BRUNSWICK — Grab a seat early. Judy Kirsch Field will be rocking tonight.
The Brunswick football team clamored all preseason about their goal of returning to the Divison I, Region 2 playoffs for the first time since 2009. A win over Mentor, the defending Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division tri-champion and 11th-ranked team in the Associated Press D-I state poll, will all but lock up a berth.
It’s a steep goal to reach so quickly, as the only loss for the Cardinals (4-1) came to nationally ranked St. Ignatius in Week 2. It’s also worth noting Mentor’s 38-14 win last season over Brunswick kick-started the Blue Devils’ collapse down the stretch.
But that was last year. This year’s Big Blue is a whole ’nother animal.
“A huge part of it are the seniors,” defensive end Garrick Koermer said. “We’re a different class this year and after the (car) accident (that took the lives of former teammates Blake Bartchak and Jeff Chaya), we’re playing for a cause. We’re coming out here and we want it more than anything.”
The Cardinals feature one of the most dangerous offenses in Ohio with North Carolina recruit Mitch Trubisky at quarterback. The no-huddle spread attack, which often features five wide receivers, is averaging 37.8 points per game.
Trubisky is red hot, too. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder had his worst game of the season (14-for-34, 193 yards, 2 INTs) in the 48-21 loss to St. Ignatius, but is 25-for-33 (.758) for 397 yards and a perfect 6-0 TD-INT ratio in two games since.
Fellow basketball standouts highlight the receiving corps, as 6-4 senior Brandon Fritts (20 receptions, 355 yards, 5 TDs) and 6-2 junior Conner Krizancic (23, 317, 5; 195 rushing yards, 4 TDs) will cause matchup problems for Brunswick’s speedy defense.
Making Mentor even more dangerous, its running game still puts 175.6 yards per game — Nick Delisa (219 yards, 2 TDs) and Eddie Daugherty (142) will see touches — and the Cardinals still hold a 167-150
run-pass ratio despite their passing brilliance.
“If we can control their offense and keep them off the field and give our offense a shot, there’s no doubt we can win this game,” Koermer said. “It’s just who wants it more.”
Brunswick’s lone loss came to Austintown Fitch, which is ranked fifth in the AP D-I state poll, but it also holds quality wins over D-III power Mentor Lake Catholic (38-10) and defending NOC River Division champion Hudson (26-22).
The Blue Devils counter with plenty of big-play ability in the backfield with senior tailback Nick Roberts (522 rushing yards, 5 TDs), steady senior quarterback Dan Yohman (924 yards total offense, 10 combined TDs) and versatile senior slot back Keith Yohman (553 yards from scrimmage, 9 TDs).
Ball control, however, will be important. The Blue Devils exhibited they are capable of executing with ground-and-pound wins over the Explorers and Garfield Heights.
“We’ve just got to stay on our blocks and drive them back,” right tackle Austin Monyak said. “Our goal is 4 yards every play. We’ll win the game that way.”
The defense will be tested with junior Justin Boey hobbled with a knee issue, but Koermer (32 tackles, 5 sacks, 6 QB hurries), linebacker Brad Darlington (34 tackles, 4 pass breakups) and lineman Tyler Laffin (26 tackles, 4 sacks, 5 QB hurries) will look pick up the slack in the box.
In the end, however, defensive backs Keith Yohman, Patrick Shaughnessy, David Kelty and Adam Weber must play well if Brunswick wants to hold Mentor under 30 points.
A meager 61.4 NFL rating by opposing quarterbacks backs their ability to do just that, as does the pride of protecting home turf.
“The bigger the stakes, the better the opportunity to earn respect and show people what we’re try made of,” Monyak said.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.