The Cleveland Heights Tigers football team narrowly missed the playoffs and was denied an appeal from the OHSAA, but they’re not punting on fourth-and-long.
Cleveland Heights athletic director Kristin Hughes confirmed that the school filed a temporary restraining order against the OHSAA, challenging a JFK forfeit to John Adams that was not observed in the final rankings. The OHSAA denied the Tigers’ initial appeal, which caused Cleveland Heights to file the TRO.
Mayfield ultimately wound up with the eighth and final playoff spot in Region 1.
The Tigers appealed to the OHSAA on Sunday because it did not observe a forfeit from JFK to John Adams — a team the Cleveland Heights beat. The forfeit would improve John Adams’ record to 5-5, giving the Tigers the slim margin they need to leap Mayfield.
“The way I understand it, and I won’t pretend to be an expert on this, but from what I understand if we are awarded the restraining order we would be put in the playoffs and issued a court date that would take place in the next 14 days,” Hughes said.
JFK forfeited to John Adam’s because a player on JFK was ineligible by Cleveland Metropolitan School District standards, however these standards are tougher than the OHSAA’s, which the player met.
If the courts side with Cleveland Heights, the decision would also put Beachwood in the playoffs over Ashtabula Edgewood. Beachwood finished ninth by a 0.3306 difference in computer averages despite having its best season since 2002 with a 7-3 record. But Edgewood beat JFK and if the Fighting Eagles were handed another loss it would be enough make up the very slim difference.
“The chances are slim, but if they tell us to play we’ll be ready to play,” Beachwood coach Ryan Williams said. “It’s been a very interesting last couple of days for sure.”
Hughes is not opposed to a play-in game, pitting the Tigers against Mayfield for the No. 8 seed, but that would push the postseason back for at least all of Division I a whole week. The play-in game is a much longer shot than the TRO, but with the weather potentially delaying practices throughout the week the OHSAA might have to push back games as its already pushed back regional soccer tournament games.
“I think if you ask any of us here the fairest thing would be to have a play-in game so that there is no school that gets eliminated,” Hughes said. “But I don’t know that the court or the OHSAA would go for that.
“This (restraining order) is not us against Mayfield. Honestly I’d feel awful for Mayfield if this was ruled in our favor, which is why I keep bringing up this play-in game.”
The Tigers went 8-2, but were left out of the postseason when Mayfield (6-4) defeated Elyria (7-3) in Week 10 and — combined with an upset loss from North Olmsted against rival Olmsted Falls — leapt from No. 14 to No. 8 and is slated to face St. Edward on Saturday in the Region 1 quarterfinals.
The Wildcats only earned six primary points for the win over the fellow Division I Pioneers, but it was the secondary points that gave Mayfield the biggest boost — picking up a total of 58.5 points from Elyria’s seven victories.
Cleveland Heights ended the season with a 29-27 victory over LEL rival Shaw, giving the Tigers a 5-2 league record. If the rankings stand, losses to Euclid (7-3) and Warren G. Harding (9-1) ultimately put Cleveland Heights just short of the playoffs.
Beachwood Ends Season With 22-7 Win
After struggling in the first half, Beachwood scored 22 unanswered points in its 22-7 win over West Geauga, getting a little revenge on the Division II school that prevented the Bison from reaching the playoffs in 2011.
Still, it was not enough to overcome Ashtabula Edgewood, who clinched the final spot in Region 13.
“We definitely didn’t play our best, but the kids hung around and stood in the game,” Williams said. “The defense kept us in the game.
“We just talked about going out and playing, not worrying about making the playoffs or anything else. We caught a break when they a fumbled punt midway through the third quarter and from that point on we were unstoppable.”
The Wolverines started the game with an onside kick and scored about one minute into the game to go up 7-0, but the Bison held them scoreless the rest of the way. Senior quarterback Corey Jones rushed 17 times for 98 yards and two touchdowns, sophomore running back Nate Hamilton rushed for 128 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown. Senior defensive lineman Noah Mitchell had 11 tackles and one sack.
“The West-G win was one for the program, it shows how far we’ve come to beat a Division II team of that caliber shows how far we’ve come,” Williams said. “Unfortunately we fell short for the playoffs, but that’s not something to be disappointed or discouraged about,” Williams said. “It’s the best record we’ve had in 10 years and the kids should be proud. We had quite a season.”
Despite ultimately falling just short, Beachwood is the only team to play Kirtland (10-0) within single digits since 2011. In fact Cuyahoga Heights (lost by 12 in 2011) is the only other team to play the Hornets within three touchdowns during their 25-game win streak.
“We knew how it felt last year and we didn’t want to have that same feeling,” Jones said. “We were the only team that came close to beating Kirtland this year. It went into overtime and that was exciting.”
Red Raiders End Season Strong
Shaker Heights (8-2) may miss the playoffs, but the Red Raiders ended with a 39-7 win over Normandy improving its Northeast Ohio Conference Lake Division record to 4-1, a game behind Brush for the title.
The Red Raiders ultimately finished four points away from a 10-0 season, losing to Solon by three (24-21) and Brush by one (22-21).
“That’s going to be our mission when we start up our offseason program,” Shaker Heights coach Jarvis Gibson said. “Everything is going to be done with an additional four. When the kids are at that last rep on anything we’ll want four more.”
Ramses Owens rushed for 109 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns while Odell Spencer caught six passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Derek Burgess also had 100 receiving yards on three catches and Jimmy Pope threw for 277 yards on 12-of-21 passing and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 16 yards and another score.
Gibson, however, took plenty of positives away from the season, most notably in the classroom. The coach cited Donovan Munger as a player who improved dramatically away from the field. Munger is a Division I recruit, but was averaging C’s on his transcripts. According Gibson, the latest progress book as Munger with straight A’s.
“It was my family and the people I hang out with,” Munger said. “I surround myself with people that want to better themselves and want to go off to college.”
The Red Raiders faired well in their first season in the NOC, but a casualty of switching leagues was losing rivalry games with University School and Cleveland Heights. The Red Raiders and Tigers used to battle as Lake Erie League rivals in all sports and while the schools have been able to preserve games in others, the football teams did not face one another in 2012.
“We absolutely [want the Tigers back on our schedule],” Gibson said. “There were two main rivals — University School and Cleveland Heights — when I walked in and I would love to continue to be part of them.”
Gibson says University School will return to the Red Raiders schedule next year. He also says Shaker Heights is going to move up to the River Division, which consists of tougher competition like North Royalton and Mayfield — both Region 1 playoff teams — and Elyria, who just missed the playoffs with a ninth-place finish in Region 2.
“We look forward to the challenge,” Gibson said. “We played a couple of schools from the top and middle divisions and had success against them.”
Shaker Heights beat Medina (Valley Division) and Cuyahoga Falls (River Division) and lost to Solon (Valley Division) by three points. According to the NOC website, Cuyahoga Falls will move down to the Lake Division in place of Shaker while Medina is slated to move down to the River Division as Hudson moves up into the Valley.
But the Tigers may not return to Shaker Heights’ schedule for a few years because of non-conference contracts previously agreed to with other schools. However, Cleveland Heights shares the urgency to get Shaker back on the schedule.
“We would love to play them,” Hughes said. “We were very disappointed when Shaker left the Lake Erie League. Our hope when it happened was that we would be able to maintain contests with them in all of our sports. I think it’s a great rivalry, our alums get excited about those games.”