By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Ron Berdis' first victory as coach of the Chaney High football team came at West Branch. Berdis wouldn't mind one more milestone victory there Friday.
Berdis leads his Cowboys into Beloit for a Division II regional semifinal game against Green. A win would not only advance Chaney (10-1) in the playoffs, it would give Berdis career victory No. 100.
"The win means a lot as far as advancing in the playoffs," said Berdis, who has a 99-52 record in his 15th season as head coach of his alma mater. "This team is really special to me. That [No. 100] just means I've been here a long time."
Asked for his favorite Chaney memories at this point of his career, Berdis includes the 1987 victory over West Branch in Beloit and his first playoff victory over Akron Buchtel in '92 in the snow at Warren's Mollenkopf Stadium.
Berdis is definitely familiar with the West Branch area. He was a student-teacher at the school in the 1970s and played near there while a member of the Mount Union College team in Alliance.
"He does a tremendous job with the kids," Chaney athletic director Jim Mullally said. "He's well organized, he works hard and he puts the time in. That's all you can ask and plus some, and that's why he's successful."
While Berdis is looking forward to the return, his mind will be on football.
"You can start reminiscing and find one every year," Berdis said of the memories. "But I don't think it's time for reflection. It's time for 'now.' "
Berdis prefers to place the attention on his players, a group that he's labeled the most resilient in his time at Chaney.
"They find a way to win," the coach said.
That was evident throughout the season. The Cowboys won close games over Austintown Fitch (20-14 in overtime), Canfield (13-7), Poland (8-3), Niles (12-7) and last week over Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit (13-7).
Recap: "I felt we had the opportunity, if we got out of the blocks quick, to be competitive," Berdis said. "Winning our first two games, with the close one at Canfield, really set the tone. We went out and kept getting better each week."
Chaney has left little doubt about how it likes to win games -- with defense. The Cowboys have allowed just two touchdowns in the past four games.
"Every year, we build our football team around our defense," Berdis said. "If we're going to make any kind of impact in the postseason, it's gotta be the defense that's going to get us there. Our kids buy into that, without question."
Berdis credits the leadership of senior captains Fernando DeChellis (DT), D.J. Fahndrich (LB), Joe Herman (LB) and Juan Serrano (DB) and the pressure applied by junior defensive end Keilen Dykes, who keys a strong defensive line.
"When you get some major heat from the front four, that really takes the pressure off the secondary," Berdis said. "It's allowed [the secondary] to get their game legs, so to speak, and progress."
Offensively, junior running back Ed McElroy leads the ground game with 1,230 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns during the regular season. He has benefited from the offensive line and the blocking of senior fullback Marquis Trevathan.
Directing the attack is Serrano, the quarterback, whose role is to provide steady leadership.
"We ask him to make good decisions and not lose games," Berdis said. "He's made play after play with his feet, and when he's had to throw, he's been effective."
Green (8-3), which defeated Howland 37-8 last week, is quick and aggressive and can strike quickly, Berdis said.