Braylon Edwards and Joshua Cribbs took different paths to the pros, but they will share a trip to the Pro Bowl. The receiver and special teamer ended the Browns’ five-year all-star drought and were selected to the AFC squad. Edwards, the third pick of the 2005 draft out of Michigan, set franchise records with 16 touchdown catches and 1,289 receiving yards. Cribbs, an undrafted free agent who played quarterback at Kent State, led the NFL with a 30.7-yard kickoff return average and had three touchdowns.
Bad, bad Birdie
Putting a negative spin on an otherwise positive Indians season, pitcher Paul Byrd was implicated by the San Francisco Chronicle for using Human Growth Hormone, with the story breaking on the day of Game 7 of the ALCS. Byrd said he used HGH for a pituitary gland problem and had informed Major League Baseball of that fact. MLB and the Indians said they had no idea he was taking the performance enhancement, which was banned after the pitcher admitted to taking it.
For a team that hadn’t enjoyed a winning football season since 1985, the Keystone Wildcats had one to remember in 2007. Behind the explosive running of tailback Shane Robinson and the passing attack from quarterback Mike Herb, the Wildcats averaged 26 points per game. For the first time in the three years coach Rob Clarico had been with the team, Keystone had never beaten Monroeville, Wellington and Black River. The Wildcats beat all three in 2007 and went 8-2 overall, their best record since the 1971 team went 9-0. They fell just short of reaching the postseason.
Off and running
Elyria Catholic hired a little-known 29-year-old first-time head coach in Ben Malbasa to lead its football program and enjoyed one of its most exciting seasons in over a decade, rolling through the regular season with a freewheeling offense led by quarterback Cody Schuster. The Panthers reached the Division IV, Region 14 quarterfinals, but were finally upended by Eastwood 42-27. In that game, Elyria Catholic put on its best offensive show of the year, compiling 468 yards of total offense — all but 10 of which came from the arm of Schuster, who threw for four touchdowns.
Olmsted Falls star Tyler Sparks capped an outstanding high school career by matching his success as a quarterback in football with a dramatic run leading the basketball team to the doorstep of the Division II Final Four. Sparks, a 6-foot-4 guard, who is now attending Findlay College, was at his best in the postseason. Olmsted Falls blitzed Akron Kenmore in the regional semis, with Sparks going off for 19 points, 18 rebounds and six assists. The Bulldogs’ bid for a third trip to the Final Four was ultimately upended by Upper Sandusky in a regional championship game, when Jon Diebler, now a freshman sensation at Ohio State, scored 32 points in a 91-81 victory.
A star on the bars
Magnificat gymnast Kayla Kmiecik of Avon won her second straight uneven bars title and was second in the all-around at the state meet in March. She signed ar letter of intent Nov. 6 to attend Ball State.
World stage still calls Tianna
Tianna Madison finished 10th in the long jump (21 feet, 7½ inches) at the World Championships in Osaka. She was fifth at the U.S. Championships. The World Championships were only the fourth meet Madison competed in all year. She was first at the Modesto Relays and seventh at a meet in Madrid, Spain. The 2005 World Outdoor champ was on the rebound from knee surgery in November 2006. In January 2007, Madison was named the Greater Cleveland Outstanding Amateur Athlete for the second straight year.
A few close calls
The 2007 high school tennis postseason showed promise as the area sent one girls singles player, one girls doubles team, one boys singles player and three boys on doubles teams to the state tournament, but none were able to advance to the semifinals let alone pull down a title.
Avon Lake sophomore Nikki Chiricosta — who captured the Division I doubles championship with senior sister Christine during her freshman season — fell in the quarterfinals.
Westlake senior Brad Noel — who advanced to state all four of his high school seasons — suffered the same fate, losing in the quarterfinals.
• Amherst’s Gianni Catalano (Division I, 800 meters) and Bay’s Rachael Doughty (Division II, 100-meter hurdles) finished second in their respective events at the high school state track meet in June.
• The Bay boys soccer team was denied a third straight appearance in the Division II Final Four when it suffered a
2-1 loss to Napoleon in a regional final at Ashland’s Community Soccer Stadium on Nov. 3. The Rockets finished with a 16-4-1 record. They had advanced to the state final in 2005 and to a state semifinal match in ’06.
Shocking news in softball
For the first time in a dozen years, Keystone’s softball team failed to win a conference championship. Wellington defeated the Wildcats twice during the season to capture the Patriot Athletic Conference crown. Also, while Keystone won its 19th district crown last spring, it failed to win a Division II regional title for the first time in five years. Still, the Wildcats had Lorain County Miss Softball, four-year catcher Sarah Stromack. She was the eighth Keystone player to win the award and second in a row. Pitcher Kristie Malinkey won it in 2006.
He’s coached the best
Ali Stack, who set nine Firelands basketball records in her four-year career, was honored as Lorain County Miss Basketball between games of the annual Senior All-Stars doubleheader at Keystone on March 19. By earning the award, Stack made her coach, Dave Kudela, only the second in the county to have coached Miss Basketball and Mr. Basketball winners. Kudela coached Avon’s Steve Vega when he won in 1998. The other is Amherst’s John Rositano, who coached Audra Mihalic, Miss Basketball 2006. He also coached Carl White of Admiral King, the Mr. Basketball winner in 1996.
Calling it a career
Longtime Avon track and cross country coach Jim Reynolds retired in January. The 74-year-old coached 44 years — the last 32 as Avon’s track coach. He coached the sport longer than anyone else in Lorain County history. Reynolds led the Avon girls to second-place finishes at the 1978 and ’79 Division II state meets. His teams won 30 conference championships in track and cross country.
• Dave Cross stepped down after 22 years as Keystone’s volleyball coach. He had a 365-166 record and his teams won 11 conference titles and four district championships.
Pete Alpern, Chris Assenheimer, Shaun Bennett, Bob Daniels, Paul Heyse
and Scott Petrak contributed to this story.