By BRANDON JUDEH
For the Cleveland Heights game, the Warren Harding High football team had jerseys made that had the words “We Will Win” on the back.
Those words turned out to be prophetic as the Raiders earned a thrilling 34-28 win over their Lake Erie League rival.
It was throwback night at Mollenkopf Stadium as Harding honored the former Warren Western Reserve school.
After a shaky first half, the Raiders (7-1, 5-0) came out with a distinct plan for the second half — give LeShun Daniels the ball and let him pound it.
The workhorse did just that, carrying the ball 35 times for 234 yards and a touchdown.
“We condition very hard and we wore them down in the second half because we kept grinding and pushing,” Daniels said.
Daniels was not the only Raider that was wearing Cleveland Heights out; fullback John Coleman fought his way to 89-yards rushing and four touchdowns.
“My team depended on me to get it in the end zone every time,” Coleman said. “I have to give credit to LeShun and the offensive line, everyone contributed, it was a team thing.”
Coleman scored the game-winning touchdown with nine minutes remainingwhen he ran the ball up the middle from 1-yard out.
Harding head coach Steve Arnold said that he spoke to his kids all week about getting the win for every player who ever came through the system.
“It was a different week, it was the first throwback game, but I told our guys that they needed to stay focused on the task at hand,” Arnold said. “At halftime, we talked about how we were going to find a way to win. We weren’t sure how, but we knew we would.”
Despite the buzz in the air and hundreds of alumni in attendance, the crowd was quieted just 11 seconds into the game when the Tigers’ Shelton Gibson returned the opening kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown.
Harding answered back quickly, with Coleman scoring a 2-yard touchdown.
Cleveland Heights built a 21-14 halftime lead when quarterback Taylor Jones connected with De’Niro Laster on a 48-yard strike.
“We had every opportunity to win the game, but we just didn’t get it done,” Tigers head coach Jeff Rotsky said. “We didn’t play well in the second half, we didn’t finish tackles and we barely had the ball.”
For the Raiders, quarterback Lamar Carmichael had 110 total yards while Daniels and Coleman combined for 323 yards rushing and five touchdowns.