Story by Brad Bournival
Photos by Larry Bennet
Often times, a kid is just excited to be part of the experience. When a coach gets to share in things, it can be a dynamic few get a chance to take part in.
Chris Medaglia, who coached the Browns team at the NFL High School Player Development 7-on-7 national tournament for the sixth straight year, had the chance to see things through Gerett Choat's eyes and came away very impressed by the Avon wide receiver.
Choat made the cut from 1,500 hopefuls and traveled with a select few to Indianapolis on July 14-15 for the 32-team event to represent Cleveland.
The teams had a chance to listen to former NFL greats like Billy 'White Shoes' Johnson, David Tyree, Tank Johnson, Antonio Freeman and Tony Stewart. It wasn't just football, but the experiences outside of the game and the choices you make.
Medaglia, who is also Valley Forge's athletic director, saw a young man ready to hit the books in Choat.
"It was a great opportunity for him to learn about kids from different cultures and different cities," Medaglia said. "He got to play together with them on a team.
"He's a really good kid. He's got great parents and is a tremendous kid to have around. You can trust him, which is something I was looking for," he said.
What he saw out of the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Choat on the field was impressive as well. The Browns went 6-3 at the event, falling to the Bengals in the quarterfinals.
But Choat impressed both at receiver and as a cornerback.
"He's athletic," Medaglia said. "He's only been playing football three years. He's super talented, but raw at the same time if that makes sense.
"The sky's the limit for him as a junior. He's big. He's fast. He's thick. He's well put together for a junior. He's coachable. The kid has a good future. He really does," he said.
That's not a typo on the schedule. For the second year in a row, Medina will square off against Brunswick in Week One.
A game that had been slated for Week 10 every year since to 2007, the contest was in jeopardy of going by the wayside when the Blue Devils stayed in the Northeast Ohio Valley Division, while the Bees dropped to the NOC River Division.
The Valley is now comprised of Brunswick, Twinsburg, Mentor, Hudson, Solon and Strongsville. The River has Shaker Heights, Mayfield, Medina, North Royalton, Elyria and Stow.
"When they were going through the process of where teams were going to be, (Medina athletic director) Jeff Harrison and I talked and said no matter what happens we have to fix it in our schedule that we play," Brunswick athletic director Pete Demonte said. "If that was going to happen, we knew we'd play each other as an independent."
Proximity doesn't play a role in the battle despite the fact it's easy to get to either school after a one-exit jaunt up or down Interstate 71. Pride plays a role in every rivalry even though there really isn't much of a hatred amongst each school.
"The reason why there's such a rivalry is because they sense the similarities in the communities," Demonte said. "They want to be proud of their city and we want to be proud of ours.
"Football is symbolic of communities. When you go head-to-head and you're playing Week One against a rival, everyone's in it. Everyone has a chance. Everyone thinks they're going to make it to the playoffs and win a state championship.
"You know the kids have Week One circled. It's that game against Medina. They don't care about any other game," he said.
This year's game will be played Aug. 29 at Brunswick.
Shore-ing things up
Dave Dlugosz, who has a 200-44 record and a 2003 Division II state championship at Avon Lake, has always been close to the vest with his offensive scheme and it has worked.
To date, the Shoremen have 18 Southwestern Conference titles and 15 playoff appearances under their belt with Dlugosz, who took a year off, at the helm. It's a run-first, run-often style.
Former Midview coach Bill Albright likes to spread things out and did quite well with quarterback Cody Callaway behind center. Callaway is now playing for Bowling Green. Albright is now Avon Lake's offensive coordinator after a 37-year stint with the Middies where he went 176-105 and guided the school to seven playoff appearances.
So what type of offense will Avon Lake run this year? That remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, the Shoremen have a ton of looks it can give foes with the two on the sideline.
"What we've done is meld our two offenses together," Dlugosz said. "Bill's a spread guy. I'm more of a power run guy. Keep in mind a lot of people have a misconception that if you're in spread you're going to throw the ball 35 to 40 times a game. That's really not going to be us.
"We're going to spread out and try to run the power football game. It's actually similar to what you see Ohio State. We'll run the power football out of the spread and throw play-action passes off of that," he said.
With two Mr. Football winners under his belt in Mentor's Bart Tanski (2007) and arguably the best Ohio high school quarterback ever in Mitch Trubisky (2012), Cardinals coach Steve Trivisonno knows a thing or two about the position.
Throw in 2014 graduate Conner Krizancic, who was part of a Mentor team that set 16 offensive records in last year's Division I state final, and Trivisonno is the go-to man when it comes to breaking down high school signal callers.
So when the veteran coach waxed poetic about Brunswick senior Steven Ficyk, his words took on new meaning.
"He's got all the tools," Trivisonno said. "When you look at him, he's got the arm strength. He throws sharp balls and he runs pretty well.
"He's got the things you're looking for to make a very good quarterback. That's hard to find. We've been lucky we had a few of them at Mentor, but they don't come around as often as people think," he said.
Last year, the 6-3, 218-pound Ficyk was on point for the Blue Devils, completing 105 of 197 passes for 1,656 yards and 14 touchdowns. Not surprisingly, Brunswick ended a three-year playoff drought with Ficyk at the helm.