Story by Brad Bournival
Photos by Larry Bennet
Two years ago, Brecksville-Broadview Heights coach Jason Black already knew what he had. He just didn't open it up until last season.
On a squad loaded with Tupas, Tim and Tom, Black kept budding freshman Tyler Tupa under wraps for a year before unleashing him. What followed was an offensive display as the versatile sophomore helped lead his team to the playoffs in 2013, while racking up team highs in receptions (56), yards (864) and touchdowns (10).
Add things up and the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Tyler Tupa averaged 15.4 yards per reception. But he's more than that as he will punt, kick, play safety and return kicks this season for Brecksville.
In other words, if the Bees aren't dragging their star junior to the bus, they didn't use him enough in the game.
"It's always great to have Tyler on your team," Black said. "To know that he's playing at receiver is great because you don't have to worry about one spot, you can start concentrating on the other receiving position.
"What's nice is he's a leader on the field. He's a leader in the locker room and he's a leader amongst his players," Black said.
Tyler is so much a leader that Black has gone on record as saying he's the best of the Tupas, adding that Tyler has a little of both older brothers running through his veins.
Those are pretty big words considering Tom Tupa is currently a redshirt freshman quarterback at Miami (Ohio), while Tim is a freshman wide receiver at Navy.
Schools have taken notice of Tyler, whose father was an Ohio State Buckeye and Super Bowl champion. He currently has offers from Bowling Green and Ohio University. Central Michigan, Miami (Ohio), Michigan, Navy, Ohio State, Stanford and Toledo are already showing strong interest as well.
Not bad for someone in a family loaded with talent.
"No matter what the coverage is on him, he always manages to get open," Black said. "That's just an amazing thing. When the ball gets in his hands, good things happen for us."
Brecksville won't just be Tyler Tupa, as the Bees have a monster playing offensive tackle and defensive end in Nick Sokolowski. As a sophomore, Sokolowski was part of an offense that rushed for 2,570 yards and passed for 2001.
At end, he registered 48 tackles, two sacks and made seven tackles for loss. The 6-4, 225-pound junior already has an offer from Bowling Green.
Followers of Larry Laird know he's a run-first, run-often type of coach. Whether it was in his days at Medina where he led the Bees to an upset over heavy favorite Canton McKinley on the road in the first round of the playoffs, or his days as an assistant and head coach at Avon Lake, Laird loves to beat teams with the run game.
Strongsville will look a little different this season under its first-year coach. With Bobby Cole (122-of-192, 1,896 yards, 16 touchdowns) behind center for the third year in a row, the feeling is as Cole goes, so will the Mustangs.
It's not a bad philosophy as the 6-4, 185-pound senior has a ton of looks from Mid-American Conference schools to go with a ton of confidence.
"Having a three-year starter back is a comfort not a lot of teams have," Laird said. "Bobby has a lot of experience. Our guys are battle tested."
Monsters at Medina
Most coaches are lucky to have one running back returning. Medina coach Dan Sutherland has three.
Whether it's 6-foot, 176-pound senior Ian Crawley (569 yards rushing, seven touchdowns), 6-foot, 172-pound senior Kyle Scherer (458, two TDs) or 6-3, 191-pound sophomore Jimmy Daw (116, two TDs) coming at you, the Bees have both speed and power coming back at the position.
It has made for some very interesting practices as all three are looking to become the man in Sutherland's multi-dimensional set. All three run 4.5 or better 40-yard dashes and all three are ready to come at opponents and won't shy away from contact.
"We love what we have in the backfield," Sutherland said. "We expect those kids to take the next step from being solid starters to all-conference players.
"Right now, it's a daily competition between the three. We tell them, 'You're only going to get so many carries. It's not how many carries you get, it's what you do with the ball when you have it in your hands.'
"We expect to take the next step with those guys. We're hoping we become that team that people overlook," he said.
Welcome back and good luck!
Dave Dlugosz won't get one second to settle in at his gig as the head man for Avon Lake this season.
A coach that led Avon Lake to 18 conference titles, a state championship and a state runner-up in 21 seasons, Dlugosz took a year off as the head coach. He will be tested right off the jump as 2013 playoff representatives Avon (12-1 last season), Bedford (10-2) and Shaker Heights (6-5) open the 2014 campaign with only Friday's opener against the Eagles coming at home.
Add North Ridgeville (6-4) in Week 4 and Rangers junior running back phenom Demario McCall, who already has offers from Bowling Green, Ohio State, Pitt and Tennessee, and the Shoremen will have to be ready at the opening whistle.
"You think of who you've got: Avon has a returning starting quarterback," Dlugosz said. "You've got Bedford and Shaker with tremendous speed and probably the fastest kid in the state at North Ridgeville.
"You think our secondary needs to mature? They're hard-working kids. We're coaching them up as best we can. We're going to give them everything to the best of our ability, but we've got some extremely difficult matchups at the beginning of the season," he said.
(You can follow Brad on Twitter @bbournival, and please follow our website @BeAFanatic. And yes, we're also on Facebook: BeAFanatic.com.)