FOCUS IS BACK
After serving as an assistant for 37 years, Larry Kempe’s first year as a head coach has had its share of ups and downs. Kempe, the rookie coach at Ursuline, began his career with three straight wins. The Irish then suffered consecutive losses to Zanesville, Lakewood St. Edward and Erie Cathedral Prep – three teams with a current combined record of 19-1. Just when it looked like the season might be lost, Ursuline rebounded Friday by handing Steubenville a rare home loss. The Irish defeated Big Red in convincing fashion, 31-7.
“When we come to play, we’re a very good football team,” Kempe said. “If we’re not focused, we have issues. Consistency has been an issue this year, and a big part of that is our youth.”
Two freshmen and four sophomores were among the starters for Ursuline against Steubenville.
“That’s asking a lot. Harding Stadium can be a very intimidating place to play, even for the experienced players,” Kempe said. “Fortunately, our nine seniors did an outstanding job of stepping up and getting the entire team refocused.”
Ursuline is ranked seventh in Division V, Region 17. The Irish close the season with games against Erie Strong Vincent (3-3), Cardinal Mooney (2-4) and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (6-1).
“We had a meeting (Saturday) with our seniors, and I told them that they have three guaranteed games remaining,” Kempe said. “How far we extend the season beyond that is entirely up to them.”
YEAGLEY WINS 150TH
After starting off the season with back-to-back losses, South Range (5-2) won its fifth straight game by defeating Mineral Ridge, 55-20.
The win lifted the Raiders’ Inter-Tri County League record to 4-0, and gave coach Dan Yeagley his 150th career victory. Yeagley, a South Range graduate, has spent his entire career at his alma mater. He served as an assistant for three years, then took over the program in 1995. Under Yeagley, the Raiders have made 12 playoff appearances. He owns a 150-51 record, averaging more than eight wins per season.
“For 18 years, I’ve been blessed with great players and great assistant coaches. Because of that, the program runs itself,” Yeagley said.
So, how does a coach celebrate a milestone win? “In my case, by preparing for Springfield,” Yeagley said. “As a coach, you really can’t take the time to celebrate any win during the course of a season. Your mind is always focused on the next opponent.” Yeagley noted that he doesn’t recall his first-ever win. His 100th victory came in 2006 in a 42-14 opening-week win against Mogadore. That year, the Raiders went 10-0 in the regular season, then advanced to the third round of the playoffs.
“I remember win number 100. My son was on that team and that was a special time,” Yeagley said.
Howland (6-1, 3-0) controls its own destiny in the All-American Conference (American Division). The Tigers on Friday host Niles (6-1, 3-1), which suffered its first league loss to Hubbard. Liberty (6-1, 4-0) sits alone atop the AAC National Division. The Leopards visit Newton Falls (1-6, 1-3), which has lost three straight.
Tier One of the Inter Tri-County League has co-leaders in South Range (5-2, 4-0) and Crestview (7-0, 4-0). The two teams square off in Week 10. Tier Two also has co-leaders in Western Reserve (5-2, 4-0) and Columbiana (6-1, 4-0). Those two teams also meet in the season finale.
With its win over Euclid, Warren Harding (6-1, 4-0) is the lone unbeaten team in the Lake Erie League. The Raiders will be tested Friday when they host Cleveland Heights (6-1, 3-1).
The Federal League race is wide open, as four teams have one conference loss. Boardman (4-3, 2-1) and Canton McKinley (5-1, 3-1) both suffered their first league setbacks over the weekend.
West Branch’s loss to Canton South left Marlington (7-0, 4-0) on top of the Northeastern Buckeye Conference by itself. Warren John F. Kennedy (6-1, 2-0) shares the North Coast League lead with Cleveland Central Catholic (4-3, 2-0).