Very few things bring a community together quite like a deep playoff run in high school football. The streets are lined with signs rooting for the team as hype turns into hyperbole with every win.
At Highland, it was a little different as the Hornets went where few Medina County teams have gone before when it met Cleveland Glenville in a Division II state semifinal Friday night. Only Brunswick, in 1995 and 2007, ever had been that far in county history.
The fact the team lost to the Tarblooders 41-13 hurt, but the pride from those following the team all season meant quite a bit.
It’s something Highland coach Tom Lombardo was aware of prior to Friday’s kickoff at Byers Field in Parma, and all season for that matter.
“The community, school, administration and students really have rallied behind us,” he said.
“It feels like our whole student body is involved. Our halls were decorated to the fullest and it brings a lot of support to us and pride for the school.”
But the Hornets’ support goes further than just the townships of Granger, Hinckley and Sharon as Highland’s success has transcended school district and county lines.
It wouldn’t be right to say Byers Field was a sea of Highland followers, because there were fans from other county schools mixed in with the green gang.
It wasn’t hard to find a varsity jacket of a different color meshing with the Highland student body, nor was it hard to find a fan who wasn’t happy to be a part of what the Hornets were doing.
In fact, the excitement transcended the county line as students from Copley, Nordonia and Revere were on hand cheering on the green and white.
“We have to support the Suburban League,” Revere right tackle/defensive end Drew Lewis said. “I have a lot of friends that go here.
“I’m really good friends with Bruce Kinsey and Myles Houska, so it’s fun to watch them play. These guys are good. I’ve played against them since fifth grade. This team has always dominated. I’m not surprised they were here at all. I knew it would happen last year.”
So did Highland senior Hailey Beard. A shooting guard on the Hornets basketball team and member of the school choir, she hasn’t missed a game this season.
In fact, Beard was in full voice at 5:45, a full 82 minutes before kickoff. She wasn’t the only one as the student body started filling the stands early.
“It’s been a crazy experience,” Beard said. “Ever since sophomore year, we knew we’d be good in every sport. Starting off with football, it’s been awesome.
“These guys are leading us. It really has become Hornet Nation. I knew we could get here. Once I saw how they came out, I knew our boys would get here. We are so proud.”
The excitement isn’t limited to current Highland students. Those who graduated a decade ago or more continue to come to the games.
Dan Thoburn, a 2004 graduate who was a sophomore on the 2001 playoff team, has been to every game this season but one.
He can be excused for that game against Copley since he was in Las Vegas for his brother’s wedding. Don’t worry, he was getting updates texted to him the entire time.
“Highland’s always been a supportive community,” he said. “You can take it back to a couple years ago when Chris Snook and Tyler Houska made that nice playoff run.
“The community has always pulled together and supported these guys really well. I’ve gotten to know Myles Houska really well, and from talking to him and hearing what he has to say, I knew it was a close team. We knew this was going to be a good team. It’s a good program and good football team. They’ve been very fun to watch.”
Contact reporter Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.