July 25, 2016

Partly cloudy

More than a dream ending

Mason Schreck took a knee, the final seconds ticked off the clock and hundreds of Medina students stormed out of the end zone bleachers Friday night to celebrate their football team’s 14-13 win over Brunswick at Kenneth Dukes Stadium.

First-year Bees coach Larry Laird and his players loved every minute of it, but they’re also hoping in future years a key Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division win and probable playoff berth are greeted with a been-there, done-that atti-tude.

“I want to get our pro-gram to the point where we’ve been there before and we act like it,” Laird said. “But I’m very proud of the way our student body re-acted and the way they cheered us on.”

The way Medina coaches had it figured out, the 8-2 Bees squeaked into the Division I, Region 2 playoffs when Avon Lake beat Am-herst Steele 21-17 later in the evening. The official first-round pairings will be an-nounced Sunday.

“It means the world,” sen-ior defensive back Jeremy Stich said.

It meant a ton to all of Medina’s players, but it was extra special to Stich, whose father Rick died last spring at the age of 49. The Bees wore special gold jerseys against Brunswick, paid for out of the Rick Stich Memorial Fund, and will continue to don them once a year in his memory.

Before the opening kick-off, Jeremy Stich jogged to the goal line, knelt down for a moment and then pointed to the sky. Afterward, he shed a few tears for a few different reasons.

“My dad’s dream was to see us play in the playoffs,” Jeremy Stich said. “We accomplished our goal and our dream.”

Stich was referring not only to the dream he shared with his father, but also to the one he shared with his teammates, who believed when not many other people in the community did.

“It’s amazing,” exhausted senior fullback/linebacker Aaron Wilson said while fighting off cramps in both legs. “This hasn’t happened in a long time. We left it all on the field. Our hearts were in this. There’s no other feeling like this.”

In many ways, the Bees’ expected playoff berth will be icing on the cake. Of more immediate concern was recording a victory over an NOC Valley rival like Solon, Strongsville or Brunswick.

The Bees still haven’t beaten the former two, but the fact they ended a 12-game losing streak to Brunswick, which saw its string of consecutive playoff appearances end at nine, was cause for celebration.

It didn’t matter in the slightest to Medina players that the Blue Devils finished just 5-5 this season. What mattered was they beat a team Medina hadn’t beaten since they were in grade school.

“It feels great,” said sen-ior running back Jason Suggs, who scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on a 46-yard run late in the third quarter. “To take the next step, we had to beat a great team. Brunswick’s one of the best. No matter what their record is, they’re one of the best.”

Added Wilson: “We definitely felt like we had something to prove. We had to beat a league rival to let everybody know we’re a real team.”

The victory wasn’t an ar-tistic success — the Bees completed two passes to Brunswick defenders and only one to one of their own players — but that only made it more special.

Medina has never been known as a football school, its last conference champi-onship coming in 1973 and its lone previous playoff appearance occurring in 2006, but Laird doesn’t want to hear any of that.

“I don’t believe in that kind of stuff,” he said. “To me, you make your own traditions.”

Whether or not they win in Week 11, the Bees’ biggest challenge is to repeat their 2010 success on a consistent basis.

In a league that already includes Solon and Strongs-ville — the Mustangs have defeated Medina 22 straight times — and will add pow-erful Mentor next year, that won’t be easy, but that is still the challenge.

Medina has had a few very good teams over the years, but that’s exactly what they turned out to be — very good teams. The Bees now want to develop into a very good program.

Beating Brunswick was a start, but as far as Laird is concerned, it is only a start.

“It’s huge for the program,” he said. “We talked about that all year long. We wanted to build our program up to the stature of the big three.

“Our kids never quit. There were times in years past where they might have struggled to get over the hump, but our kids never quit fighting the good fight.”

That fight is ongoing. A football program isn’t built — it doesn’t arrive — in one year. A program wins year-in, year-out.

But it all has to start somewhere. If in fact it started Friday, that would really be cause for Medina football fans to celebrate.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.