Reflecting, Randy Clark can recall the years 1978 and 1994.
Only a 9th-grader, he nonetheless was part of the program as Brookfield High’s football team captured the ’78 Ohio High School Athletic Association AA state championship. That year’s Warriors went 11-0 under legendary coach John Delserone.
Fast-forward 16 seasons, and Brookfield built a 10-2 ledger before bowing to Benedictine in the Division IV Region 13 finals. That marked the last time the Warriors went to the postseason ... until tonight.
Brookfield (9-1) will travel to Lodi, Ohio to meet Norwayne (9-1) at Cloverleaf High in a D-IV opening-round game at 7 p.m.
“Believe me, we’re excited!” Clark confided recently. Ringing telephones notwithstanding, he wasn’t complaining.
“It’s very exciting, emotional; it feels great, having everybody behind us, the community, the whole school ...
“Me, especially,” he admitted. “I’ve been back here since ’99. My main goal was to put Brookfield back on the map, and I think we’ve done our part. But it’s really exciting, going from a couple 3-7 seasons, 1-9 seasons, 5-5 (last year); it’s exciting for me because I’ve been part of this since the mid-70’s.
“It reminds me of the mid-70’s, early 80’s with the community and the excitement,” Clark continued. “All of my staff are Brookfield alumni, and they’re all excited. All these guys played at Brookfield, coached at Brookfield, and none of us have ever been in the playoffs.”
While Brookfield has been buoyed by an indepent schedule, Norwayne will be a notch up in terms of caliber of competition. The Bobcats rebounded for a 33-22 win over previously-undefeated Hillsdale last week. According to The (Wooster) Daily Record that earned them a share of the Wayne County Athletic League championship with Hillsdale and Smithville. The latter laid the lone loss on Norwayne (19-14) in Week 9.
“They were in the playoffs last year, they lost in the second round to (eventual state champion) Ursuline,” Clark recalled. “They run a spread offense and have a very good running and throwing quarterback (Adam Wallace), who’s very similar to (Brookfield’s Jeremy) Quinlan. They run the same style of offense as us, but might throw the ball a little more than we do. Up front they’re not big, but athletic. They run a lot of zone-read and misdirection,” Clark continued, adding, “They run a lot of that stuff through their quarterback.”
Illustrating Clark’s contention, Wallace went 12 for 21 for 117 yards and a trio of TDs in last week’s win, orchestrating a 5-play, 68-yard, game-winning drive in the final 1:40, according to The Daily Record. He also posted a 30-carry, 145-yard, 1-TD rushing performance, and made a key defensive play with 2:45 left. After Norwayne notched the lead on Wallace’s 10-yard TD toss to Mitch Knieriem with 50.5 ticks, Jon Maibach, 33 seconds later, secured the win with a 38-yard interception return.
“Defensively, again, they’re not big,” Clark claimed. “They run a 4-2, and they’re led by that inside linebacker (Wallace).”
Under the direction of coach Joe Harbour, Norwayne notched wins over Wellington (35-0), Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (40-7), Western Reserve (56-7), Northwestern (55-8), Rittman (61-7), Waynedale (46-0), Chippewa (61-8), Dalton (69-15) and Hillsdale, avenging last year’s loss and snapping the latter’s school-record 17-game and WCAL 10-game winning skeins. Hillsdale advanced to the 2010 D-V regional finals.
Norwayne, not unlike Brookfield, has had some success, interspersed with droughts. According to The Daily Record, Norwayne won only the 1965 and 2008 WCAL championships before last week.
The game originally was scheduled for Friday night in Norwayne, but a saturated field necessitated the move. A synthetic-surface field may play to Brookfield’s bountiful Ryan Mosora (232 attempts, 1,895 yards rushing, 8.1 yards/carry, 17 TDs, 114 points).
“He’s not a ‘mudder’; he likes to hit the perimeter quick and go,” Clark confided.
Additionally, Clark pronounced the Warriors “one-hundred percent healthy ... healthier now than we’ve been all year,” including Quinlan, who accounted for almost 300 total yards in last week’s regular season-ending win over Beaver Local.
While Quinlan recuperated from a broken collarbone, Brandon Mosora “stepped in and did a phenomenal job in those four games!” Clark gushed. “Now he’ll be in the slot, his original position.”
Clark’s ideal game plan would be to “take control early with our size. With (the Bobcats’) lack of size if we’re able to run the ball at them, go to a different part of our game ... see what adjustments they make.”
Owing to Quinlan’s accurate arm, Brookfield has been “throwing the ball a little more than in the past,” Clark noted, regarding the Warriors’ 30.2 points and 374.3 yards per game (almost doubling opponents’ 15.1 and 189.5, respectively).
Will Brookfield be bug-eyed by the bright lights of the OHSAA playoffs for the first time since ’94?
“I think the kids, right now, are responding like it’s a normal week,” Clark confided. “I know there’s a lot of excitement at school, but practices have been normal as possible. The kids are excited, but practicing hard, real cooperative, eager — they’re ready to go.
“It’s been 17 years since Brookfield’s been in this situation, since ’94, so they’re excited,” Clark confirmed.
Delserone died from Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). His last year coaching the Warriors was 1981, Clark’s senior season.
“I believe he’d be really proud,” Clark concluded. “I still use a lot of his philosophies. Everything I got from ‘Coach Dell’ I try to use as much as I can in today’s football. He was a great coach, ahead of his time, just phenomenal! He taught me a lot of football, and, hopefully, I’m using it in the right way.” — Herald sports writer Rob Malsom contributed research for this preview.
Reflecting, Randy Clark can recall the years 1978 and 1994.
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