December 21, 2014

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High school football: Brookside players bond in offseason, hope it pays off in more wins

Brookside's Casey Huhn tackles Oberlin quarterback Brendon Medina last season. Huhn is one of eight returning seniors for the Cardinals. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

Brookside’s Casey Huhn tackles Oberlin quarterback Brendon Medina last season. Huhn is one of eight returning seniors for the Cardinals. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

SHEFFIELD — Brookside is hoping that going camping over the summer will pay off on the football field this fall.

Fourth-year head coach Thom Lesiecki took his team to a camp at Hiram College over the offseason and he is already beginning to see changes in the team and their attitude as the season approaches.

“When I was at Lorain Catholic we always seemed to have teams that did everything together both on and off the field,” Lesiecki said. “It hasn’t always been that way here, but I’m seeing some of that now from this group of players.

“Being together like that can mean a huge difference in what a team does on Friday night.”

The Cardinals’ goal last year was to end a long losing streak, which they did with a 31-21 win over Oberlin in the second week of the season en route to a 3-7 record.

The players are willing to do just about anything to put the losing behind them, so what’s wrong with a little camping?

“We had a really good senior class (last year), but the team seemed sort of scattered and everyone did their own thing,” said junior Dudley Taw, who led the team in rushing with 523 yards. “We really seem to be focused in on teamwork and working even harder to be successful this year.

“I think the Hiram camp really helped us come together as a team. Even doing something as silly as swimming together helped bring this team together and we are all focused on working together to build a successful program.”

Taw will be one of several returning players on an offense that will feature more depth than in recent years.

Tyler O’Malley, in his third year at quarterback, completed 50 percent of his passes last year for 933 yards and seven TDs. He also rushed for 324 yards.

He’ll be surrounded by Taw, senior Kyle Houston (255 yards rushing), junior Devin McFeaters, junior Jeremiah Edwards and junior Evan Brown-Fugate at the running back and wide receiver positions.

“I think we’ve had the best offseason since I’ve been here,” said O’Malley, who spent the summer at several quarterback camps in an effort to improve his game. “We’ve worked hard in the weight room, and the receivers and I have done a lot of work on our own.

“We have to keep working hard and keep believing in ourselves if we want to keep moving in the right direction. We can’t worry what other people think, we have to be accountable for ourselves and we have to trust in our teammates.”

If the Cardinals are going to get competitive in the Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division, they have to improve on the 34 points per game they allowed on defense.

Brookside is converting from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3, so there could be some growing pains early in the season as the players get used to their assignments and become familiar with the new system.

The Cardinals hope the offense will be able to carry the defense in the early going, especially on the road as they open the season at Bay and Oberlin.

Returning defensive players such as Nate Castro (35 tackles), Max Wilson (63 tackles), Hunter Schmeltzer and John Knight will lead the way with help from younger players like sophomore Tim Ackerman (31 tackles).

“These juniors and seniors are the kids that we started a couple years ago as freshmen when we were 0-10,” Lisiecki said. “Hopefully they can be successful like Keystone was when they started their group of freshmen and they took their lumps. We’ve put these kids through the battles and now it’s their turn to go out there to be successful. I believe they’re ready to play.”

Contact James Brady at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.

Brookside Cardinals

CONFERENCE: Patriot Athletic Conference, Stars Division
2013 RECORD: 3-7 (2-5)
COACH: Thom Lesiecki, 4th year (7-23)
RETURNING LETTERMEN: 17
RETURNING STARTERS: 14 (6 offense, 8 defense)
PLAYOFF APPREARANCES: 0
NUMBERS GAME: 1 — Returning assistant coach. That would be defensive coordinator Todd Auvil.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Casey Huhn is one of eight seniors on the team. The two-way lineman and team captain has been selected to play in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl in Dallas, Texas, on Dec. 14 at AT&T Stadium. Huhn is also a
two-year letterwinner in wrestling.

SCHEDULE

Aug. 29 at Bay
Sept. 5 at Oberlin
Sept. 12 Western Reserve
Sept. 19 at Brooklyn*
Sept. 26 Fairview*
Oct. 3 Buckeye*
Oct. 10 at Firelands*
Oct. 17 at Keystone*
Oct. 24 Black River*
Oct 31 Wellington*
* Patriot Athletic Conference game
All games at 7 p.m.

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