July 23, 2016

Mostly sunny

Hornets join elite company

Highland's Myles Houska and James Friedl (17) bring down Avon's Gerett Choat during the first quarter. (RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE)


The 1995 and 2007 Brunswick Blue Devils now have company.

The 2013 Highland Hornets became just the third Medina County football team to reach the state semifinals, defeating Avon 24-21 Friday in a thrilling Division II, Region 4 championship game at Brunswick Auto Mart Stadium.

“It was amazing,” senior receiver/defensive back Collin Paich said. “It was the most fun game I’ve ever played in. I still can’t believe it.”

Believe it.

The Hornets improved to 13-0 by downing a quick-strike Avon team that lost for the first time this season. The win sets up a state semifinal game against Glenville (12-1) next week, meaning thousands and thousands of Highland fans will once again turn out to support their team.

“This has been really special,” junior receiver/defensive back Coltin Kinsey said. “We had goals of going 10-0 and winning the Suburban League and going far in the playoffs. This entire ride has been special. So is the bond we have.

“We won’t go in afraid (against Glenville). We’ll respect them, but we won’t go in intimidated.”

At this point, the Hornets shouldn’t be intimidated by anyone. They’re 13-0 for a reason. Actually, they’re 13-0 for a number of reasons. They’re good, they’re well-coached and they stick together, regardless of the circumstances.

This is a team that lacks a big-time D-I college recruit — or any kind of D-I college recruit, for that matter — but it is a team in every sense of the word.

That was on display once again Friday, as there were heroes aplenty for Highland.

Quarterback Bruce Kinsey was his normal composed, mistake-free self, completing 9-of-14 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown while rushing 22 times for 67 yards and a score.

Undersized but tough and shifty tailback Alex Harris had 29 carries for 154 yards and set the tone for this game by ripping off some big runs on Highland’s first possession, while Cory Moncol had four catches for 108 yards and a 44-yard TD, which came on a Bruce Kinsey pass that couldn’t have been more perfectly thrown.

None of that would have been possible without yeoman’s work from the offensive line of Tyler Gienger, Myles Houska, Tanner Ramey, Tyler Frederick and Michael Doak, plus tight end Conor McCune.

That group allowed Highland to possess the ball for 29:33 of the game’s 48 minutes, including all but 4:32 of the second half.

Of course, Avon’s ability to score from anywhere had something to do with that. The Hornets would grind out 8-minute scoring drives, only to have the Eagles answer in what sometimes seemed like 8 seconds.

That’s all part of what made this game so special.

“It was a crazy game, just like last week,” Moncol said of a 17-14 win over Massillon. “The playoffs, for us, have been full of memorable games.”

In this one, Highland led 7-0. Avon tied it 7-7.

Highland led 14-7. Avon tied it at 14.

Highland led 21-14. Avon knotted the score again.

A Luke Allen 20-yard field with 6:56 left in the game ended up being the final points, as the Hornets finally managed to prevent the Eagles from hitting big passing plays.

“It was probably the most fun moment in my life,” defensive end Nick Corvo said. “We were going back and forth, back and forth, and it started to get a little scary. But at the end of the game, we settled down.”

Just as on offense, it was a team effort for the Hornets. Houska had nine tackles, including a sack, while linebacker Grant Wallace added eight and Corvo had a sack.

The Highland community, meanwhile, became a 12th, especially in the late going.

“It’s awesome having the support,” Paich said. “We needed that.”

The next task for the Hornets is to become the first county team to win a state semifinal on the field.

The ’95 Brunswick team lost in the state championship game to St. Ignatius, but only after Colerain had to forfeit a 49-7 semifinal win for using an ineligible player.

“It’s been crazy,” Paich said. “We haven’t had any setbacks so far, so we’ll keep moving forward and keep playing hard.”

The Hornets will attempt to do that against a Glenville team that will bring speed like they’ve never seen before, but at this stage of the season, anything can happen.

“We’ve heard about them,” Coltin Kinsey said. “We’ll prepare like we did for every other team we’ve played and go out and play our butts off.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.

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.