAA lineup.

A seventh playoff division was added this year, giving us I, II, III, IV, V, VI and VII.

While the OHSAA is adding, it should also do some subtracting -- lose the Roman numerals in favor of numbers that are easier to read and type: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.

The easy response is "Pay more attention to what you're reading," or "Don't go so fast."

I get that. But what I don't get is why Roman numerals are used in the first place. Perceived added prestige, I guess? The Super Bowl is the biggest event that uses them, and it's getting far enough along in years that you'll have to stop and think about it for a second unless you regularly use Roman numerals. The 2014 game will be XLVIII. That's 48.

The NCAA also uses Roman numerals for Divisions I, II and II. But you don't want to be using the NCAA as an argument in your favor anytime soon.

Getting back to the OHSAA, it's going to take awhile for fans to remember which division and region each school is in starting this season. Making it easier to follow on paper or on a screen would help, too.

-- Howard Primer

Thursday, August 15, 2013

College football history 101

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: For the first time in school history, Florida State is the preseason No. 1 pick in the Associated Press poll. With 1,161 points and 44 first-place votes, the Seminoles were easily the top pick. Defending national champion Miami (Fla.) was a distance No. 8. If that wasn't enough motivation for the Hurricanes, several members of the Seminoles, including Deion Sanders, celebrated with a recording of a self-glorifying rap song. FSU's time atop the AP poll didn't last long as the Seminoles and Hurricanes faced off in the season opener. It was all Miami, 31-0. Browns coach Rod Chudzinski got a piece of the fun for the Hurricanes, scoring a touchdown late in the first half to put Miami up, 17-0. The rout was officially on.

1963: 50 years ago on March 23, the Saturday Evening Post published a story titled, "The Story of  a College Fix." The story alleged Alabama coach Bear Bryant and Georgia Athletic Director Wally Butts conspired to fix the Crimson Tide's 35-0 win over the Bulldogs in 1962. The claim was made by George Burnett, an insurance salesman who said he was accidentally patched into a long-distance phone call between Bryant and Butts, who later sued the magazine. Butts won in court and Saturday Evening Post was forced to settle $760,000 in damages. Soon after, the magazine went out of business.

1955: The addition of Michigan State gives the Big Ten Conference 10 teams for the first time since 1939, when the University of Chicago abandoned football.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The overwhelming sense of hope runs rampant at two-a-day football practices

This is one of the most enjoyable times of the year for me.
It's football preview time and that means driving out to area two-a-day practices.
The one constant at all of the practices I've visited is the overwhelming sense of hope the coaches and players have for their upcoming seasons.
Their belief in themselves, one another and their programs is inspiring.
Every player seems to believe they are going to have a winning season, even if their team didn't win a single game last year.
When I interview players, their answers are often the same:
"We are like family."
"We worked hard in the offseason and it's going to pay off."
"We have good senior leadership and that will help us win games this year."
My guess is some players are encouraged by their coaches to only mention the positives when a reporter starts asking questions. I understand that, and I appreciate that.
In my opinion, it's the perfect mind-set to have.
If you don't think your team is going to win a game, why would you be out on the practice field in the final weeks leading up to the start of the school year?
If you don't believe in one another, your coaches and the program, why would you devote countless hours to making something work?
You have to remain positive and hopeful if you want to have any shot of winning a single game.
That sense of hope applies to all areas of life including family, friends, school work and personal goals.
How many times do we focus on past mistakes and past losses when we should be focusing on a promising future?
Going to two-a-day practices reminds me to do just that.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia


Saturday, August 10, 2013

College football predictions

One man's look at the 2013 college football season:

Big Ten championship game: Ohio State over Michigan

Pac 12 championship game: Stanford over USC

SEC championship game: Alabama over South Carolina

Big 12: Baylor

ACC championship game: Clemson over Miami

American Athletic: Louisville

Mid-American Conference championship game: Northern Illinois over Ohio


Rose: Ohio State vs. Oregon

Fiesta: Baylor vs. Louisville

Orange: Clemson vs. Notre Dame

Sugar: Texas A&M vs. Michigan

BCS National Championship game: Alabama vs. Stanford

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Next week's HS football scrimmage schedule

Those who need their high school football fix immediately, here's next week's scrimmage schedule involving area teams:

Monday, Aug. 12: Southington, Conneaut at Cardinal

Tuesday, Aug. 13: Mentor, Glenville at Kenston, 11 a.m.; South at Lake Catholic, 11:30 a.m.; Kirtland, Gilmour, VASJ at Wickliffe, 10 a.m.; North at Mayfield, 8 a.m.; Elyria Catholic at NDCL; Brush at North Royalton, 10 a.m.

Wednesday, Aug. 15: Kent Rossevelt at Chagrin Falls, 10 a.m.

Thursday, Aug. 16: Gilmour at Cuyahoga Heights, 7 p.m.; John Hay at Riverside, 6 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 17: Austintown-Fitch at Mentor, 6 p.m.; Lake Catholic at Euclid, 10 a.m.; Madison at Mayfield, 10 a.m.; Kirtland at Perry, 10 a.m.; West Geauga, Beachwood at Ravenna; Kenston at Bedford, 10 a.m.; Cardinal at Wickliffe, 10 a.m.; NDCL at Warren Howland, 10 a.m.; VASJ at Beachwood, 10 a.m.; Ravenna, West Geauga at Benedictine, 10 a.m.; Olmsted Falls at Brush, 10 a.m.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wickliffe running back Tiontay Phillips' potential is unlimited

I did my first high school football preview of the season today and I was impressed with what I saw at Wickliffe.
The Blue Devils were plagued with injuries last year and went 3-7.
This year, they are determined to have a winning record.
They should have high expectations with a running back like 5-foot-9, 210 pound Division I recruit Tiontay Phillips.
Last year after Wickliffe's first and second string running backs went down with injuries, Phillips stepped in. Despite playing in just eight games (he was sidelined for two with a major concussion), he finished with 1,158 yards on 192 carries (6.0 average).
It's hard to believe last year was his first season of varsity football.
He decided not to come out his freshman year because he was "intimidated" by highly touted senior running back Nick Ranallo. Just imagine if he would have come out?
How dangerous would a tandem of Phillips and Ranallo have been? Ranallo finished 2011 with 1,129 yards on 200 carries (5.6 average).
"I was close friends with a lot of the guys on the team so I decided to join last year," Phillips said. "Coach Porcello and I got really close. I promised him I would come out and we would do good things together. That's the reason I came out."
Phillips said his performance last year has motivated him this season.
"Being 3-7 last year makes me want to strive for more," he said. "That's not enough. Even though I rushed for as many yards as I did, it's still not enough.
"No one looks back at the stats. They look back at how far you've actually gone. The goal right now is to make to the playoffs and become the key guy like Kareem Hunt and the other good players around Lake County. I just want to build on that and hopefully help our team win some big games."

When a player is driven like Phillips, his potential is unlimited.
He got a taste of what it felt like to be successful last year, and it's motivated him to have another 1,000 yard season this year.
Phillips may regret not coming out his freshman year, but it looks like he's planning to make up for it in his final two seasons with the Blue Devils.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Podcast: 50 for 50's No. 1 team: 1992 Lake Catholic

Former Lake Catholic coach John Gibbons and former Cougars receiver Joe Jurevicius reflect on the 1992 team that went 14-0, won a state title and was voted No. 1 in The News-Herald 50 for 50 all-time area high school football rankings.

Click to stream this episode, or right-click to download

Subscribe to The N-H Varsity Insider on iTunes.

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Scanning Browns pictures brings back memories

In the last few weeks, the photo scanner at The News-Herald and I have become best friends.

From a treasure trove of old photo negative folders in a back room, I was fortunate enough to be able to uncover some great stuff for our "50 for 50" high school football project.

The "50 for 50" work can be found at, but in this space I wanted to elaborate on the other photo negatives I was lucky to find.

The Browns' 1987 and 1988 AFC title games were tough to take as a youngster growing up in Painesville, but now approaching 34 years old it was interesting to go through the negatives from those heartbreaking losses to the Broncos.

Once I saw Sammy Winder, I knew it was downhill from there. Be that as it may, though, it reminded me of why I was a Browns fan in the first place.

As a fan, like many people my age, I loved those mid-to-late 1980s Browns teams. While it broke my heart to watch them come up short of the Super Bowl in such dramatic fashion, it reinforced for me why they were my team, for better or for worse.

About 20 years later, one of the coolest experiences I've had was a conversation with Brian Brennan while covering the Miele Invitational, Gilmour's annual track and field meet and area mid-April staple. His daughter, Grace, ran middle distance for the Lancers at the time.He asked me during the course of our chat why I was a Browns fan - why I felt more strongly about the Browns than, say, the Cavaliers or Indians - and I got to explain to one of my favorite players growing up my reasoning.

That was pretty cool.

Looking back through those old negatives, which will be reintroduced as slideshows with our "History of the Browns" section this week, was tough. But it was also well worth the trouble.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Friday, August 2, 2013

College hoops staying where it is on the calendar

Earlier in the year, there was some talk about how college basketball could become a one-semester sport to regain some of its popularity. Tipoff would be pushed back to early January, and the season would be crammed into just more than three months.

Thankfully, that won't be happening in the near future.ESPN reported the change would have been too dramatic.

The sports calendar in the spring is fine the way it is. March Madness leads into MLB opening day, which leads into the Final Four, which leads into the Masters, which leads into the NBA and NHL playoffs.

I know the NCAA wasn't taking that broad a view when it was looking at men's basketball. But I'm glad it decided to keep the season as is.

Could it be shorter? Absolutely. Instead of early November, tipping off the week of Thanksgiving would be fine. But not seven weeks shorter. That's too much.

Howard Primer