B Page -- May 6, 2010

College Football Recruiting 

Continued from A Page

That year the Tigers and Jackets met in a crossover game that Witt won and the league title game that the Tigers also won at Finnie Stadium. Both teams had powerhouses that year and even though they had the two losses to Witt, Tressel’s Jackets were still selected for the post-season tournament, as obviously was Witt.

The third time was the charm for Bee-Dub, as it defeated Maurer’s Tigers in the Stagg Bowl (named after Amos Alonzo Stagg instead of because one could not take a date to the game) for the national championship.

The rivalry continued for fewer than 10 more years after that 1978 triple-pack as Witt eventually booked for the relatively new North Coast Athletic Conference, which has been based in Westlake since its inception 27 years ago. The communications that came out of Witt at the time was, “We are about more than football; we are an education institution that happens to have a football team among its variety of other extracurricular activities.”

NCAC Logo

This is agreed upon in this corner. Student/Athletes are always to be educated first and engage in athleticism second. Downplaying football though is not necessarily a good idea. The Tiger football program suffered for two decades until finally having a great year in 2009 as the class of the NCAC, culminating in a trip to the playoffs.

Jim Dill, who played at Lakewood High and on Maurer’s defenses during the ’78 season and ensuing championship and playoff years, reflected on that at a high school hockey game last winter.

“They wanted us to believe that we were on some higher intellectual plane than the other OAC schools and that we were primarily liberal arts,” said Dill, whose brother Rick played on the Rangers’ and Tigers’ offensive lines in the early and mid-‘70s. “We never thought of it that way. Because they wanted to make the school a part of something it really wasn’t, the football tradition started to lose some of its strength and all of a sudden some of the best players went elsewhere.”

The NCAC was formed in order to instill more of an all-sports culture (only the PAC 10 sponsored more sports programs among virtually all its schools than the NCAC in the 1980s) while preserving the liberal arts spirit (no graduate programs and no “practical” undergrad programs such as business, engineering or journalism).

Dave Maurer

Coach Maurer today

Now let’s look at the late 1980s when Witt joined the NCAC. At this same time, some of the football “wealth” in Ohio began to spread out to schools other than B-W and Wittenberg.

Enter Larry Kehres. Mount Union was mediocre for a number of years in the OAC, but it just seemed like such a natural, lying in the same county as Massillon and Canton, the undisputed world capitals of high school football (at least in terms of tradition and longevity). A pipeline of talent, it would follow, should flow not only from the Tiger and Bulldog camps but also the many other great hotbeds in the Federal League like Perry, Jackson, GlenOak, Marlington, Louisville, etc, not to mention such area private powers as Canton Central Catholic, St. V-St. M and Hoban.


As recent as the late 1980s, the Purple Raiders were playing on a field surrounded by tomato fields and with wooden goalposts that were last seen on those John Facenda-narrated films at the Hallowed Hall on Fulton.

Still, Kehres, a young guy at the time, was getting some talented players and was becoming a serious contender in the OAC before finally winning a title followed by an astonishing 10 national championships (Stagg Bowls) in fewer than two decades. No such dominance in the NCAA has been matched at any level besides those of now 100-year-old coach John Wooden’s UCLA men’s basketball teams, Al Scates’ UCLA men’s volleyball teams, and Anson Dorrance’s North Carolina women’s soccer teams.

Not only was Kehres getting the best from Stark County but the best from all over northeastern Ohio and the rest of the state to boot. Those who previously might have gone to B-W or Witt reconfigured their Mapquests to Alliance. It only makes sense. If one is good, why not go with a winner? Incidentally, the athletic facilities have dramatically improved at Mount since the early 1990s all the way to today when it has state-of-the-art playing domains for all sports, not just football.

Larry,Kehres.jpg

Coach Kehres

Incidentally, so many want to play for Mount Union that the Purple Raiders play two JV schedules.

Also since the 1990s, other programs have gotten their share of Ohio high school football talent such as Ohio Northern, John Carroll and Capital and, more recently, Otterbein, Case Western Reserve and Heidelberg to field playoff and playoff and championship caliber teams.

However, one sad note has also surfaced in that the rosters of OAC. NCAC, PAC (President’s Athletic Conference) and UAA schools are no longer dominated by names of players from Ohio high schools, but instead an increasing number of out-of-state players are dotting the rosters of all the aforementioned schools and others. Again, it only makes sense that in order to compete heavily with the many other schools, a recruiter and coach cannot limit himself to a certain geographical area.

This is not to say that the talent is of lesser quality today at strong programs like St. Ignatius, Mentor, Strongsville, St. Edward, Glenville, Massillon, and McKinley than it was of days gone by but more so because it is directly connected to the ever declining economy in Cleveland, Northeastern Ohio and even in such perceived prosperous areas as Columbus and Cincinnati. Families with children have been moving out of the state for better economic opportunity, draining the “number” of football players available for college play. Thus, they have to go elsewhere.

“The programs are still good ones here, but because that talent that might have played at Ohio high schools in the past is now playing in places like Texas, Florida and California due to their parents getting jobs there, we have had to expand our recruiting to outside of Ohio and more specifically northeastern Ohio,” said Lenny Reich, the sports information director at Mount. “This is not just us, but even the Columbus area schools in the league have to do the same. It is out of necessity, not just to stockpile talent from out of state in order to beat the in-state talent through sheer numbering.”

Reich speaks authoritatively on the subject, having been the long-time SID at Capital in Bexley before migrating north a few years ago.

This is true at all divisions. Pete Rekstis, the defensive coordinator at Kent who was just named the assistant coach of the year for the second time by the National Football Foundation, mentioned much of the same. Rekstis played at Bay High in the mid-1980s shortly after two-platoon football was on its way out at high schools in Ohio and more and more players began playing both offense and defense to the point of today in which you have quarterbacks plating safety on defense, heightening chances of “unsafe” situations of injuries to an offensive leader due to making a mere tackle.

“My recruiting territory is Cleveland and Youngstown,” said Rekstis, who played on and coached for Jim Tressel’s national championship teams at Youngstown State. “I’d like to get more guys from my own high school and the schools we played against, but I saw the fall of public schools in Youngstown, and Cleveland is not far behind. The jobs are lost and the talent has gone with them. I have to spend more time going to places like California than I do Cleveland because I am the defensive coordinator and still have to visit the player even though he might be in someone else’s recruiting territory.”

Rekstis

The steel belt (Pittsburgh-Cleveland-Youngstown-Lorain-Toledo-Detroit) was once the center of high school football in the US. They played power football, the kind the late Al O’Neill at Avon Lake and St. Edward perfected ala the late Woody Hayes at Ohio State. The offensive line controlled the game. Sons of stocky steel, auto, rail and trucking workers made good linemen and could bore holes for one running back, who could carry the ball 35 times a game and for three or four touchdowns, enough to win.

Ohio coaching Hall of Famer Al O'Neill

“We’re not into that,” said Chuck Kyle back in the mid-1980s just a few years prior to guiding St. Ignatius to 10 big-school state championships from 1988-2008. “We’re a ‘big play’ team. Long drives that waste time on the clock are not us. We want our scores to come from big plays.”

Thus, football changed in Ohio from “power” to “finesse,” the forward pass becoming the impetus for the quick, fast and sudden score under the “big play” concept of Kyle.

Coach Kyle (right)

With the new Ohio football, the old Ohio football has all but gone by the wayside. Using those sons of Timken Steel workers and others in similar vocational roles, Massillon won 22 state AP poll championships from the 1930s to the early 1970s. Although the Tigers did have great teams and players, they were “opinion” championships. The Tigers have still not won a state championship (on the field) since the computer playoffs began nearly 40 years ago. That says something even though it is certainly not a slam on the Massillon program or dilution of the previous state titles. (Remember, Perry, Tuslaw and Jackson were also erected in the Baby Boom era).

Kehres has done it with both running and passing the ball at Mount. In order to do both and while there certainly are more finesses players cropping from the prep ranks in Ohio today more than in the past, the reality is that in order to mix the run and pass well (the oldest cliché of grid coaches) it has become mandatory to go outside the steel (rust, whatever) belt to find that blend. After all, the sons and grandsons of those Ohio steel workers from the 20th century are now information age workers in places like Nashville, Jacksonville, Phoenix, Denver, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Seattle, San Diego, and San Jose.

In order to get them to send their sons back here to play football, the idea is going to be to have an “information age,” “Big Play,” “throwing,” and “speed” type of team.

Mount knows this. In its current recruiting class, Mount has tabbed some Ohio boys, but by and large it has been going elsewhere for talent. Reich just released a list of recruits who have verbally committed (Div. III players do not sign letters of intent since no athletic scholarship is involved). Below is a list of recruits released by Mount and Reich on May 5. A few others committed earlier but notice that of the 14 players on this list, only one is from the Cleveland area (traditional steel belt) and more than half are from out-of state.

Latest round of Mount Union recruits (released May 5)

South Charleston Southeastern Senior Austin Mercer to Play Football at Mount Union

(ALLIANCE, OH)—South Charleston Southeastern senior Austin Mercer has committed to attend Mount Union and compete on the football team this Fall.

Mercer, a 6-2, 190-pound wide receiver, was an all-district, all-county and all-conference selection for coach Greg Bonifay at Southeastern Local High School.  This past season, he had 48 catches for 1,162 yards with 11 touchdowns.

Mercer plans to study in Mount Union’s new Mechanical Engineering program and is the son of Jon and Kathy Mercer of South Charleston.

St. Clairsville Senior Logan Cook to Play Football at Mount Union

(ALLIANCE, OH)—St. Clairsville senior Logan Cook has committed to attend Mount Union and compete on the football team this Fall.

Cook, a 6-1, 180-pound kicker, was a two-time All-Ohio, two-time all-district, two-time all-league selection for coach James McLean at St. Clairsville High School. 

Cook plans to study Psychology and is the son of Don and Lori Cook of St. Clairsville.

North Canton Hoover Senior A.J. Sarbaugh to Play Football at Mount Union

 (ALLIANCE, OH)—North Canton Hoover senior A.J. Sarbaugh has committed to attend Mount Union and compete on the football team this Fall.

Sarbaugh, a 6-0, 195-pound tight end/punter/kicker, was an All-Ohio, two-time all-district, all-league and all-county selection for coach Don Hertler Jr at Hoover High School.  This past season he had 30 catches at tight end, a 37.1 yard punting average and made nine field goals with a long of 43 yards.

Sarbaugh plans to study Education and is the son of Jeff and Ginny Sarbaugh of Canton.

Marion Harding Senior Eric Gilmore to Play Football at Mount Union

For Immediate Release: 
Contact: Leonard Reich, Sports Information Director

(ALLIANCE, OH)—Marion Harding senior Eric Gilmore has committed to attend Mount Union and compete on the football team this Fall.

Gilmore, a 5-11, 180-pound wide receiver/defensive back, was a an all-district and all-conference selection for head coach Heath Hinton at Marion Harding High School.

Gilmore plans to study Mathematics and is the son of Steve and Tery Gilmore of Marion, Ohio.

Batesville (IN) Senior Alex Collins to Play Football at Mount Union

For Immediate Release: 
Contact: Leonard Reich, Sports Information Director

(ALLIANCE, OH)—Batesville (IN) senior Alex Collins has committed to attend Mount Union and compete on the football team this Fall.

Collins, a 6-5, 250-pound defensive end, was an all-conference selection and team defensive lineman of the year for coach Eric Heppner at Batesville High School.  This past season he had 41 tackles with 5.5 sacks.

Collins plans to study Early Childhood Education and is the son of Kevin and Connie Collins of Batesville, IN.

North Daviess (IN) Senior Ryan Webster to Play Football at Mount Union

For Immediate Release: 
Contact: Leonard Reich, Sports Information Director

(ALLIANCE, OH)—North Daviess (IN) senior Ryan Webster has committed to attend Mount Union and compete on the football team this Fall.

Webster, a 5-7, 185-pound running back, was an all-state, all-conference selection and conference offensive player of the year for coach Scott Helms at North Daviess High School.  He is the school’s all-time leading rusher with 5,353 yards and 71 touchdowns.

Webster plans to study Sport Business and is the son of Bill and Christina Webster of Odon, IN.

Williamsburg (KY) Senior Ryan Moses to Play Football at Mount Union

For Immediate Release: 
Contact: Leonard Reich, Sports Information Director

(ALLIANCE, OH)—Williamsburg (KY) senior Ryan Moses has committed to attend Mount Union and compete on the football team this Fall.

Moses, a 6-3, 180-pound quarterback, was an two-time all-state, two-time district player of the year, four-time all-conference selection for coach Jerry Herron at Williamsburg High School.  Over his four year career, Moses threw for 8,978 yards and 92 touchdowns, while rushing for 2,191 yards with 31 touchdowns on the ground.

Moses plans to study Biology and is the son of Rick and Alisa Moses of Williamsburg, KY.

Warren Central (IN) Senior Brandon Blackburn to Play Football at Mount Union

For Immediate Release: 
Contact: Leonard Reich, Sports Information Director

(ALLIANCE, OH)—Warren Central (IN) senior Brandon Blackburn has committed to attend Mount Union and compete on the football team this Fall.

Blackburn, a 5-9, 235-pound lineman, was an all-state, all-conference and starter for two state championship teams for coach John Hart at Warren Central High School.

Blackburn plans to study Criminal Justice and is the son of James and Vanessa Blackburn of Indianapolis, IN.

Forest Hills Northern (MI) Senior Cullen Dame to Play Football at Mount Union

For Immediate Release: 
Contact: Leonard Reich, Sports Information Director

(ALLIANCE, OH)—Forest Hills Northern (MI) senior Cullen Dame has committed to attend Mount Union and compete on the football team this Fall.

Dame, a 5-11, 265-pound lineman, was an all-conference selection for coach Jeff Rapelje at Forest Hills Northern High School.

Dame is an undeclared major and is the son of Blair and Denise Dame of Grand Rapids, MI.

North Broward Prep (FL) Senior Cameron Hartley to Play Football at Mount Union

For Immediate Release: 
Contact: Leonard Reich, Sports Information Director

(ALLIANCE, OH)—North Broward Prep (FL) senior Cameron Hartley has committed to attend Mount Union and compete on the football team this Fall.

Hartley, a 6-0, 230-pound linebacker, was an all-state and two time all-county selection that totaled 96 tackles for coach Jeff Dellenbach at North Broward Prep.

Hartley plans to study Sport Business and is the son of Ron and Denise Hartley of Davie, FL.

Ann Arbor Pioneer (MI) Senior Chris Biggs to Play Football at Mount Union

For Immediate Release: 
Contact: Leonard Reich, Sports Information Director

(ALLIANCE, OH)—Ann Arbor Pioneer High School (MI) senior Chris Biggs has committed to attend Mount Union and compete on the football team this Fall.

Biggs, a 6-1, 255-pound safety, was an all-conference selection for coach Jeremy Gold at Pioneer High School.

Biggs plans to study Education and is the son of Brian and Patricia Biggs of Ann Arbor, MI.

Thomas Stone (MD) Senior Adam Proctor to Play Football at Mount Union

For Immediate Release: 
Contact: Leonard Reich, Sports Information Director

(ALLIANCE, OH)—Thomas Stone High School (MD) senior Adam Proctor has committed to attend Mount Union and compete on the football team this Fall.

Proctor, a 5-7, 160-pound safety, was an all-conference and two-time all-academic selection for coach Jeremiah Vedis at Thomas Stone High School.

Proctor plans to study Sport Business and is the son of Oscar and Maria Proctor of Waldorf, Maryland.

Thomas Stone (MD) Senior Tyler Stewart to Play Football at Mount Union

For Immediate Release: 
Contact: Leonard Reich, Sports Information Director

(ALLIANCE, OH)—Thomas Stone High School (MD) senior Tyler Stewart has committed to attend Mount Union and compete on the football team this Fall.

Stewart, a 5-7, 170-pound running back, was a three-year team captain and team MVP this past season for coach Jeremiah Vedis at Thomas Stone High School.

Stewart is an undeclared major and is the son of Wes and Carrie Stewart of Hughesville, Maryland.

Marysville (MI) Senior Aaron Locke to Play Football at Mount Union

For Immediate Release: 
Contact: Leonard Reich, Sports Information Director

(ALLIANCE, OH)—Marysville senior Aaron Locke has committed to attend Mount Union and compete on the football team this Fall.

Locke, a 5-11, 185-pound free safety, was an all-conference and all-area selection for coach Mark Caza at Maryville High School.  In 2009, he totaled 75 tackles and seven interceptions.

Locke plans to study exercise science and is the son of Roland and Jennifer Locke of Marysville.


 

 

 


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