Highland football team heading to playoffs undefeated
GRANGER — The Highland High School football team finished the regular season with a 10-0 record. Next up, the No. 1-ranked team in Region 4 will open the playoffs tomorrow, Nov. 8, against Avon Lake High School at North Royalton High School at 7:30 p.m.
This is the first undefeated regular season for seventh-year head coach Tom Lombardo, who came close to accomplishing the feat five years ago.
“In 2008, we were 9-0 and lost in double overtime in the last game of the year. We just fell short against Cloverleaf that year,” he said. “This year, we were able to finish it off.”
However, Lombardo said this year’s team didn’t enter the season with a perfect record among its list of goals.
“I think we just try to take it one game at a time, and we really did just prepare that way,” he said. “But as it kept going, we had some real, real big games at the end — including Nordonia, when we were both 8-0. After we were able to beat them, it was like, ‘Wow, we can do it if we get one more,’ and this time we were able to take care of business against Cloverleaf. It’s been one of those years where everything has fallen into place and we’ve been healthy for the most part.”
According to the coach, Highland is peaking at just the right time.
“The kids have retained a steady focus throughout the year, but certainly as it’s gone on we’ve really been able to improve some things we were weaker on early,” he stated. “We’re playing really well on all three phases of the game right now.”
Overall, Lombardo said, the team has played “very well” on offense this season.
“We’ve averaged over 40 points per game and about 430 yards per game,” he stated. “We’re able to do it both running and throwing, led by a quarterback, Bruce Kinsey, who has rushed for close to a thousand yards and has thrown for around 1,700 yards. Alex Harris, our running back, has rushed for over 1,200 yards. We have three really good receivers in Cory Moncol, Coltin Kinsey and Collin Paich. And, obviously, our line is playing really well and is the engine to our train.”
Bruce Kinsey’s abilities as a dual-threat quarterback have helped Highland’s offense to maintain a strong balance, Lombardo said.
“He’s a great kid. He’s a 4.2 student,” the coach said. “He’s extremely smart and he reads defenses well. He handles the ball real well, and he’s an accurate passer.”
On defense, the coach said, the team is “flying around pretty good.”
“We have a lot of team speed on defense, and we’re playing pretty well,” he said. “Our defensive line has played really well. We’re able to get pressure on the quarterback, and so far teams have had trouble running on us — which has been kind of a consistent thread throughout the year. They play with a lot of enthusiasm and energy.”
Lombardo said Avon Lake presents a formidable opponent for his team.
“Avon Lake is a big, strong team — we actually scrimmaged against them earlier in the year — and they’re going to pose a good test,” he said. “They like to run the ball and give you a lot of different formations, some unbalanced formations that we have to handle, and they are solid on defense.”
The keys to winning the game, Lombardo said, will include limiting turnovers and gaining good field position.
“We cannot let Avon Lake control the football. We have to make some stops on defense in order to get the ball,” he said. “And if we win, it won’t get any easier in round two, where we would play the winner of Massillon and Nordonia.”
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