PREP FOOTBALL Raiders rely on coach's wisdom
Harding will try to for its second victory over Boardman this season.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
Thom McDaniels knows all about the postseason. That tends to happen when you have coached at high school football power Canton McKinley.
It took just two seasons for McDaniels to lead Warren Harding into the playoffs. Now, he plans to use his experience to teach the Raiders how to win a state championship.
"When you're old like me and been places some of your coaches and kids haven't been -- right or wrong -- I feel compelled to tell them things and offer advice," said McDaniels, the 28th-year coach who led Canton McKinley to a state title in 1997 and a runner-up finish in '85.
Next assignment: The Raiders face Steel Valley Conference rival Boardman in a Division I regional quarterfinal Saturday at Mollenkopf Stadium. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
"What's important is, who's listening and are they taking any of it to heart?" he said of his advice. "I am smart enough to know I can learn from other people, and I hope our kids and coaches are smart enough to know they can learn from other people."
McDaniels hopes the Raiders (9-1) will take what they have learned and apply it against Boardman (8-2) in a match-up of the No. 4 and 5 rated teams in Region 1, respectively.
Warren won the first game 43-28 on Oct. 5 at Mollenkopf.
"When you play a team a second time, the team that lost has the psychological advantage," McDaniels said. "But is it a big factor?
"I've been part of these repeats a number of times, and every possible scenario has occurred."
Tough to repeat: Boardman coach Garry Smith is working the psychological angle with his team.
"It's a hard situation to beat a team twice [in one season]," he said. "We're naturally playing that with our kids. I'm sure Thom is trying to keep his kids aware of the fact they can't go into this game expecting to win easily."
Warren didn't have much trouble with Boardman in the first game. The key for the Raiders was running out to a 36-0 halftime lead.
"They just came out of the chute and jumped on us right away," Smith said. "We have to have a much better first half defensively."
McDaniels said, "We benefited from several big plays. If we can hit the home runs in this game, it will help our cause. If we don't, then we better be able to execute long drives with a lot of plays in order to score."
Hitting most of Warren's "home runs" is senior running back Maurice Clarett, who rushed for 197 yards and scored five touchdowns in the first game.
"That's their No. 1 option. It always starts with Maurice," Smith said. "They still have a lot of weapons. They can throw the ball too, and we have to contend with their defense. They have great team speed on defense."
Boardman has won three straight games since the Warren loss -- shutouts over East Liverpool (56-0) and Austintown Fitch (30-0) and a 31-27 victory over Ursuline.
Balancing Beard: While his first-team defense has been solid, Smith has found a way to keep some pressure off senior running back Evan Beard -- put another talented runner in the backfield. That role is filled by Brad Beck.
"They're a diverse team," McDaniels said. "They can run the ball effectively and they've shown the ability to throw effectively [with quarterback Tom Zetts].
"They're the first or second best defensive team we've played, and their kicker [Andrew Good] has won two or three games for them."
As impressive as Warren has been this season, McDaniels said his team has yet to play four quarters well, starting with special teams.
When told that must be scary for his team's opponents, McDaniels said of his special teams, "If they become more consistent, if they perform like we want them to, then maybe we can be scary."