By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
STOW, Ohio — In the midst of its most successful season in a generation, Brookfield High’s football team earned a second chance against Creston-Norwayne. But Brookfield — which suffered a 42-7 opening-round setback to the eventual state champion Bobcats last year — was unable to exact any measure of vindication.
Actually, the Warriors were pistol-whipped during the 1st half of Friday night’s OHSAA Division IV Region 13 championship game as Joe Dreher delivered a 20-for-28, 311-yard, 4-touchdown passing performance.
That notched Norwayne a seemingly safe 35-7 margin at intermission.
Brookfield bounced back in a big way during the 2nd half on Jeremy Quinlan’s trio of touchdown tosses. However the Warriors were unable to work their way out of those 1st-half woes, and Brookfield bowed, 49-28, at Munroe Falls High.
“When we went in at halftime we all said, ‘We can win this game,’ ” related Brookfield bench boss Randy Clark. “If (the Bobcats) don’t score that one series, I’d like to see what would’ve happened.
“But our kids, they didn’t give up,” Clark continued. “They fought to the dear end, and they’re fighting (back tears) now. It was phenomenal, and I’m very proud of them!”
Operating out of the modified shotgun formation — or pistol — Dreher distributed the ball to a handful of receivers. Ultimately he ended 28 of 39 for 430 yards and a handful of TDs. A trio of his targets, led by Trevahn Berger’s 10-catch, 125-yard outing, exceeded the yards receiving century mark.
“Dreher did a great job handling the pressure,” assessed Norwayne head coach Joe Harbour, “This is the most pressure we’ve seen all season. (The Warriors) brought seven, eight, sometimes nine guys — more than we could pick up. So he had to know who was hot, where he could slide, who he could get the ball off to. For the most part, he did a great job. He did a wonderful job handling tons of pressure.”
“They were in a lot of man-to-man coverage. I just threw it as deep as I could and (Kaleb) ran under it. .. I love throwing that ball,” a smiling Dreher admitted after tossing two1st-half TDs — 25 and 70 yards — to Harris on fade patterns.
As prolific as Dreher was during the game’s initial 24 minutes — he also capped a 9-play, 58-yard 2nd half-opening drive by spinning a 19-yarder to Richie Smith — Jeremy Quinlan quickly brought Brookfield back into contention. Quinlan connected with Collin Harkulich on 55- and 12-yard 3rd-quarter scores as the Warriors were able to cut their deficit in half (42-21) entering the 4th frame.
The Quinlans connected for a 15-yard scoring strike for the game’s final score with 5:21 remaining as Jimmy Quinlan caught his twin brother’s 4th-and-7 pass. But Brookfield’s comeback bid ran out of time.
“We jumped up big, it was a pretty comfortable halftime lead, but I give a lot of credit to (the Warriors). They showed no quit,” Harbour praised. “They fought back and won the second half, not only scoreboard-wise, but on the field they controlled the second half. If we didn’t build that lead in the first half, it could’ve been a totally different ballgame.”
Norwayne (13-0) served notice it was not going to play conservatively as it attempts to defend its crown, won 48-42 over Kenton last year. Employing a game-opening onside kickoff, the Dreher-led Bobcats bludgeoned Brookfield. Norwayne’s no-huddle attack had Brookfield — like a boxer on the ropes — reeling from a relentess pass-first scheme.
Ultimately the Bobcats’ 72 offense plays netted 523 total yards, including Joe Zimmerly’s 102-yard rushing performance.
However the Warriors (12-1) were able to wield their own way on offense. Quinlan connected for 190 yards passing on a 13-for-27 performance, and Ryan Mosora mustered 102 yards rushing while Harkulich had a handful of catches for 121 yards in a balanced Brookfield offense.
The Warriors were able to establish a new single-season school standard for wins, besting the 1978 state championship squad’s 11. But Brookfield will lose a bevy of seniors to graduation, including the Quinlans, Mosora, Harkulich and defensive demon Derek Sulick, who secured 3è sacks. Also, captains Ron Kirila, Tyler Miller and Gary Hiner, along with David Jamieson, Eric Martin, Don McFarland and Jake Goodworth.
“We didn’t think we were going to lose for a second,” Sulick said. “The whole time we had the mentality that we were gonna win.
“I can’t even describe how much effort we put in, from the time we were freshmen — every single one of us,” Sulick said. “Everything we’ve done for four years. So much effort.
“It was a big deal for us and our community. We kind’ve let everybody down. But we did the best we could,” Sulick said.
“We didn?t quit. These kids haven’t quit in four years,” Clark confided. “They didn’t quit those last twenty-four minutes. I’m proud of ’em.
“It’s been a heckava ride all year,” Clark continued. “I mean, twelve wins is the most in school history, Making it to the regional finals and bringing home some hardware is special for Brookfield — the community and the school.”
OHSAA DIV. IV REGION 13 CHAMPIONSHIP
NORWAYNE 7 28 7 7 49
BROOKFIELD 0 7 14 7
N — Zimmerly, 37 run (Moore kick)
N — Harris, 25 pass from Dreher (Moore kick)
N — Harris, 70 pass from Dreher (Moore kick)
B — Mosora, 16 run (Jer. Quinlan kick)
N — Smith, 26 pass from Dreher (Moore kick)
N — Berger, 2 pass from Dreher (Moore kick)
N — Smith, 19 pass from Dreher (Moore kick)
B — Harkulich, 55 pass from Jer. Quinlan (Jer. Quinlan kick)
B — Harkulich, 12 pass from Jer. Quinlan (Jer. Quinlan kick)
N — Weinman, recovered fumble in end zone (Moore kick)
B — Jim. Quinlan, 15 pass from Je. Quinlan (Jer. Quinlan kick)
21 First downs 14
93 Rushing yards 181
417 Passing yards 190
39-28-0 Att-comp-int 27-13-1
523 Total yards 371
1-0 Fumbles-lost 2-1
5-50 Penalties-yards lost 6-62
Rushing: NORWAYNE — Zimmerly 15-102, Maxwell Berger 2-2, Beery 1-(-2), Kniereim 2-(-2), Dreher 8-(-42); BROOKFIELD — Mosora 10-108, Jer. Quinlan 17-51, Clark 2-22.
Passing: NORWAYNE — Dreher 39-28-0, 430; BROOKFIELD — Jer. Quinlan 27-13-1, 190.
Receiving: NORWAYNE — Berger 10-125, Kniereim 5-102, Smith 5-55, Harris 3-101, Beery 4-23; BROOKFIELD — Harkulich 5-121, Clark 4-14, Jim. Quinlan 3-38.