Bay’s Memorial Stadium will be buzzing with activity Friday night for a number of reasons.
Bay will be honoring its latest entries into its Athletic Hall of Fame, and it will also be the Rockets’ football home opener. The game with neighborhood rival Westlake was also voted the Cleveland Browns’ High School Game of the Week by the fans of both schools.
Both teams are coming off Opening Night wins for the first time in years. And, to top it all off, they’ll be playing for the cherished Little Brown Jug, a symbol of the lone-time rivalry between the two schools.
“This is a rivalry that’s been going on for a long time,” said Westlake head coach Mark Campo of the annual game that has been played since the two teams were both in the Southwestern Conference.
“Tradition is always a big thing, so playing for the Little Brown Jug is meaningful for our team, our school and our community,” Campo said. “A lot of people from past games talk about it. These rivalry games are the ones they remember the most.
“We’ve talked about that with our team too, but we’ve also talked about who we are and how we have to play this game. As I continue to say to them, we want to be physical, focused and doing things the right way, not just in games but in practice every day.
“Our guys had a little extra bounce in their step during practice this week coming off a win. You add that in with the rivalry and everything else, and they’re ready to play some football,” he added.
The Demons, who have held the Little Brown Jug for years, got off to a good start at home last Friday night with their 26-7 win over North Ridgeville. Bay was on the road and managed to hold on for a 21-20 win at Orange. It’s the first time the two teams have entered Week Two with identical 1-0 records in years.
Bay head coach Ryan Gorius took a moment during Thursday’s team dinner to talk about what Friday night means to his up-and-coming Rockets.
“The general mood of our team has been outstanding,” Gorius said. “We’ve had four days of good practice, and the kids are excited.
“They’re hungry. We’re playing at home and coming out tomorrow in our new uniforms. It’s our Hall of Fame weekend too, both teams won last week and we got the Browns game of the week, so this should be a rockin’ house Friday night.
“If you can’t get excited for this game, I don’t know what else you need,” he added.
What the Rockets will be looking for is the return of the Little Brown Jug to the halls of Bay High, something that has not happened in the last 10 years or so, Gorius said.
“I’ve been here six years, this is only the second year where we’ve had a victory going into the second game,” he said. “The kids are ready for a change. It’s an opportunity for us to make that happen.
“We have to worry about the big play from Westlake. Over the years, Bay has had the lead or been tied at some point in the game. Then at some point at the game, Westlake comes up with a big play. We know their quarterback is pretty good, so we have to keep an eye on him. They have a tough running back too.
“We have big-play capability with our players too if we can get the right play at the right time. We’d like to take advantage of that and win the Little Brown Jug. I mean, it’s been 10 years. It’s a cross-town rivalry, but it’s only a rivalry if both teams are winning.
“They’ve had our number. So on Friday night, we want to be 2-0 and bring the Jug back to Bay,” he added.
North Olmsted (1-0) at Lakewood (1-0)
In another battle of unbeatens, the two biggest schools in the Westshore area will battle it out at Lakewood Stadium after coming off impressive wins in Week One.
The Rangers manhandled Cleveland Lincoln West, 51-14, in an offensive barrage that had them up 28-0 by the time the first quarter ended. The Eagles, on the other hand, were dominant defensively in a 21-10 win over Valley Forge.
North Olmsted head coach Mike Ptacek felt his offensive and defensive lines will need to pick up where they left off in their opener.
“I was very pleased with the way our lines played on both sides of the ball against Valley Forge,” Ptacek said. “Defensively, we hald them to 18 yards rushing for the game. On offense we ran the ball for over 300 yards, so our guys up front got off to a great start.”
Last year, the Rangers came to North Olmsted and left town with a 34-14 win. Ptacek felt his team learned from its mistakes early in the season, a season that saw the Eagles rally with four wins in their last six games.
“Coming into this year, we felt like we had a lot of experience coming back, especially defensively,” he said. “We have a lot of athleticism and experience, so hopefully we can contain them. But Ron Lewis is an excellent coach. His teams like to pound the football at you and play a physical game. He’ll have his guys ready to roll,” he added.
Lewis, who led his team to a 6-4 record last season, felt Friday night’s matchup would be a good early-season challenge after last week’s runaway with the Wolverines.
“We’ve played them every year since I’ve been here,” said Lakewood head coach Ron Lewis early Thursday night. “Last year was the first time we beat them, and we know it’s going to be a great matchup again Friday night.
“Mike and his staff do a great job of preparing their kids, so we’ll have our hands full,” Lewis said. “Their quarterback, Brad Novak, is very athletic and elusive, and Mike Starcovic is a really good player and a tough defensive back for them.
“And No. 9 up front is going to be a problem for us,” he added, referring to the Eagles’ defensive tackle Rayshawn Robinson.
Lewis made mention of Casimier Mitchell, who scored three times on four carries for the Rangers in the big first quarter last week. Lewis also felt Maquise Tyus had an exceptional game, capped off with his 87-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Parma (0-1) at Rocky River (1-0)
The Pirates, coming off a 7-0 win over Fairview, could have their hands full with a Parma team that scored 35 points in its season opener.
The Redmen, however, had no defense to speak of and lost to Midpark, 55-35, so this might be the week for the River offense to shine. Last week, River’s defense dominated the Warriors in holding them to just 170 total yards on offense. Friday will provide another test for River’s front seven defensively.
West of the boarder
Avon Lake, coming off its 42-28 win over Avon, will hit the road to take on the Lorain Titans at venerable George Daniel Field. Lorain is coming off a clunker of an opener, 42-13, at the hands of Midview.
Avon will try to regroup when the Eagles play their home opener against Wellington. The Dukes also started their season on a sour note, dropping a 47-7 decision to Norwayne.