Western Reserve High was coming off the best season in school history, reaching the state semifinal round after a 10-0 regular season. The Blue Devils got off to an 0-2 start this season, but the losses were to Cuyahoga Heights and Malvern, both 9-1 and in the playoffs.
Having been to the playoffs the previous five seasons, though, Western Reserve used that experience to rebound and win their last eight, claiming the Inter Tri-County League Tier 2 championship.
Fourth-year head coach Andy Hake has now led the Devils to the playoffs each of his seasons at the helm.
Q. Coming off a state semifinal season a year ago what sort of goals and expectations did you have for 2012?
A. We had a lot of guys come back with experience from that run and we’ve made the playoffs the last five years so the kids expect a lot and have a high demand. We didn’t know how good we could be and we opened up with two tough opponents. We felt it was who we had to play for us to be like we are now. We had to play teams like Cuyahoga Heights and Malvern and challenge ourselves.
Q. How did the 0-2 start affect the expectations?
A. We knew who we played and we told the kids who we were going to play. We felt that for the program to continue to build and get better we have to play teams that are going to challenge us. It is difficult to be 0-2 no matter who you are playing. But we have a great senior class and the kids stayed focused. The seniors wouldn’t let the younger kids ease up and I give a lot of credit to the coaching staff who coached the kids hard. This community loves this team and they let us coach the kids hard. They expect a lot of our kids, it’s a great football community.
Q. How did your team’s playoff experience, six years in a row now, help after the 0-2 start?
A. Having the teams we’ve had in the past and seeing how they play and react in high-intensity situations, and these kids having played in high-intensity situations themselves, helped. In the second and third round of the playoffs and you need that big third-down conversion the place seems louder than normal, the music from the band seems louder, the lights seem brighter. A lot of teams that have not been exposed to that, and you have been, it is a big advantage.
Q. What aspect of your team was the most pleasing to you and the coaching staff?
A. It all starts with the older kids, if they are really serious about the situation, whether it is football or any other sport. If you have bad leaders you are in a bad spot. If you have good older kids who have been in the program and have seen how the older kids are supposed to act and how the others are supposed to fall in line you are in good shape. I am proud of this seniors class because when we were 0-2 they didn’t let anybody tank it, they stuck together and showed a lot of resolve and conviction. They made sure the younger kids remembered who we are and our tradition and we went out and won seven league games. This senior class is 26-2 in the league in their four seasons.
Q. Who are some of those key leaders?
A. Tim Cooper, as a skill guy, has all-state caliber abilities. He has 800 some yards rushing and 450 or so receiving yards. Micah Marra is a guard and defensive end, Bryan Deal plays guard and defensive end and is a tough guy, and Adam Badgett at tackle. All three of them started on the offensive line last year. And Parker Warren plays safety and slot and is an all-league safety.
Q. What are the concerns with this week’s opponent, Shadyside?
A. They are 10-0 and a good team, but we played them last year, in fact their last loss was to us. We’re not looking at this like we played them a long time ago, we played them last year. They are very gutty kids, they are quick and athletic and we have a lot of respect for them. They run the I and use a lot of different players on offense, including some younger guys. But there of their four captains are in the secondary so they can do a lot of different things with their defenses with a veteran secondary. We know if we can turn the game into a physical game and make it about the line play and toughness, we feel good about it.
Doug Chapin, The Vindicator