The football teams at Cleveland Heights, Beachwood and Shaker Heights each have 5-1 records. One squad outmanned the competition with a strong running game, while another racked up wins despite its youth.
The three teams have a lot of upside, and it will be fun to watch them make a playoff push during the last few weeks of the season.
Here are some reflections from the Tigers, Bison and Red Raiders.
The 5-1 Heights Tigers won 14 regular season games in a row before losing 34-12 to Euclid last Friday.
“We had no purpose in the Euclid game and that has been a big focus in practice this week," linebackers coach Keenan Chapman said.
Head coach Jeff Rotsky agreed:
“We were unfocused and that has been a focus for me and the coaching staff this week getting ready for Warrensville Heights (tonight)."
Chapman and Rotsky agreed that the Tigers' greatest defensive attribute is speed.
“We have a very fast core and stay in a lot of plays because of our speed” Chapman said.
At times, Cleveland Heights must overcome its youth, the coaches said.
“Euclid was a good team, they had 19 seniors while we start three sophomores," Rotsky said. "It is not an excuse by any means.
“We have also had a couple players get banged up with injuries so we need to get healthy before the end of the season.”
The Cleveland Heights High Tigers play Warrensville Heights away at 7 p.m. tonight.
Beachwood Bison players say a stellar running game and stout defense helped them sprint of to a 5-1 start. The Bison defense has only allowed one TD this season.
This unit is led by inside linebacker Mike Fields. Fields said the team has been very good at communicating defensively.
“Everybody knows their assignments and where they need to be on every play,” Fields said.
One of the team’s weaknesses lies in its numbers, Fields said. The Bison dress just 35 to 37 players, with most playing both ways.
Quarterback Corey Jones has been a huge factor thus far. Despite missing two games due to injury, Jones has had some monster rushing numbers in his four games.
While Jones dominates in the running game, he'd like the team to improve its passing attack.
“Our biggest weakness this year has been the passing game, but that is starting to come around,” he said. “We completed two long passes for touchdowns last week that were our first passing TDs of the season."
Running back Nate Hamilton has had a solid season as well, with more than 1,000 yards rushing. Hamilton spoke about playing hard and having good practice habits.
“Our goal is to knock off the big dogs and win a conference championship,” Hamilton said.
Beachwood will travel to Richmond Heights tonight for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
A big, strong offensive line and speedy skill-position players led Shaker to a 5-1 record in the team's first season as a member of the Northeast Ohio Conference, coach Jarvis Gibson said.
“This team is very fast, loaded for a lack of a better word,” Gibson said. “The season has been everything we expected thus far. Our biggest weakness — which is slowly — diminishing is discipline.
"We had a lot of penalties and some blown coverage in the first couple weeks of the season, but we have really cleaned that up since week three.”
The team went 2-8 last year in the Lake Erie League. Gibson said the turnaround will continue as long as the team remains focused.
“The only other thing, which we have also cleaned up since the first couple weeks, is we can’t play down to the level of our competition,” he said. "We just need to stay focused the rest of the season”.
The Red Raiders will be back in action at 1 p.m. Saturday at home against as Valley Forge.