September 22, 2014

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Football MVP: Highland’s Kinsey has one more decision to make

Highland senior Bruce Kinsey is the 2013 Gazette MVP for football. (GAZETTE PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY RON SCHWANE)

The high school resume is as impressive as any quarterback in Medina County history.

Senior Bruce Kinsey led Highland to its first state semifinal appearance, a school-record 13 wins and No. 6 ranking in The Associated Press Division II state poll. He was the undisputed Northeast Inland District D-II Offensive Player of the Year, a first-team All-Ohio selection and the first player to become two-time Gazette MVP in the sport.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder could throw with pinpoint accuracy, run a read-option attack with flawless execution and study film with a keen eye.

Kinsey’s headiness, twitchy right arm and unbelievable work ethic make him the perfect fit for many small-school colleges. He prepared from an X’s-and-O’s standpoint by running basically the same offense as D-III megapower Mount Union, which will play in its ninth consecutive Stagg Bowl on Saturday night.

The Sharon Township resident now must make a decision far more important than what to do on a mesh with running back Alex Harris.

Playing college football has never been Kinsey’s primary motivation. With a 32 ACT score that is ranked in the 97th percentile, he will soon choose between Dayton, Washington & Jefferson (Pa.) and Case Western Reserve for football or Notre Dame — his “dream school” — Duke, Michigan and Northwestern otherwise. He will pursue a career in healthcare and is leaning toward becoming a biomedical engineer.

Having the best opportunity to succeed in life is more important than the best opportunity to succeed on the gridiron. If football is a part of that process, great. If not, that’s great, too.

“It’s something I’m going to think about over winter break,” he said. “It’s been a bigger dream to go to a bigger academic school, but I haven’t totally decided.

“It’s something that sets me up for the rest of my life, and I’ll end up where I’m supposed to be. No matter what school I go to, it will be something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

He’ll also remember a remarkable senior season that may not be matched for decades.

Kinsey’s 17-game winning streak that spanned two seasons as starting QB is a county record — his career record was 20-4 — and he joined former teammate Jerry Scholle as the only area players to rush and throw for 1,000 yards apiece in a season.

The first-team All-SL pick was 152-for-270 passing for 2,021 yards, 21 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 98.4 NFL rating comparable to stars Tony Romo and Ben Roethlisberger. He also had 1,227 rushing yards on 261 attempts, scored 15 times and posted an average line of 24 carries, 111 yards and a TD against six playoff teams.

The most impressive statistics, though, were that Kinsey committed a turnover once every 106.2 times he ran or threw the ball — a 350 percent improvement over his junior year — and never lost a fumble.

Ever the team player who always went out of his way to thank his offensive line in particular, Kinsey naturally included 1,500-yard rusher Harris in that conversation because Harris only lost one fumble in 274 touches.

“That’s something I’ve definitely grown into as I’ve grown up through Coach (Tom) Lombardo’s system and playing football,” Kinsey said. “My dad (Brian) and I were talking about this the other day. Between Alex Harris and I, we had roughly 750-800 touches and six or seven turnovers, which is pretty amazing. It kept our offense going, and it’s something I’m proud of.”

Kinsey’s career numbers feature 38 passing touchdowns, 3,710 passing yards and 5,611 yards total offense. The totals rank fourth, seventh and third among county QBs, with the latter trailing Brunswick’s Sean Bedevelsky (6,486, 2005-07) and Darian Miskewycz (5,630, 1993-95) — the only other area signal callers to lead their teams to the state semifinals.

How Kinsey reached exclusive company was using brain far more than brawn.

The Hornets met inside the fieldhouse at Highland Stadium each Saturday at 8:30 a.m. to review film of the previous game. Kinsey initially got up at 5:30 and broke down that film himself, but couldn’t sleep as the games became more important and remained awake until 2 a.m. Saturday morning instead.

The intensive study, which at times blew away even Lombardo, translated to unmatched execution under the lights.

Most opponents used zone coverage to limit big plays, so Kinsey patiently threw underneath to Cory Moncol (62 receptions, 963 yards, 7 TDs) and younger brother Coltin Kinsey (57, 638, 9).

When others dared Kinsey with man defense, he pounded the read option and found receivers after looking off safeties or with nasty pump fakes that complemented double-moves by his wideouts.

It was pick a poison for defensive coordinators.

“Quarterbacks are (studious) like that, but Bruce took that to the other levels,” Lombardo said. “Sometimes knowing what we were trying to accomplish is more important (than athleticism). When you put those things together, you have Bruce Kinsey.

“He’d do really well at (coaching), but, more importantly as a player, he’s a coach on the field. When you have that deep understanding of what you’re trying to do and what the defense is trying to do to stop it, you’ve got a really dynamic football player.”

Coaching is a long ways off for Kinsey, who said following his father and Lombardo’s footsteps is a door that will remain open until he finds a definitive path.

It’s a path made possible by his maturity, intelligence and never-quit attitude and a record-smashing season that won’t soon be forgotten.

“What I hope his legacy and the seniors’ legacy is, is that the younger kids got to see that,” Lombardo said. “I hope they strive — and they’ll never be identical — to have that type of work ethic and attitude he brought to the game and the team. Even though he graduates, that aspect keeps going in our program.”

Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.