SWC: The Toughest Football Conference in the State

Congratulations to the football teams of the Southwestern Conference. 5 of the league’s 10 teams made the OHSAA Div. II playoffs this fall. And three are still alive as regional semifinals action gets underway this Friday night.

In those games, Avon Lake (8-3) will face Whitehouse Anthony Wayne (8-3) at Sandusky Strobel Field at Cedar Point Stadium. Westlake (8-3) will take on league foe Olmsted Falls (8-3) at Strongsville’s Pat Catan Stadium.

The new Southwestern Conference, which realigned before last season, now consists of Avon, Avon Lake, Berea-Midpark, Lakewood, Midview, North Olmsted, Lakewood and North Ridgeville. It is a sports fan’s dream. It combines the best of the area’s Div. II schools to create a highly competitive league that brings quality football to public school programs with teams that push each other. What a year!

Avon Lake: Hold Your Head High

Quarterback Mark Pappas finds a receiver.

Quarterback Mark Pappas finds a receiver.

When Avon Lake lost to Avon the second week of the season, Shoreman head coach Dave Dlugosz approached one his players who sat disappointed on the turf after the 31-7 defeat. “Get up, son,” said Dlugosz. “Hold your head high and run off the field.”

You can bet that kid ran off the field triumphantly after the 8th seeded Shoreman shocked Avon – the top ranked Div. II team in the state – 27-26 in last Friday’s opening round playoff game at Firment Stadium.

It was a decision greeted by a priceless Dlugosz statement in the post-game team huddle. “Someone will be packing up their gear on Monday, and it ain’t us!”

Dlugosz, who guided Avon Lake to a state title in 2003 and state finals appearance in 2004, refused to let his team quit all season. The Shoremen have returned to glory after the coach’s three-year sabbatical early this decade to rebuild the proud program. The recipe starts with attitude: “Hold your head high and run off the field.” Think like a winner. Be a winner. Avon Lake faces 4th seed Anthony Wayne (8-3), a 21-7 winner over Glenville last week, in the regional semifinals at Strongsville Friday at 7:30.

Falls Shocks Midview

Olmsted Falls recorded a win for the ages with a 31-28 decision over Midview in the opening round of the Div. II playoff last Friday. Falls, in shocking Number 2 seed Midview, sent senior star quarterback Dustin Crum and coach DJ Shaw to the sidelines this season with – surprise! – neither an SWC title or deep playoff run to show for it. Another testament to the competitiveness of area football programs.

Westlake Football

Tariq Beach follows blockers.

Tariq Beach follows blockers.

When Westlake head football coach Jason Hall took over the program two years ago, his mission statement was concise: “I don’t set goals the way others do. My goal for all of my teams is to be in a position to win in the fourth quarter of every game,” he said.

The message has taken hold. Westlake staged a victory for the ages with a 48-41 decision over fourth-seeded Anthony Wayne at Springfield Friday night. The win featured a stunning comeback by the Demons as they erased a 41-14 deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter and send things into OT.

Westlake football is back under Coach Hall. The team has a great new weight room, an upgraded UH St. John Medical Center Field and a winning attitude. Westlake is once again building a program. Believe it!

Westlake and Olmsted Falls will meet Friday in the regional semifinals at Strongsville High in a 7:30 game. Both teams are 8-3.


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