Story by Brad Bournival
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
For Berea-Midpark's Mason Muldoon, the 42nd annual East-West Cuyahoga County All-Star Game was old hat. For North Royalton's Austin Smith, it was brand new. In the fall, the two will merge as one as freshmen on Baldwin-Wallace's football team.
Muldoon, who has played his high school career at BW's George Finnie Stadium, knows every hash mark of the turf. Friday night, the defensive end was there Friday to help his future running back, who was playing in Berea for the first time.
"I told him it's quick, doesn't feel good when you fall, but it's good running," said Muldoon, who registered six tackles. "I told him 'Let's see if you can keep up with me.'"
While the tandem's West squad couldn't keep up with the East in a 14-7 loss, Smith did just fine in his limited time with 12 yards rushing and 6 yards receiving.
But Friday was more than just stats for the two, who will break camp for the Yellow Jackets with big aspirations.
"It's just preparing me for the next four years," the 5-foot-8, 175-pound Smith said. "I've been waiting for this since I was a little kid playing football.
"I'm real excited. Playing in this game made me ready for that next step, especially after playing against that team. All of them are Division I players," he said.
For Muldoon, the All-Star game was about getting that one last chance to turn the page in high school. Injured in a Week 9 game against Brecksville, the hulking 6-1, 235-pounder thought his days with the Titans would end in heartache.
"It was good for me because I got hurt and didn't get to play in my last game," he said. "I'm so blessed to be here. It's definitely an easier transition to make after playing here."
Good way to say goodbye
North Olmsted's Brad Novak more than likely played his last game at quarterback, but went out strong. The senior was named the West's MVP after leading the squad in rushing with 70 yards, while going 9-of-18 for 93 yards with a touchdown through the air.
"It was special," he said. "I was saying earlier, when you stepped off the field in the regular season, you thought that was it. To get this again, it feels like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was real special to play QB tonight."
Novak's next step will be with Mercyhurst, where he'll play either as a slot receiver or defensive back. That said, the 5-11, 185-pound Novak doesn't care where he plays as long as he's between the white lines.
"I like to hit," he said. "I like contact, but I wouldn't mind catching the ball either. I'm licking my chops already to get back on the field."
Former high school teammate and future college teammate Beau Bilinsky got that one last taste of high school ball and is already pacing to get back at it as a center for Mercyhurst when the team breaks camp.
While the West lost, it was more about turning the switch for the 6-2, 290-pound Bilinsky.
"It gets me in that mindset for the fall," he said. "It's going to be tough, but it'll be a lot of working. Brad and I will be handling our own business, getting bigger, getting faster and getting stronger."
Maleke Norton's preferred walk-on status at Toledo might have raised itself to another level after Friday. All the 6-1, 205-pound linebacker did was lead the West in tackles with seven, one for a loss, while forcing two fumbles and returning one of them 47 yards.
"It was nice," the Lakewood standout said. "I wish I could have returned (the fumble), but I couldn't have done it without the line putting pressure on them.
"All I had to do was my job and do it well. I knew I was the best on my team last season. But playing the way I played tonight, I know I can play against some of the best at the next level," he said.
Brecksville's Colton Czack was strong as well as the 6-2, 230-pound defensive lineman made five stops and recovered a fumble.
"I haven't been able to hit for a few months and I was kind of getting sick," said Czack, who will play for Duquesne in the fall. "I got a few shots in, now I'm ready. It was a good way to end my high school career."
O-H, oh wow!
Brecksville wide receiver/defensive back Nick Shirilla and Olmsted Falls' Mike Hansinger, who plays the same positions, are headed to Ohio State in the fall without aspirations of gridiron success.
That doesn't mean they don't know what's in store for the Buckeyes with receivers and athletes Johnnie Dixon, Marshon Lattimore, Curtis Samuel, Parris Campbell Jr., Noah Brown, Malik Hooker and Terry McLaurin coming in as freshmen.
All run the 40-yard dash in 4.5 or faster, so speed won't be a problem for Ohio State moving forward.
"My dad was at one of the coaches clinics and said the kids can flat out fly," Shirilla said. "I'm real excited to see them. I got my full season tickets a few days ago. They'll be one of, if not the best, in the country for sure."
Hansinger is more excited to watch the secondary as the No. 7 cornerback in the nation, Damon Webb, joins the 11th-best safety in the country Erick Smith on the same field.
With young players like Vonn Bell, Eli Apple and Cam Burrows already entrenched for the Buckeyes, the future on defense looks good.
"I've heard great things," Hansinger said. "I know Urban Meyer is a great recruiter. I can't wait to watch them dominate. As a football player, it's good to see great defense. They'll be exciting to watch."
The East squad, which has won three straight, leads the all-time series 22-19-1; Brush quarterback Stephen Shorts is the brother of NFL wide receiver Cecil Shorts, who plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He followed his brother's footsteps and will play as a slot receiver for Mount Union in the fall; Garfield Heights' Craig Sloan was the MVP for the East squad. He led all rushers with 76 yards and had a 23-yard interception return for a touchdown; Brush's Devon Hood led the East defense with a game-high nine tackles and added a sack. Solon's Antwain Hamilton had seven tackles and forced a fumble; Kudos go out to Baldwin-Wallace sports information director Kevin Ruple and his staff for putting together a well-run all-star game.
(You can follow us on Twitter @BeAFanatic. Keep track of what Brad Bournival is up to by following him @bbournival. And yes, we're still hanging out on Facebook: BeAFanatic.com.)
Click on the cameras below for photos and video highlights of this game: