By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BERLIN CENTER -- Western Reserve High senior quarterback Brandon Moherman is not only happy for his teammates and coaches over the Blue Devils' 2-0 start, but also for the fans who have reasons to cheer.
"After getting beat up the past three years, I think this community has been waiting for a special group to come along," Moherman said. "Everyone that you see seems to be behind us. There are more people at the games.
"It's what the community and this football program needed, something to show the younger guys that [excelling] is possible."
Led by fourth-year coach Mike Kopachy, the Blue Devils opened the season with big wins: 44-21 over Mathews and 47-0 over Newcomerstown, a Division V program.
For Moherman, defeating Mathews avenged last year's 20-14 overtime loss to the Mustangs.
"That was tremendous," said Moherman, a three-year starter. "Ever since that overtime loss last year, that was a game we circled on our calendar as a must-win game to set the tone for the season."
Moherman ran for three scores and threw for two more (a 20-yard pass to Chris Truitt and a 25-yard toss to Nate Lude).
Had shoulder injury
He almost didn't play because of a shoulder injury suffered in the Blue Devils' first scrimmage. That injury has kept him on the sidelines so far when the Blue Devils defend, but he expects to return to middle linebacker.
Kopachy, who played and was an assistant coach at Chaney, said the Mathews win reminded him of the Cowboys 10 years ago.
"In 1996, we went 10-0 and started off by beating Fitch," Kopachy said. "I kind of felt the same way about beating Mathews -- we really have started off well."
Against Newcomerstown, Moherman threw four touchdown passes (two to Lude and one to Truitt and Matt Kalbfell).
"They weren't a rollover team but we were a lot more prepared," Moherman said. "We came out passing and they weren't real sure of their coverages."
Next up for the Blue Devils (members of the new Inter-Tri County League's second tier) is a trip to Columbiana Friday to face the unbeaten Clippers, a Div. VI team in the ITCL's first tier.
Then Western Reserve will play the other seven members of second tier (all Div. VI teams), hoping to earn the school's first playoff berth since 1989.
Had great season
Last year against a rugged Inter-County League schedule that included South Range, Springfield and Mineral Ridge, Moherman passed for more than 1,200 yards and threw 12 touchdown passes.
Kopachy says the main difference in Moherman as a senior is his patience.
"He's seen every blitz, he's seen every coverage," Kopachy said. "A couple of years of seeing those things enables [him] to be more patient and make the reads a lot more quickly in our offense.
"He's getting better every week and he's become a leader for us and I really couldn't ask more from him," Kopachy said.
At 6-foot and 190 pounds, Moherman said getting bigger has helped, "but I'm also a lot more confident in my mindset. I can read the coverages a lot better. I just feel like I'm in a lot more control rather than the other two years."
Moherman credits his offensive line for protection: left tackle Chris Tofilski, left guards Sean Ferrando and Brad Lude, center Paul Henderson, right guards Quinton Kale or Paul Hostetter and right tackle Joe Procick.
Most of the linemen "and I have been together ever since junior high so we're a special group. We play together, we hang out together," Moherman said. "We do just about everything together and that makes a big difference."
Moherman credits the turnaround in the program to Kopachy, has a 7-23 record with three of those wins coming last year.
"There have been a lot of coaches come and go here," Moherman said. "Coach Kopachy has been my coach throughout high school so that's good. He's built up the program and that's exactly what he was brought in to do."
Kopachy said he feels "it's really come full circle from having 19 guys struggling to having 43 and we're up and coming. We're excited about that."
For now, it's about keeping the Blue Devils focused on the Clippers.
"If the chips fall where we are privileged enough to make the playoffs, certainly that would be an achievement," Kopachy said. " Right now our mind is on Columbiana."