WR turns around
Six weeks ago, it would have been easy to write off Western Reserve as a contender for both a league title and the playoffs.
After putting together their best season in school history a year ago, the Blue Devils opened win back-to-back losses to Cuyahoga Heights and Malvern. It appeared as though the loss of six starters on offense (including three All-Ohioans) and five starters on defense would result in a rebuilding process.
Consider the Blue Devils quick learners. Western Reserve has run off six consecutive victories, and suddenly finds itself alone atop the lower tier of the Inter-Tri County League. The Devils (6-2, 5-0) lead Columbiana (6-2, 4-1) by one game. All other conference foes have at least two league losses. The Devils are also in control of their playoff fate, holding down the eighth spot in Division VI, region 21.
“We knew that once this group gained some experience together as a unit, they had what it took to make a nice run,” said Western Reserve coach Andy Hake. “We have some talent. And, these kids have that winning mentality. They’ve been a part of the recent success. They know what it takes to get there, and they don’t want to let anyone down.”
On Friday, Tim Cooper racked up 261 all-purpose yards and scored four touchdowns as Western Reserve downed Southern 28-6. The Blue Devils have won 26 of their last 28 league games, including 12 straight dating back to last year.
“Right now, we’re the defending league and (region 21) champs, and we’re eager to defend both titles,” Hake said. “Our guys won’t back down to anyone. They feel like those titles belong to us, and they’re ours to win again.”
Western Reserve closes the season with road games at Wellsville (3-5) and Columbiana (6-2).
PARRY ON THE PROWL
Niles’ Chris Parry has quickly evolved into the town’s biggest thief. But don’t expect him to be locked up anytime soon. In fact, if he keeps up his exploits, he may be given the keys to the city. Parry is among the area leaders in takeaways. In his last six games, he has snagged six picks, one which was returned for a touchdown. He also has three fumble recoveries. In Niles’ 17-10 win over Howland, Parry recovered a fumble in the early stages of the fourth quarter which led to the game-winning touchdown. He then sealed the victory by pulling in interceptions on Howland’s final two possessions.
“Chris is a football player, period,” said Niles coach Brian Shaner. “He’s a student of the game, and he loves to be coached hard. When the game is on the line, he just makes big play after big play for us. He’s fun to watch.”
Parry’s big-play exploits aren’t limited to defense. The junior has caught seven passes this year – five which have gone for touchdowns. His 24-yard reception on Friday just before halftime tied the game at 10-10. In Niles’ earlier 27-21 win over Canfield, Parry pulled in a 24-yard catch with seven-tenths of a second remaining in regulation to force overtime.
According to fantastic50.net, 69 teams statewide have mathematically clinched a playoff spot. Local teams include; Warren G. Harding, Niles, Brookfield, Crestview, Warren John F. Kennedy and Youngstown Christian. Ironton (5-3) has already clinched a playoff berth despite the fact it has lost its last three games by a combined score of 148-45. Ironton’s opponents this year are a combined 54-19. Western Brown is struggling to remain in the playoff chase despite an 8-0 record. The Broncos are ranked 8th in DII, region 8. Their wins have come against opponents who are a combined 15-49. Coldwater (8-0) has defeated eight opponents this year with non-losing records. Crestview and Brookfield are among 46 teams statewide which are 8-0. Jackson-Milton, Sebring and Salem are among the 44 schools without a win.
— Steve Ruman, The Vindicator