July 25, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Highland football: Speed is name of game against Glenville

Highland’s James Friedl, right, and Coltin Kinsey break up a pass intended for Avon’s Braeden Friss. Below, Hornets tackle Tyler Gienger blocks against Nordonia’s Justice Alexander. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY RON SCHWANE)

PARMA — Glenville hasn’t seen a read-option as efficient as Highland’s. The Hornets haven’t seen anything remotely close to the Tarblooders’ speed.

The matchups are perfectly clear heading into tonight’s Division II state semifinal at Byers Field.

It’s another Northeast Ohio power with D-I college prospects at every level against the intelligent, never-intimidated boys from Granger, Hinckley and Sharon Townships.

Don’t think Highland is at a disadvantage simply because this is its first state appearance. Glenville’s players are new to this, too, because the Tarblooders haven’t reached this level since losing the 2009 D-I title game to Hilliard Davidson.

“It doesn’t play a role because the players have to play the game,” legendary Glenville coach Ted Ginn Sr. said. “None of our guys have been here, either. They have no fear or understanding of where they’re at. That could be good or that could be bad.”

The Tarblooders have big names across the board, highlighted by wide receiver/cornerback Marshon Lattimore. The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder is the 50th-best recruit in the nation according to ESPN.com, expected to choose between Ohio State and Alabama in January and was nominated for the U.S. Army Player of the Year award.

Safety Erick Smith (6-1, 85) teams with Lattimore to form the best 1-2 DB punch in the state, while beefy lineman Marcelys Jones is already locked up by the Buckeyes.

Summerville, S.C., running back transfer Davon Anderson is the key to the offense. The 6-1, 190-pounder with 10.6-second speed in the 100-meter dash has 1,440 rushing yards and is being recruited for track or football by Oregon, USC, Michigan State and Ohio State. His backup, Devin Redding (6-0, 220), is headed to Indiana and has 239 postseason yards.

Amazingly, those five are just the start, as juniors Milan Golden (LB, 6-2, 193), Matthew Draper (LB, 6-2, 200) and Trevon Story (ATH, 5-10, 165) will keep the recruiting wars on the east side of Cleveland next fall.

“They’re extremely talented,” Highland coach Tom Lombardo said. “Obviously, they have big-time recruits and some of the best players in the nation. They have great speed, they have size and Coach Ginn has been doing that for a while. Their kids have proven themselves in college and at the (professional) level.”

Glenville has a run-first offense behind a line that features tackles Jones (6-4, 325) and Christian Spencer (6-3, 285), guards Lear Reese (6-4, 295) and Demik Fields (6-2, 250) and center Sabastian Field (5-10, 250). Even so, quarterback Quan Robinson Jr. still has 2,090 yards total offense (353 rushing, 1,737 passing) and 29 combined touchdowns while throwing primarily to Lattimore (30 receptions, 667 yards, 10 TDs), Story (18, 300, 3) and Smith (18, 194, 4).

The Tarblooders average 39.5 points per game, but that number is largely inflated by rolling through the notoriously weak Cleveland Senate League. Glenville averaged 23.7 points against D-I playoff qualifiers St. Edward, Solon and Cleveland Heights, who all did a respectable job at limiting the big play.

“We can’t let a positive play for us turn into a positive for them,” Lombardo said. “They have the athleticism to make that kind of (big) play with a missed tackle and a bounce. We can never assume they are down and have to rally to the ball.”

The Glenville offense relies on the quick strike, but the defense is the Tarblooders’ backbone.

Glenville has allowed just 77 points since St. Edward rung up 40 in the season opener, and the offenses of Brush (35-0), Bedford (26-12) and Madison (40-7) proved to be little more than cannon fodder.

What has the Tarblooders concerned, though, is Highland’s discipline. Quarterback Bruce Kinsey and running back Alex Harris have combined for 2,729 rushing yards, and the Hornets are fresh off a second half against Avon in which they had the ball for all but 4:32 of it.

There within lies the game plan: If Highland can keep Glenville’s explosive offense off the field, shorten the game and force the Tarblooders to remain composed — they had 12 penalties for 100 yards in the first half last week — the score will be close heading into the fourth quarter.

“(Kinsey’s) one of the best we’ve seen,” Smith said. “He’s got great vision when he runs. He knows where he’s going and he knows how to get there. You have to be able to contain him if you want to come out with the ‘W.’”

Brad Bournival contributed to this story.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.

Albert Grindle About Albert Grindle

Albert Grindle is a sportswriter for the Gazette. He can be reached at 330-721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.