CANTON — For five weeks, Justin Letts sat while his Medina football team made history in the second half of the season.
Suspended for violating the school’s athletic code of conduct, the senior wide receiver/defensive back/kicker could only hope for a Week 11 game so he could feel the passion again.
Letts’ shot came Saturday in a 31-28 Division I, Region 2 win over top-seeded Canton McKinley, and the 5-foot-11, 160-pound senior certainly made the most of it.
“It was a huge sigh of relief to get back on the field and play the game I love,” he said. “It’s everything I could ask for. It’s my passion. It’s my love.
“I never thought I’d have this feeling again. I thought I would regret the decision I made the rest of my life. But there’s no place I’d rather be than on this field.”
Letts began his suspension in Week 6 against Strongsville, a 34-14 loss, but got new life when Medina grabbed the eighth seed, jumping two places in Week 10 to snatch the last spot in the playoffs.
“I was really nervous before this game,” he said. “I usually don’t get nervous like this. I thought everyone would question, ‘Why’s he playing?’
“I had to come out and help this team. I was lucky enough to do it on all sides of the ball.”
Letts did a little of everything in the Bees’ win over McKinley.
He recovered his own onside kick in the second quarter, scored a game-tying touchdown in the third period and kicked the game-winning field goal in the fourth.
Add a sack that snuffed out a drive on Medina’s 16-yard line in the fourth frame and Letts truly was Mr. Everything for the Bees.
“He was to the point — all our seniors were to the point — where it’s one and done,” Medina coach Larry Laird said. “Justin is just that type of athlete that can make things happen. He’s a difference-maker. I mean, let’s be honest, we missed him.”
Letts caught all six of Mason Schreck’s completions to finish with 67 yards and accounted for 13 of Medina’s points.
“We told him we’d get him back on the field,” tailback Jason Suggs said. “We got him back and I told him, ‘Big players make big plays.’ He came through.”
Because of it, the Bees (9-2) will face fourth-seeded Toledo St. John’s (10-1) on Saturday at Huron High School and the versatile Letts will get another chance to shine on his own personal playground.
“That just goes to show you we missed him,” Medina fullback/linebacker Aaron Wilson said. “No one has film on him. No one knows what we can do with him but us. There’s no way to describe what he means to the team.”
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.