The only thing missing on Ben Hamel is a whistle around his neck. A standout at strong safety for Medina’s football team, the 6-foot-1, 182-pound senior is the leader of a defense ready to take on fourth-seeded Toledo St. John’s Jesuit on Saturday in a Division I, Region 2 semifinal.
While he doesn’t have a drill sergeant mentality, he might as well. He’s earned the reverence of his teammates.
“He doesn’t demand respect because he’s earned it,” Medina linebacker Aaron Wilson said. “He’s a big player for us who makes big plays.
“You have to respect someone who wants to take on the responsibility of the whole defense and who is strong enough to take on that role.”
Hamel’s 71 tackles and three interceptions stand out, but it’s what he does before every play that matters most.
He’s the quarterback of the defensive unit, the one calling the plays and making sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be.
A starter since his sophomore season, Hamel took his lumps, listened to defensive coordinator Tom Fasko and has grown into a field general.
“We saw back in the summer that he was a natural leader,” Medina coach Larry Laird said. “He’s one of those kids you can see coaching down the line. That’s the type of kid he is.
“He gets our secondary into the coverages it needs to be in and gets us aligned. The kids know he’s the one calling the shots. Our secondary has played great the last few weeks. Ben makes that group go.”
Hamel loves the responsibility, but he does his job while respecting those that played the position before him.
He singled out former Bees defensive back Connor Kunz when talking about the X’s and O’s of the game and mentioned Fasko and the other assistant coaches helping him out.
But what sets Hamel apart is his willingness to learn, even if it means doing it while on the field.
“I’ve been in this defense the last three years, so I’m very comfortable,” Hamel said. “I have great coaches helping me out. I just try to relay what they tell me to the other players.
“Whenever it’s a pressure situation like Saturday when we were down against Canton McKinley, I just try to make the right call. Even if we’re in the wrong formation, as long as we’re on the same page, we’re good enough players to adjust. I like having that power.”
That power had the Bees ranked No. 1 inMedina County defense this year and has the squad in a regional semifinal for the first time in school history.
“We’d miss the leadership, the experience, the knowledge and the ability to make the right decisions without him,” Wilson said. “We definitely wouldn’t be where we are.”
Where the Bees are is uncharted water. But in Hamel, they have a solid oarsman navigating them in the right direction.
Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com.
WHO: No. 8 Medina (9-2) vs. No. 4 Toledo St. John’s Jesuit (10-1).
WHAT: Division I, Region 2 semifinal.
WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Kalahari Field at Huron Memorial Stadium.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: The Bees upset top-seeded Canton McKinley 31-28, while the Titans stopped fifth-seeded Fremont Ross 45-35.
TICKETS: Presale tickets can be purchased for $7 in the Medina athletic department from 8 to 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 to 4 p.m. through Friday. They will be $9 at the gate.
DIRECTIONS: Take Interstate 71 north to the Ohio Turnpike and head west. Get off at state Route 57 (exit 145). Merge onto state Route 57 north. Merge onto state Route 2 west after approximately 1½ miles. Take the state Route 13 exit toward Norwalk/Huron and turn right. After approximately two miles, turn left on Cleveland Road West.