Mike Haddad is flicking off would-be defenders like flies and chewing up yardage by the hundreds. In a flash, the struggles of Avon Lake in 2006 have quickly been forgotten.
Meanwhile, the shadow of the departed Tyler Sparks has been quickly obscured by the presence of Olmsted Falls’ John Atkinson, who has turned out to be a highly effective quarterback in his own right.
As the high school football season heads into its final week of the non-conference schedule, Avon Lake and Olmsted Falls sit a perfect 2-0. But one of the curious developments thus far is why the rest of the Southwestern Conference has been as comparatively unsuccessful.
Outside of the Shoremen and Bulldogs, the SWC’s six other teams have gone a combined 2-10. Four of those programs — Amherst, defending conference champion Brecksville, Berea and Midpark — have yet to register a victory.
Some of that is circumstantial. Amherst, for instance, took on a brutal non-conference foray into the 2007 season by facing Nordonia and Midview in Weeks 1 and 2.
“That’s how we like to do it,” said Westlake coach Mark Hollars, who emphasized the importance of a difficult non-conference slate. “I think year in and year out, the SWC is one of the better conferences in this area. You’re not seeing a lot of teams getting blown out. The records might not be strong, but there were a lot of close games there.”
All told, half the games in Week 1 were decided by eight points or fewer, with SWC teams dropping three of those matchups. In Week 2, the margins were more pronounced — yet the results still not in the conference’s favor.
“I don’t think the SWC has all of a sudden forgotten how to compete or gone in the dumps,” said Hollars. “This is a tough, tough league. I have no doubt about that. Every Friday night, there’s no easy matchups. There are no weeks off.
“I think what you’re seeing is a bunch of teams trying to work their kinks out,” he said. “That’s what the non-conference schedule is for. It tells teams where they’re at before the games start to mean more.”
One lesson learned constantly in sports is the danger in reading too much into a final score. Last Friday’s 20-0 win by Chanel over Brookside suggests a one-sided rout. It most definitely was not.
Against a powerhouse team projected to contend for a state title, the Cardinals weren’t far from pulling off an unlikely upset.
On three occasions, Brookside marched into Chanel’s red zone — twice inside the 5-yard line. In each case, the Cardinals were stuffed. Meanwhile, all three of Chanel’s touchdowns came on long-yardage plays.
“It could very easily have been 14-14,” said Brookside coach Mike Akers. “We just stalled.”
The Cardinals are still without all-purpose back Carl Fitzer, who is sidelined with a knee injury suffered in Week 1. He isn’t expected back for another three weeks, at the earliest. Dugan Radeff has taken his place at wingback.
There are a handful of highly intriguing matchups this week, but one that might appear to be an otherwise ho-hum tilt is Admiral King and Berea.
To the Admirals, however, it’s anything but.
Despite grabbing a share of the Lake Erie League Erie Division last year, Admiral King finished with an even 5-5 overall record in large part because of the Braves.
The Admirals were stunned by Berea (which went on to finish 1-9) in one of the weirdest games of 2006. Despite dominating the Braves in nearly every statistical category, the Admirals gave up a safety after punting the ball in their own end zone, resulting in the margin of defeat in an 8-6 loss.
The loss ended Admiral King’s bid to have its first winning season since 1987, when it went 9-3.
It would be hard to find fault in Elyria’s offensive explosion in last week’s 35-14 thrashing of Marion Harding. But one area the Pioneers are looking to become more consistent in is establishing more extended drives.
Despite scoring five touchdowns last Friday, four of Elyria’s scores came through explosive long-yardage plays: fumble returns of 88 and 81 yards, respectively, and Darian Robbins touchdown runs of 85 and 74 yards.
For the Pioneers to keep pace tonight with resurgent Avon Lake, they’re going to have to drive the field — repeatedly.
Running on empty
Under the best of circumstances, Buckeye would have its hands full with Midview. But the Bucks are coming off a brutal 31-0 performance against Highland last week in which they rushed for only 32 yards, the third-lowest total in school history, and had just 68 yards overall.
The Middies, meanwhile, have one of the stingiest defenses in the area, especially against the run. They held Elyria to minus-4 yards in Week 1, and Brandon Kish, one of the top backs in Lorain County, was held to 49 yards in last Friday’s 20-6 rout of Amherst.
Contact Pete Alpern at 329-7137 or at email@example.com.