MEDINA — The Medina football team’s defensive players looked like bounty hunters Friday night in the season opener, the payoff being a 10-0 victory over Garfield Heights in a Northeast Ohio Conference cross-division game.
“This is the way we are going to play every game this year,’’ safety and leading head hunter Cory Solich said. “We want receivers to fear our defensive backfield when they come into our area.”
The message got across early, as the Bulldogs suffered two interceptions and a fumble, dropped nine passes and had several helmets knocked off.
“The Medina defensive backs really were hitting tonight,” Garfield Heights coach and former Brunswick coach Chuck Reisland said. “We had guys open and they just dropped the pass. We had a sure touchdown in the third quarter and our receiver must have heard footsteps, because he dropped the ball.”
Medina led 10-0 at the time, and it was the first of two straight dropped TD passes from the Bees 8-yard line, as the Bulldogs failed to secure another on fourth down.
Garfield Heights threatened once more, but was stopped on downs at the Bees 26 when running back Jayvonn Wanzo being thrown for a 3-yard loss. It was one of seven plays where the Medina defense tackled a ball carrier in the backfield.
“Some of the rushes into their backfield were set plays, but most of the time we (linebackers) were just smelling out the play and going for a sack,” senior Emerson Buckland said. “We are a different defense this year. We are playing with an attitude and attacking the other team’s offense.”
Garfield Heights quarterback James Bennett,, who is projected to be the offensive MVP in the NOC Lake Division, finished 10-for-27 for 145 yards and the two interceptions.
The Medina offense was not much better, but was just good enough to win.
The Bees took their first possession 59 yards in six plays, with Buckland (16 carries, 72 yards) scoring from 2 yards out at 7:25, but they did little the rest of the way, finishing with 232 yards total offense.
Most of the problems were caused by silly penalties (6 for 57 yards).
“We are not yet to that point where we can afford to get into long-yardage situations, “ Medina coach Dan Sutherland said. “I am confident that our offense can pick up the short yardage on third downs, but we still have to work on long-yardage plays.”
Out of 52 offensive plays, Medina only had 11 where it gained more than 5 yards.
“We still have to work together on our blocks and assignments,” two-way lineman Mitch Doraty said. “I think we are a lot further along at this time this year than we were last year. We worked really hard in two-a-days and it paid off tonight, because we were still fresh in the second half and Garfield was sucking wind.”
Medina’s other points were set up by Chris Zawadski’s 73-yard kickoff return to the Garfield Heights 24 to start the second half. A 6-yard sack of Dillon Wiesler (5-for-12, 46 yards, 6 carries for 30 yards) forced the Bees to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Nick Bavaro.
“It wasn’t a pretty win, but there were a lot of positives out there, especially by our defense,” Sutherland said of his first varsity coaching victory. “We have to eliminate the silly penalties and concentrate on offense every play, and I think we will have a very, very good season.”
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Medina 10, Garfield Heights 0
GARFIELD HTS. 0 0 0 0 — 0
MEDINA 7 0 3 0 — 10
M — Emerson Buckland 2 run (Nick Bavaro kick), 7:25.
M — Bavaro 30 field goal, 8:56.
Defense is key for Medina