|4/2||Div. VI||All-American Conference Blue Tier|
By TOM WILLIAMS
Having out-scored their first three opponents by a margin of 166-39, you’d think nothing could be better for the Brookfield High football team.
“We’ve had some rough times at the beginning,” said Warriors coach Randy Clark, referring to the graduation of Corey Mild, Mark Hiner and Mike Johnson. “Going in to the season losing three key offensive lineman, we really didn’t know what to expect.”
Taking their places up front have been Tyler Miller, Eric Martin and Eric Kusky. They, along with Gary Hiner and David Jamieson, have paced the way for the Warriors’ potent offense to dominate on the scoreboard.
“All three saw some [playing] time last year,” said Clark of the Warriors’ 9-2 season.
After a season-opening 49-7 win over Garfield Heights Trinity, the Warriors pummeled former All-American Conference rivals Newton Falls (59-12) and Campbell (58-20).
“We’ve had a lot of good kids fill their spots,” Clark said. “Our offensive line right now is doing a very nice job.”
Their work has helped Brookfield’s balanced offense control their games. Senior quarterback Jeremy Quinlan — a four-year starter — has completed 16 of 29 passes for 282 yards and three scores. He’s also rushed 38 times for 217 yards and four scores.
Senior running back Ryan Mosora is the other workhorse out of the backfield. So far, he’s rushed 39 times for 414 yards and five touchdowns.
Quinlan’s favorite target is senior wideout Collin Harkulich, who has six receptions for 152 yards and two touchdowns. The others with receptions are Joe Clark (five for 57 yards), Mosora (three for 51 yards) and Quinlan’s fraternal twin brother, Jimmy (three for 30 yards).
“He can do it all — he can pass, he can run,” Harkulich said of Jeremy Quinlan. “On defense, he’s a great safety. He reads the ball well — he’s just a good athlete.”
Clark agrees that having a fourth-year player is a luxury.
“He’s a very smart kid and we all know how athletic he is,” Clark said. “To have that much varsity experience is almost unheard of — it’s really paying dividends.
“There’s not a whole lot that we have to go over with him twice.”
Quinlan, one of 11 seniors on the roster, said he’s become more comfortable in the pocket.
“My first season, I was more nervous,” said Quinlan who also plays basketball and baseball. “When I got injured last year, I looked at coverages when I was up in the press box, then I was able to read the defenses better.”
Clark said it wasn’t a hard call to make when he picked Quinlan as quarterback as a freshman.
“His freshman year, we started seven freshmen,” Clark said. “Our program was down.”
Midseason last year, Quinlan suffered a broken collarbone and missed four games.
“That was really frustrating,” Quinlan said. “It was painful because I really wanted to be out there with my team. But I was there to support them.”
A longtime member of the old Trumbull Athletic Conference-8, Brookfield dropped out of the All-American Conference three tears ago.
Twice, Brookfield —which is a Division IV school for football playoffs — came close to joining other leagues.
“We were turned down by the [Northeastern Athletic Conference],” Clark said. “We thought our next shot was going to be the [Inter Tri-County League] because we thought Jackson-Milton was leaving.”
Instead, Brookfield is in its third season as an independent.
“We’re still looking and are interested if it’s the right fit,” Clark said.
As an independent, the one thing the Warriors lack is an archrival.
Asked which team on their schedule they enjoy beating the most, Quinlan and Harkulich paused before responding with Campbell.
“Since we beat them in overtime last year,” said Quinlan, referring to a 26-20 victory.
Brookfield also plays former AAC teams Struthers and LaBrae.
Tonight, they’ll play in Struthers against the unbeaten Wildcats, who opened the season with a 27-20 victory over Campbell.
“This is probably our biggest game,” said Harkulich, who also is a cornerback. “Struthers, they are a good team, they’ve got a big running back [Dave Stewart].
“But our defense is pretty good.”
Clark said the Warriors “are in a real tough part of our schedule right now, with Campbell last week and Struthers this week.”
“I don’t like to look forward but we’ve got [Warren] JFK next week, who also is undefeated,” he said. “High school football is a strange sport — you’re dealing with 16-, 17- and 18-year-old kids who perform or react a different way every night. I don’t think there are any big underdogs or favorites in high school football. I think [it’s determined} by who shows up and plays [well].”
Quinlan said the game last season that most motivates the Warriors is their 42-7 loss to Creston Norwayne in Week 11.
“It told us that we need work harder as a team, and come together,” he said.
In Week 13, Norwayne rallied in the final minute to defeat Girard, 33-32, then went on to win the Division IV state championship.
That’s why no one seems satisfied with their three blowouts to this point.
“I’m happy with the overall picture, but there’s a lot of room for improvement,” Clark said.
“Turnovers — we’re not where we need to be taking care of the ball,” Clark said instantly. “Defensively, we’ve had a lot of missed tackles. But we love the way the kids are working and producing — they are getting better every day.”
Being quarterback doesn’t cut Jeremy Quinlan much slack off the field. Jimmy, his twin, and the rest of the family always remind him who is older.
“He was born a minute before me so I got teased a lot,” Quinlan said. “Whatever.”
Athletics run in the family. The Quinlans have a sister, Alisha, an eighth-grader who plays volleyball and softball.
Quinlan and Harkulich said Clark keeps the Warriors on an even keel with a sense of humor.
“He’s a good coach, he knows what he’s doing on offense,” Harkulich said. “He’s a funny guy but he can be serious. That can be good — you want a coach who can be serious, but you want a coach who can joke around, too.”
Quinlan said: “We’ve bonded over these four years so he knows me in and out. He definitely has a sense of humor.”