July 24, 2016

Partly cloudy

Karaba makes impact each time he gets ball

Brunswick football coach Rich Nowak calls him an invaluable part of the offense. Quarterback Sean Bedevelsky can’t imagine a game without him.

Yet he’s touched the ball just 9 percent of the time the Blue Devils have been on offense.

It’s not always how many times Ben Karaba touches the pigskin, however. It’s what he does with the ball when he gets it.

“A lot of guys can catch the ball,” Nowak said. “But he’s the guy that can do things with it. Those are the guys you look for. He can take a 10-yard pass and turn it into a 35-yard run. He dips in, dips out and the next thing you know he’s in the end zone.”

The top-seeded Blue Devils, who host eighth-seeded Canton GlenOak in a Division I, Region 2 regional quarterfinal contest Saturday at 7 p.m., find it hard to use Karaba when they have the ball.

Arguably the best free safety the Blue Devils have had since Les Brock roamed Judy Kirsch Field in the mid-90s, Karaba is the quarterback on defense with 43 tackles — six for loss — two interceptions and eight knockdowns.

He also returns punts and kickoffs, usually finding some rest when Brunswick is on offense.

When Karaba gets chances, though, he shines.

“Our goal is to get him on the field with Jordan Gribble (Medina County’s leading wide receiver) as much as possible,” Nowak said. “It’s not always easy to do, but when Ben gets in the game, you don’t overlook him because he can make plays.”

That’s hard to argue, even though Karaba is on offense roughly 20 plays a game, or about 40 percent of the time.

Karaba heads into Week 11 as the county’s second-leading receiver behind Gribble. The 6-foot, 170-pound senior has 35 catches, 681 yards receiving and eight touchdowns.

“We’re so much better with both of them out there because you can divide it up between two playmakers,” Bedevelsky said. “A lot of times Ben won’t be keyed on because he doesn’t get the reps.

“He’s a key second receiver, though. He could put up the same numbers (as Gribble) if he played only on offense. He can go the distance every time.”

Many teams have found that out the hard way. Opponents look to stop Bedevelsky and Gribble first and hope Karaba doesn’t burn them. It usually backfires.

On third-and-13 against Medina last week, Karaba took a simple pass and turned it into a 25-yard touchdown.

He torched Elyria for a 28-yard touchdown pass and added a 76-yard punt return for a score.

He broke the county record with a 95-yard touchdown reception against Lakewood, but his shining moment came against Strongsville.

While he never found the end zone, he had 86 yards receiving on six catches, keeping more than one scoring drive alive.

“He’s the best on the team,” Gribble said. “You don’t have to worry about him. He’ll make the big play.

“(Strongsville’s) Jovon Anderson said all week they talked about me. I was like, ‘Let them. Ben can make the big plays.’ I can’t imagine (how good he would be) if he only played offense.”

That’s a situation left only for the dreamers.

“I just do whatever the team needs,” Karaba said. “Offense and defense are the same pretty much. All you can do is just play and rest in between.”