Highland's Jake Sir Louis, left, breaks up a pass intended for Medina's Jett Suggs during the first quarter. (RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE)
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GRANGER TWP. — Fact: The Brunswick and Medina football teams are clearly rebuilding.
Also fact: Highland doesn’t care in the slightest, because smacking around Division I schools with twice the enrollments is worth celebrating in the Hornets’ eyes.
Defense was the story Friday, as coach Mike Gibbons’ troops did everything right in the first 13 minutes to crush the Bees 35-0 in the first meeting between the schools and move to 2-0 for the first time in four years.
“It’s crazy. I can’t describe it right now,” said Highland fullback/linebacker Max Beier, who had a rushing touchdown, sack and fumble recovery. “I’m in the moment celebrating with my team. I’m unbelievably happy right now, excited, all sorts of emotions.”
With Medina (1-1) missing its top three offensive players — wide receiver Dylan Fultz (suspension), quarterback Gavin Montgomery (collarbone) and running back Daylonte Davis (knee) — the Hornets’ game plan had to be versatile. The Bees have shown everything from five-wide shotgun to full-house backfields since camp opened, and only they knew what they’d employ Friday.
The answer was a heavy dose of sweeps with sophomore Dylan O’Dear, who had 22 of the team’s 37 carries and 70 of its 66 yards. With Matt Adams (3-for-11, 91 yards; 11 carries, minus-2 yards) at quarterback, Medina tried I-formation, offset-I, wing-T, pro set, two-back shotgun and even one wildcat snap with Demetrius Shannon, hoping to find any way to move the ball.
Nothing worked, as the first five possessions went punt, turnover on downs, lost fumble, lost fumble and punt. The Bees had only 35 yards on 20 plays as Highland led 21-0 with 11:54 to play in the first half, and 52 of their 157 yards overall came when Adams found Noah Nunn on the final play of the game.
The one time Medina hit a relevant big play — a 97-yard TD pass to Keith Tector — it was negated by a penalty.
“When you have 15-, 16-, 17-year-olds and they’re on the field, it’s a game of emotions,” Bees coach Larry Laird said. “We needed to execute that first drive and get down there and score to make it 7-0 at the beginning.”
The Hornets finished with eight tackles for loss, including sacks from Ethan Gerding (2), Beier, Evan Kasulones and Ryan Acks, to go with pass breakups by Jake Sir Louis, Jake Rogers and Jake Tecco and fumble recoveries from Tecco and Beier. They’ve allowed only 128 yards rushing on 65 attempts and haven’t been scored on in the first half through two games.
“We prepared for so many different formations,” Beier said. “We prepared for them to run the ball a ton or pass the ball a ton. It takes a lot of preparation, hard work, a lot of practice and working out butts off. It paid off in the end.”
Highland’s offense lit up the scoreboard early yet fizzled in the middle quarters, though a beastly effort from Medina end Will Mercurio (3 ﾽ tackles for loss, sack) was a reason for the latter.
Rogers again did a little bit of everything, sneaking into the flats for nine receptions, 92 yards and a touchdown. He added a 53-yard punt return for a score en route to 194 all-purpose yards.
Hard-charging running back Brent Ponikvar broke at least 10 tackles during a 18-carry, 139-yard, two-touchdown night, while quarterback Matthew Earnest connected on his first eight attempts before ending up 15-for-23 for 191 yards and Ryan Frederick set up the first TD with a 31-yard reception on third-and-14.
Highland simply did what was needed after the brilliant start, opening the second half with a 14-play, 44-yard drive that ended on downs but took the first 7:22 off the third-quarter clock.
With the way the defense was ballin’ out, Medina had little chance for a comeback.
“We’ve put in so much work since sophomore year, we’re all just clicking as one big team,” Ponikvar said. “We’re a tight family.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Highland 35, Medina 0
MEDINA 0 0 0 0 — 0
HIGHLAND 14 7 0 14 — 35
H — Max Beier 4 run (Evan Shelton kick), 6:17.
H — Brent Ponikvar 15 run (Shelton kick), 4:46.
H — Jake Rogers 15 pass from Matthew Earnest (Shelton kick), 11:54.
H — Rogers 53 punt return (Shelton kick), 8:12.
H — Ponikvar 6 run (Justin Tepes kick), 3:15.