NORTH ROYALTON — Opponents are finding out there’s nothing nastier than a ticked off Hornet.
Playoff regulars from 2013-15, the Highland football team didn’t reach the postseason last year. After a 42-14 non-league win Friday at North Royalton, the Hornets are making up for lost time.
“That’s what we’re striving for this season,” quarterback Matthew Earnest said. “It was really upsetting last year because, of course, we didn’t make the playoffs. This year, I think we’re ready and we’re going to take it week by week.”
Three weeks in, the Hornets (3-0) are certainly playing the part. In wins over Brunswick, Medina and the Bears (2-1), Highland pretty much did what it wanted, when it wanted.
To date, the Hornets have outscored opponents 105-28 and have churned up 1,061 yards offense.
“They’re solid. They’re going to win a lot of games,” North Royalton coach Nick Ciulli said. “They might win them all and then get in the playoffs and take a look. They don’t make any mistakes. I like them a lot. I think they’re going to run the table.”
Highland’s all-around effort came despite missing its top running back for the better part of three quarters (Brent Ponikvar, knee) and arguably its best linebacker (Max Beier, ankle) the entire game.
Earnest was 6-for-7 for 194 yards and three touchdowns, including 64 and 85 yards. He added 64 yards and a score on 16 carries.
Ryan Frederick caught two passes for 103 yards and a score and Jake Sir Louis caught one pass for the aforementioned 64 yards.
Jake Rogers ran for 54 yards and a touchdown on nine carries and added 26 yards receiving and a score, plus a 44-yard punt return to set up a TD.
It added up to 341 yards and could have been much worse had the Hornets needed more in the last quarter and a half.
“We’re fired up this year,” Rogers said. “We’ve played three bigger schools, and it shows how good our offense is.”
North Royalton sophomore quarterback Joey Marousek finished 15-for-27 for 279 yards, including TDs of 50 and 60 yards.
Marousek, who may be a Division I prospect, was sacked twice (Hayden Smith, Jack Myers) and threw interceptions to Rogers and Frederick.
Rogers’ interception ended a threat deep in Highland’s territory just before halftime and Frederick’s pick came before his 85-yard touchdown.
“We have our eyes on one thing and that’s to win the league,” Frederick said of the Suburban League American Conference. “After that, we’ll see who we play. We just have to take things one game at a time. We have threats all over the field, whether it’s Ponikvar, Rogers, me, Sir Louis (Johnny) Dipaolo and even (Earnest). We’re not at our peak”
The Hornets last started 3-0 in 2013. That team made the Division II state semifinals.
While no one is comparing this team to that juggernaut, the start is impressive.
“It’s a senior-laden team,” Highland coach Mike Gibbons said. “They came out with great focus and knew what they had to do and did it.”
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Highland 42, North Royalton 14
HIGHLAND 7 21 14 0 — 42
NORTH ROYALTON 0 7 0 7 — 14
H — Brent Ponikvar 3 run (Evan Shelton kick), 10:38.
H — Jake Rogers 21 pass from Matthew Earnest (Shelton kick), 10:44.
H — Rogers 4 run (Shelton kick), 7:33.
N — Adam Barrett 50 pass from Joe Marousek (James Osborne kick), 5:57.
H — Earnest 1 run (Shelton kick), 2:49.
H — Ryan Frederick 85 pass from Earnest (Shelton kick), 6:22.
H — Jake Sir Louis 64 pass from Earnest (Shelton kick), 4:42.
N — Miles Strnad 60 pass from Marousek (Osborne kick), 11:49.