While the predictability of most northeast Ohio news rag top "25" teams is very obvious, we look at football from some different angles. NO MEDIA DARLINGS HERE nor will our list be comprised exclusively of Division-I primadonna blow-hards.
We look deeper than that. We don't care about the name of your school. We want to see players with heart and passion for the game. Not a group of kids that think they deserve to be page one because they go to "St. Play Nobody." We're not aiming for the popular vote. We look into the players and coaches. We look at what they've done to get where they are. We actually watch them on and off of the field. We look at the kids that bust their asses out there and give 110%!
WE'RE GIVING YOU A REALITY CHECK! We realize not many of you can handle reality, but here it is. Not everyone can be #1 boys!
The regular season is over......in our eyes these are the "Damned Good Dozen" after 10 weeks of God's Greatest Game:
1. Strongsville Mustangs (9-1) Kellen Pagel and Eric Dworznik did their thing on the ground to aid in the Mustangs shutout of visiting Solon. In doing so they moved into the top spot in D1R1 points pending the outcome of the Ignatius/Eds game and eliminated the Comets from playoff contention. Great game...even better season. The shutout was a great exclamation mark for what was truly a special season. Time to run it deep into the post-season. It only gets tougher now boys.
2. Youngstown Ursuline Fighting Irish (10-0) Devil be damned, the Irish took on everybody and sent them packing. Next up, the Cuyahoga Heights Redskins in what could be a decent opener for both teams if they come to play!
3. Kirtland Hornets (10-0) We don't care what people may say about the CVC or the "so-called" small school divisions, you can't discount a 10-0 record in northeast Ohio, you just can't. Nor can you take anything away from it. These kids play with an unheard of passion and desire. DREAM MATCH-UP - vs. Ursuline! Mark these words.
4. Mayfield Wildcats (9-1) Six straight shutouts until this week. A relentless defense, probably the best around and a team with great tradition getting it all to come together this year again. A full head of steam and learning from the mistakes of last season's playoff opener should give these Cats a good advantage going into round one.
5. Mentor Cardinals (8-2) Simply put, peaking at the right time...AGAIN. What more can you say about coach Triv's gang of warriors. Bring it in round one boys!
6. St. Ignatius Wildcats (9-1) The "other" Wildcats finally put together some "quality wins" and moved their way up one more notch. Some of us still feel they are yet untested with true competition.
7. Brunswick Blue Devils (9-1) A lone loss to arch rival Strongsville their only blemish, the Devils want to make another deep run and through their region and beyond. Could we see a rematch with the Mustangs? That would be beyond a thrilling storyline.
8. Youngstown Cardinal Mooney (8-2) The Cardinals took care of business and went down to the wire to get into the post-season fray knocking off Columbus DeSales in the regular season finale. Mooney knocks Akron St. Vincent/St. Mary out of 8th place in points in the OHSAA standings to make it in. Great win Cards!!
9. Perry Pirates (9-1) The only way senior fireballer Vinny "Air" Hokavar could end his career any better would be with a ring. Even though he's been logging time at wideout, the shoulder should hold up in order for the Pirates to make a deep run if they can stay healthy.
10. Willoughby South Rebels (8-2) They've been left off this list too many times this year while we "waited to see what they would do next week," but they have proven that they are a solid, playoff worthy team. The Rebels could face either Mentor or Strongsville in round one, so regardless, they'll be tested right away in a big way!
11. Padua Bruins (8-2) The Bruins have picked up major momentum heading into round one and their regular season schedule should have them prepared for almost any scenario they might face. Andrew Dziak was the consummate leader all season long and it has been a true joy for us at D1, who have worked with this fine young man, to watch him develop over the last few years. Great kid and a very nice family.
12. Walsh Jesuit Warriors (7-2) Quietly going about their business (of winning games), the Warriors secured the top spot in their region and will have to wait until Sunday to see who their round one opponent will be. These guys have always been favorites of ours and now they can get it running smooth in time for post-season head banging.
Aurora came close, but beating up on Wickliffe then claiming to be the best in the CVC just rubbed too many people the wrong way when we spoke around the town. Euclid.....our friends in Panther country head into the post-season with a bad taste in their mouths and the memory of an unsung Boardman team coming to Euclid last year and snuffing out their dream. We have faith that Tommy Gibbons will have the cats ready to prowl next week. We put a lot of faith in St. Edward at the start of this thing because of the greater Cleveland area "glory teams" they actually played a schedule worthy of being the talk of the town. Tough way to head into the playoffs Eagles. We want to give props to the NDCL Lions who clawed their way into the playoffs as well. Great work Byron.