August 21, 2014

Elyria
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Football: Known for high-flying offenses, Avon and Midview are winning on defense

Much of the talk around the practice field this week at Midview was about a journey. It’s a journey that started for the Middies seniors six years ago … a journey that kicked into high gear last season.

The Midview seniors have been playing against Avon’s seniors since the seventh grade and they have never beaten the Eagles — not in junior high, not as freshmen, not on junior varsity.

If Midview is going to grab the elusive win tonight, its defense must play a big part. If the Middies go down in defeat, the Avon defense will probably have been a big factor.

While Avon rode a high-flying offense to the state final last season and Midview has used an aerial attack to light up scoreboards across Lorain County this year, the schools’ defenses are the area’s best-kept secrets. Often overlooked and underappreciated, the defenses will not only set the tone in tonight’s battle for West Shore Conference supremacy … they will most likely determine the outcome.

Midview enters the game with a 6-0 record, while Avon’s only loss came against Avon Lake in a game where
10 Eagles had been suspended for violating team rules. Both teams are 3-0 in WSC play.

“Avon is a great team that will truly test our defense, but we’re ready,” Midview linebacker and captain Brett Bartone said. “The first time we played them (in 2010) our team wasn’t ready. We didn’t have the best season that year and they took it to us. Last year we had the right mindset and were ready. We were hungry. But Avon came out and snuck away with the win.

“This year we want revenge … we want this game bad. We were four points behind them in a mud game last year. This year, on the turf, there will be no excuses. Avon is a great team, but we’re ready for them. We want this. This is our Super Bowl. To me, this is the game that matters the most.”

Avon captain Kevin Skotko, also a senior linebacker, said the Middies aren’t the only team that has had this game circled on its calendar.

“It’s going to be a great game and we’ve been waiting for it,” Skotko said. “We take each game one week at a time, but this game has been in the back of our heads this entire season. We’ve always known when Midview week was. We know their players. We’ve been ready for this all year. We just can’t wait to play them.

“This week you definitely pay a little more attention to the little things and you want to get every single thing right. This is why we play this game. This week is why we’re here … it’s exactly what you’re looking for as a football player.”

Both defenses have put up big numbers this season. Midview has allowed just 81 points in six games — 13.5 points per game. Bartone leads the team with 9.3 tackles per game — including a season-high 15 against Amherst — and senior linebacker Devon Crum averages nine tackles per game — including 16 against Amherst and 15 against Elyria. Stephen Kozel, a junior linebacker, has a team-leading three sacks, while junior defensive back Jared Armstrong leads the team with three interceptions.

Avon has allowed 80 points in six games — 13.3 points per game — but has given up just 7.6 points per game after the season-opening loss to the Shoremen. Skotko has a team-high 46 tackles, including four for a loss, and has forced two fumbles. Sophomore linebacker Cory Ohradzansky has 44 tackles, nine for a loss, with three sacks and one fumble recovery. Junior defensive lineman Domonic Bodnar has a pair of sacks, while junior safety Logan Juhl leads the team with three interceptions.

“They’re a very physical bunch that is fun to watch on a Friday night,” Eagles coach Mike Elder said of his defense. “When you are up close and personal, watching them, you can see the smacking, the hitting and the physicality. That’s a tribute to our players for the hard work they put in, and for the coaching staff that gets them to play at that level every single down.”

Midview coach Bill Albright has been pleased with how his defense has played as well … especially considering the heavy graduation losses it suffered from last year’s 8-2 squad.

“We only had four or five returning starters (on defense), so we were scared to death coming in,” he said. “We lost two outstanding safeties and two really good outside backers, along with a corner and a d-lineman, so we had a lot of shoes to fill. These guys really stepped up.

“The play of our safeties has been tremendous, (sophomore Dante) Redwood came in and has done a really good job at corner and (sophomore Derek) Ruffner and Kozel have filled in well at outside backer. It was a matter of guys stepping in and we really haven’t missed a beat.”

Bartone thinks his defense has carried a chip on its shoulder all season — which has translated into success on the field.

“From the get-go we have been underrated,” he said. “We lost some great seniors from last season and people thought we might struggle because of that, but we’ve worked our butts off. We have a lot of speed. We don’t have the size a lot of other teams may have, but our speed makes up for it and we have a great chemistry. We get the job done.”

Both coaches are expecting a charged-up setting inside Adelsberg Stadium.

“It’s going to be a great atmosphere here (tonight),” Albright said. “There are going to be a lot of people here and it’s going to be very similar to what we faced against Elyria. Same type of atmosphere … a big game, a rivalry. It’s huge and the kids are having fun with it. Bottom line, that’s what it’s all about. Let’s enjoy the moment because games like this don’t come around very often.”

Elder agrees.

“This is the biggest task for them all season,” he said. “Midview is a very talented team. I think we’re going to be up to the challenge and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Eagles defensive coordinator Eric Kiesel was even more succinct.

“If your pulse isn’t racing for this one, you shouldn’t be out here,” he said. “A game like this is what it’s all about.”

Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.