Swank on Sports
Pressler and Big Inning Lead Bellevue Past Holy Name
Thomas Pressler fired a five hitter and Bellevue scored all of their runs in the first inning on their way to a (5-1) win over Holy Name in the division two regional semi-final at Carter Park in Bowling Green on Thursday.
The Redmen (24-4) will face Defiance in the regional final on Friday back at Carter Park.
Pressler (8-1) was solid again n Thursday as coach Andy Dennings says he was able to work is way out of some pressure situations with some big pitches. "He didn't have the cutter working (Thursday), but he really did a nice job battling up there. They hit the ball pretty darn well. They were putting it in play and Thomas had to make some pitches to get out of some innings and rely on our defense. I think Thomas actually ended four of the seven innings with a strikeout. The strikeouts were huge (Thursday) as they had a couple of runners on here and there throughout. He did a really nice job battling out there. He was moving his pitches to the umpire's zone and adjusting. Once he did that he did a really nice job," said Dennings.
Dylan DeWitt gave Bellevue the lead with a one out RBI single in bottom of the first and Triston Snezek added a two-run double and Grant Vickery a two-run single for the Redmen.
Dennings told Swankonsports.com that his kids had to battle on Thursday and they were up to the task. "There are only pressure situations. Kids are going to be on base. You have to make plays. You have to make catches. On the flip side somebody is going to have to move the runner over, somebody is going to have to get the big hit. You have to hang in there. You have to stay within yourself and be confident at all times. It is only going to take one time that could be the difference in the game. We had to battle at the plate when that kid's curveball started getting over and it starred giving us problems. It took us a little but to adjust. We battled at the plate, we battled in the field, we battled on the mound, I was pretty proud of our kids," said Dennings.
Defiance (25-5) beat Lima Bath (3-1) in Thursday's first semi-final. They won the state division two baseball title just two years ago and many of these players were part of the basketball team that won the state two months ago.
Dennings says they know what they are up against, but they won't back down. "We expect it to be a great game. There is no question that Defiance has a one of the best programs not just in Northwest Ohio, but at the state level. We greatly respect them, but we are going to come out and we are going to play hard. We have been doing things our way and we have been playing extremely well lately. We are going to do what we have to do. We are excited to have to the opportunity to go to the final four. We are going to go out there and go after it and hopefully be a run ahead at the end," he said.
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Bellevue Confident heading into Regional
The last time Bellevue was in the regional tournament Lebron James was still attending classes at Akron St. Vincent/St. Mary. They play their first regional baseball game since 2001 on Thursday when they face Parma Heights Holy Name Thursday at 5 PM at Carter Park in Bowling Green in the division two semi-finals.
Coach Andy Dennings they look forward to the new challenge. "Getting out of the districts is a big deal for us. I felt like we have had some teams that were good enough to get out and for whatever reason we weren't able to do it. We got beat by some good teams. Obviously anytime you get to the regional it is a huge accomplishment. It's a new challenge and we are really excited about it. We will see what we can do. We are excited about (Thursday) and hopefully we get some good weather and we can get after it," he said.
Dennings, a native of western Ohio, says they really don't know a whole lot about the personnel at Holy Name (18-9), from the Cleveland area. "In the sectional and district you are familiar with a lot of those teams, but once you get to the regional it is a whole new ball game. We are playing Holy Name and since I have been here we have never played them. We aren't really familiar with them. I am familiar with the other side with Lima Bath and Defiance because I grew up in the "WBL," so I am familiar with those guys and the programs that they run. I actually played against the head coach at Lima Bath and I fell pretty comfortable that way," he said.
Bellevue (23-4) scored a total of 21 runs in district wins over Lexington (11-3) and Shelby (10-3) last week. Dennings really likes the way they are swinging the bat. "We have kids that have quality at bats throughout the order. They believe in what we are doing. In the bottom half we are able to drive runs in plus we are able to flip the order over to the top. We have some kids up top that are really getting hot right now and are swinging the bats extremely well. We have plugged kids in throughout the year," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "You know, Bryce Ray is hitting leadoff and he was hitting sixth for us most of the year. Kyle Geary is hitting two and he hit eight and nine most of the year. We have had a lot of kids move around. So, we have kids that we are really comfortable with one through nine. It is nice as a coach to have that comfort level. We can swing away and not feel like we have to bunt. We feel like we have the ability to put the ball in play and make things happen. Hopefully it is tough on the pitcher. We feel really good about where we are at and how we swung that bat last week. We hope (Thursday) we don't have any let downs."
Thomas Pressler started the sectional final win over Sandusky Perkins (3-2) and the district semi-final against Lexington. However, Dennings says they have a lot of kids that can pitch. "Pitching wise we have thrown a lot of different kids out there this year and they just compete. Every time we put them out there they get after it and throw strikes. We got a little rattled here on Saturday, but we settled in and a double play got us out of there. We have been really pleased by what we have been able to do. Our kids believe in each other and they support each other. They compete and that is all we can ask from them," said Dennings.
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Bellevue Pounds Shelby for District Title
Bryce Ray, Dylan DeWitt, Shane Miller, and Thomas Pressler all had two RBI and Bellevue hammered Northern Ohio League foe Shelby (10-3) in the division two district final at Mansfield Madison High School on Saturday afternoon.
For Bellevue is was their first district title since 2001 and coach Andy Dennings says it is something they have been working for. "You know this is something we have been waiting on for quite a while. We felt we were good enough to get there and just didn't play well enough in a couple of situations. Four or five years ago we really let one slip away. This is what we have been building for. It was time for us to take the next step. These kids have been working really hard. We have played well all year. We have been very consistent. I am very happy for them," said Dennings.
Shelby's talented freshman Brennan Armstrong couldn't go to the mound due to a hip injury and coach Jon Amicone admits that set them back on Saturday. "It hurt, Brennan was going to start. He is one our top two pitchers. He was going to start the game (Thursday) and he couldn't go and you have to go down in your rotation deeper than what you want to in a championship game. All of the pitchers we put in there competed," he said.
Every Bellevue starter reach base at least one and Dennings says they have a lot of depth in their lineup. "It is the same only story, but I am happy it is the same old story. We flipped it around to the top of the order numerous times. Bryce (Ray) came through and had some big hits and Dylan (DeWitt) had some big hits. I thought the big thing for us was to get going early and I think that kind of set the tone," he said.
Bellevue took a (1-0) in the first on an RBI double by DeWitt and then put up a three spot in the second, highlighted by Ray's two-run double.
Tristrn Snezek started for Bellevue and pitched well allowing only one hit over the first three innings, but then hit four batters in the fourth and was relieved by Colten Slaven to start the fifth. Dennings says they have a lot of arms they can turn to. "It has been there all year. We struggled a little bit. Colten (Slaven), when he came in he couldn't find the off speed , so we had to live and die and hope they couldn't hit the fastball and they did not. We got a couple ground balls and I guess we got a little lucky," he told Swankonsports.com, "Then he found the curve a little bit, I think we was just a little excited about the moment. Snezek was rolling along pretty good and then got himself in a little jam when he was plunking kids. He got a little rattled and we decided to make a change."
Bellevue pitching induced Shelby into 13 ground ball outs and a lot of those were gobbled up by DeWitt at the shortstop position. "He's the best we have had there. He is playing extremely well. I think he is playing hest best baseball right now. We are pretty comfortable when it is going right there. We don't worry a whole lot," said Dennings.
Shelby (16-10) ended the season playing pretty good baseball, beating Norwalk and Ontario is the tournament, both seeded higher than them, and Amicone was proud of his kid's effort. "We fought extremely hard and as a coach that is all you can ask for. We got down early and played catch up the whole game. Bellevue is a phenomenal team. When you make as many mistakes as we did (Saturday), you boot the ball around and you don't get that big hit with two out you are just not going to win," he said.
Bellevue (23-4) will play Parma Heights Holy Name on Thursday at Carter Park in Bowling Green in the division two regional semis.
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Bellevue Belts the Minutemen in Districts
Bellevue erased a one run deficit by exploding for eight runs in the fifth inning and went on to blast Lexington (11-3) in the division two district semi-finals at Madison High School on Thursday evening.
going the bottom of the fifth Lexington coach Kevin Morrow removed pitcher
Hunter Biddle, who had re-injured his ankle in a slide into second base in
the first inning of Thursday's game, and replaced him with Evan Lee. Lee
only retired one batter.
Bellevue coach Andy Dennings thought they were getting good swings are were taking a good approach to the plate. "It was one of those things where we thought we had a pretty good beat on what their kids were trying to do. We sat on the fastball. I thought we were making good quality at bats most of the game and we made some loud outs here and there. In the fifth inning we were able to get some runners on, I think they walked a couple. Bryce (Ray) came through and put the double out there and then we just got some good quality at bats and we found some gaps," he told Swankonsports.com after the game. "Coach (Dan) Freitag and I were driving down and just talking about that we just haven't been able to get that big one. We have had the one, the two, but we haven't had that four, five, six, seven ,eight. That inning rolled around and we were able to stretch it out and take the wind out of their sails a little bit. It was a pretty competitive game and that one inning stretched it out and gave us a lot of confidence."
Biddle gave up two runs and seven hits over the first four innings and Morrow says the plan before the game was to bring Lee, a senior headed to Kent State to play baseball, in the fifth. "(Biddle) said he felt fine, but the plan was to bring Evan in somewhere around the fifth inning and see if we could do what we have done here in the last couple of weeks," said Morrow. Lee had some control problems walking three batters and hitting two before being relieved by Brady Kunkle. "He has struggled a little bit from time to time, but lately he has been on a roll. It just wasn't there for him. The kid has just given us so much over the years that I can't complain one bit," added Morrow. Ray and Geary reached Kunkle for back to back RBI hits.
Bellevue has been a pretty good hitting club this spring and Dennings thought they would be able to get to Lexington eventually. "I was pretty comfortable. I thought we were going to have our chances to score. Sure enough we hit a couple of gaps and we hit some balls hard. Thomas (Pressler) threw a great game and the defense played pretty well. We had a couple of lapses there where we kind of spotted them and they took advantage of it. We just can't do that. We have to tighten that up and we will be fine," he said.
The bottom three hitters in the Bellevue order reached base five times in the game and Redmen are dangerous one through nine in the lineup. "We have been doing that a little bit lately, but it has been happening all year. Bryce used to hit sixth and Kyle used to hit eighth and they are hitting one and two for us. Vickery used to hit two and he is down. So, we have moved some kids around. Our kids battle and we are petty comfortable when we are running seven, eight, nine out there and not really feel like I have to bunt or move some guys over. We got to the point there were we are hitting the kid well, let's just swing. We have a good team and no matter who we plug in they seem to compete very well," said Dennings.
Bellevue (22-4) will face Shelby (16-9) in the district final on Saturday afternoon.
Lexington (15-12) finishes the year as co-champion of the Ohio Cardinal Conference. Morrow thinks they have been over achievers. "It was a fantastic year. Nobody said we would be a competitive team. Most people, including myself, through we would be around the .500 mark and possibly a third of forth place "OCC" team and we walk away sending out our seniors with a championship," he said
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Bellevue Uses Big Inning to Beat Clear Fork
Bellevue scored all eight of their runs in the second inning on their way to an (8-4) win over Clear Fork in the division two softball district semi final at Seneca East High School on Tuesday.
The Lady Red had five hits in that pivotal inning, including three for extra bases hits. "We probably had the worst practice in my 26 years (Monday), so I surprised we came out and hit the ball like we did. This is best hitting team I have ever had," said Bellevue head coach Walt Snyder.
Clear Fork (21-8) took a (3-0) in the top of the first on two Bellevue errors and some good small ball work by the Lady Colts.
They shared the Ohio Cardinal Conference title with Orrville this year. Coach Jeff Gottfried thought they had a very good year, but on Tuesday Bellevue, the Northern Ohio League champ, was just better than them. "It is like any coach says at this point and time in the season. One game doesn't make a season. If people were going to predict what we did this year, it wasn't what we did. To get a share of the conference with our backs against the wall and winning three straight," he told Swankonsports.com after the game, "We had a big two weeks. We didn't have a let down (Tuesday) we just ran into a better team. Sometimes on a given day the other team was better than you were and they were. Hats off to Bellevue, they played very, very well."
Snyder says he has a young team really hits the ball well. "It don't know what to say. We have bunch of freshmen and sophomores and a few senior leaders that pulled us through I guess," he said. Bellevue totaled eight hits off Clear Fork pitchers Darian Gottfried and Morgan Arnett.
A based loaded triple in the that eight run second by lead off hitter Sophie Pressler, followed by another triple by Lindsey Seaman and a double by pitcher Morgan Andrews were daggers for the Lady Red. "The bases loaded triple to left, we missed our location there. We were trying to go in and get it on her hands and we got it out over the plate and she was able to drive it. The fly ball to centerfield that kind of went over our centerfielder's head we might have misplayed it a little bit. It was a tough catch. It was right at her, but it was hit very, very hard. If we make that play they only get four instead of eight. The dropped pop up killed us. That gave them the extra two runs. When you are down five runs that is a tough hill to climb against a very good pitcher," said Gottfried.
This is a different kind of Bellevue team for Snyder, who has been the softball coach at the school since 1989, but he smiled and said he thinks he has handled it pretty well. "This is one of the loosest teams I have ever had. They goof around and I am pretty much a disciplinarian, but coaches have to adjust to their personnel. I think I have adjusted pretty well," he said.
Bellevue will play either Edison or Shelby for the district title.
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Bellevue Beats Perkins in Extra Innings
Bellevue finally got to Braun Miller, although it took a while.
Dylan DeWitt's RBI double in the bottom of the ninth inning scored the winning run as the Redmen outlasted Sandusky Perkins (4-3) to claim the division two sectional title.
Miller threw a perfect game at Sandusky in a semi-final match-up on Saturday. He struck out 12 Bellevue batters on Thursday. All of the runs scored off Miller, including the game winner in the ninth, were unearned.
However, Bellevue hurlers Thomas Pressler and Tristan Snezek where able to keep their team in the game. Pressler went the first six, allowing three runs, two of them earned, and Snezek went the last three, permitting just one it. "We knew it was going to be a battle when we drew them. We watched them play Sandusky and they beat them 1-0. We talked to our kids about really battling and really making them work and putting pressure on the defense. I thought our kids battled extremely well throughout the game. Pitching wise for us I thought we matched a lot of it. Thomas and Tristan have been outstanding all year. We had some tough breaks (Thursday) and I was really pleased by how we battled. It was a fun game to be part of," said Bellevue coach Andy Dennings.
Bellevue has been one of the more consistent baseball powers in North Central Ohio and they have played a lot of close games this year. Dennings says they have battled adversity before. "The more you are exposed to it you hope you learn your lesson. When they present themselves you can apply from stuff that has gone your way and gone against your way in the past and take it as a learning experience. We had some tough situations (Thursday) and we found ourselves in some holes," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "We had some problems finding the zone at times. Perkins was able to put some pressure on, but we were able to make some pitches and got some big outs when we needed them. We were lucky enough to outlast them and finally got that big hit."
Perkins led (2-0) early and (3-2) in the fifth before the Redmen tied the game when they scored on an error.
Bellevue (20-4), #2 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, meets Lexington (14-10), #4 in our poll, a (5-0) winner over Clyde on Thursday, in the division two district semis next Thursday at Mansfield Madison High School.
Lexington beat Bellevue (5-2) way back on April 3. Dennings says the Redmen are a better team now. "It is going to be a battle. They do a nice job down there. Kevin (Morrow) does some nice work with those kids. We got to see them early in the year when we played them down at Heidelberg. They got the best of us that day. I think it is going to be a competitive environment. We have made strides. I think we are a different team than we were. We are excited about the opportunity. We are going to give Lexington our best shot," he said.
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Bellevue Earns a Share
Thomas Pressler went the distance on the mound as the Bellevue Redmen earned no less than a share of the Northern Ohio League baseball title Tuesday with a (4-1) win over Tiffin Columbian.
Both the Tornadoes and Ontario trail the Redmen by a game with Shelby on Thursday Bellevue's only remaining league game.
Pressler is part of a pretty deep pitching staff and coach Andy Dennings says that has been a big part of their success. "If you look at our stats we kind of run out our four primary guys all year. They are a group that has really competed extremely well on the mound no matter who was throwing. No question they have given us a chance to win every single game when we throw those guys out there. Even some other kids that we have sprinkled in there have done extremely well. Our ERA is pretty darn amazing in my opinion. As long as I have been coaching it is pretty low. It is a testament to our kid's competitive fire when they get out there," said Dennings.
The hitting has been pretty strong for the Redmen was well. A key, according to Dennis, has been its depth. He says they have gotten production throughout the lineup. "I thought we started out the season extremely well hitting one through nine. We kind of got into a little lull there, but we are starting to pick it back up. This is a crew no matter who we have plugged in they have been very productive and given us quality at bats. We move a lot of kids around. We seem to be hitting our grove. Anytime you can hit one through nine the pitcher can't take a break," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night, "It is not one of those things where you kind of worry when you get to the bottom half. No matter who we have put down there they have been really competitive. Again (Tuesday) night we have had some kids come up with clutch hits. Our top hitter (Tuesday) was our seven hole. It makes for a nice offense when you can put a lot of pressure on the pitcher and the defense one through nine."
The Northern Ohio League has been really good in baseball this year. Willard is the only team not having at least a decent season and Bellevue, Ontario, Tiffin Columbian, Shelby and Norwalk have been really good. Dennings says you have to take them one at a time. "We talk to our kids about that a lot. We just have to be better that day. We just have to focus on that day. We don't look ahead. We can't look behind. It's about what you do today. It has been an extremely competitive league. We have some good coaches here that can get their troops ready to play. We have some good pitching too all throughout the league. It's been a lot of fun this year and it has definitely been a challenge for us to navigate our way through this season to at least a share right now," he said.
Bellevue (16-4,9-2), #3 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, plays at Shelby (12-8,5-5) on Thursday. Dennings says they want that title to themselves. "We told our guys that we want to stay hungry, we don't want to share with anybody. This is the time you want to be greedy. It is tough even though you have got a piece. We are going to try and come out and play extremely well (Wednesday) against Marion Harding. Then really try and cap off the Northern Ohio League season against Shelby going down there. We had a really nice game with them at the beginning of the year. I'm sure they are going to be geared up for us and try to get their stride going into the tournament as well. We are going to battle our butts off an hopefully get that whole "NOL" to ourselves," said Dennings.
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Girls' Basketball Players to Showcase Talents
Wednesday night, girls' basketball players of all ages will get an opportunity to show what they can do to fans and college coaches with Shelby Rotary NCO Girls' All-Star Basketball Classic at Shelby High School.
Kyle Fenner of Colonel Crawford and Eric Mitchell of New London are the coaches in the senior game, which includes two ten player teams.
Fenner has done this before, so she knows what to expect. "This will be the second time coaching the all-star game. I believe in 2000 I coached the all-star game over in Ashland, so this will be my second time," she said.
She will coach team black, which will include: Anna Hintz of South Central, Deijah Swihart of Clear Fork, Gabby Stephens of Shelby, Shelby Stamm of Bellevue, Ellie Richmond of Wynford, Hannah Adams of Willard, Sydnie Carpenter of Ashland, Mekaila Grose of Mansfield Madison, Ta-Sharra Jeffries of Sandusky and Emily Wagner of Sandusky Perkins.
A real key to this format is to get everyone into the game with a chance to showcase there skills. "It's not really hard we will have ten kids and we will probably put them in groups of five and let them play for four or five minutes then we will substitute. We will approach it that way and let them get up and down the floor and show their skills. If it's a game at the end we will probably go with the five or six best kids that we feel can win the game for us," said Fenner.
Some of the players might know where they are going to college, but some may not. Fenner says this is their chance to impress. "There are going to be a good portion of college coaches there that night. They have done a great job of getting college coaches there. It will a great chance for these kids to show their skills off to not only the area, but also some college coaches that will be there," she said.
On team white will be Carly Santoro of Bellevue, Valesha Province of Tiffin Columbian, Shelby White of Ashland, Jeryn Reese of Mansfield Senior, Morgan Bailey of Clear Fork, Hunter Feltner of Willard, Alexis Smith of Mansfield Madison, Makayla Cook of Norwalk, Megan Flaherty of Bucyrus and Samantha Reer of Norwalk St. Paul. The coach of the team will be Eric Mitchell of New London.
There is also an underclassmen game on Wednesday night, a first due to a change in OHSAA rules and Clear Fork coach Heidi Roush is one the coaches in that game.
She was an MVP in an all-star game as a player, but this will be her first as a coach. "It is my first time coaching anything like this. There are some stipulations as to who can coach the younger kids. You couldn't have one of your own players on the team. I think that is how they kind of stumbled on me. I'm really looking forward to it. I think it will be a lot of fun," she told Swankonsports.com.
Her team members are: Renee Stimpert of Crestview, Abigail Fogle of Upper Sandusky, Sarah Ogden of Wynford, Gabbi Baldridge of Willard, Ashley Painley of Norwalk St. Paul, Shelby Kin of Carey, Maggie King of Willard, Jisselle Thomas of Norwalk, Paige Leitz of Monroeville and Leah Bouillon of New Riegel.
She says she will judge playing time by performance during the game. "With you know you have talented kids, they wouldn't be on the team other wise. I think for the most part you just go with who is playing well. Get everyone in there and let them show their skills," said Roush.
There are only a couple of practices before them game and Roush says the players sort of have to get used to each other. "There are some larger schools and I know those players and what they are capable of and there are some players that I haven't seen before and I only know their stat lines checking on then throughout the season in the paper. I think it will be a little bit of a challenge for the kids knowing each other. Some of them will have played against each other in summer league, some during the season and then there are kids they really don't know each other," said Roush.
Playing for team black in the underclassmen game are Seina Adachi of Seneca East, Sydney Wentling of Carey, Kamryn Troike of Fostoria St. Wendelin, Payton Shays of New London, Kelci Simms of Bucyrus, Jenna Strayer of Bellevue, Sydney Holderman of Riverdale, Emily Yeager of Mansfield St. Peter's, Jackie Garrett of Shelby and Alexus Burkhart of Colonel Crawford. They will be coached by Jon Dawson of Willard.
Roush thinks it is pretty cool that underclassmen get to participate too. "In this sport most of the time you are going to end with a loss and it can be so disheartening. Now, these younger kids are going to get a chance to play again this season and pump them up and get them ready for next season," she said.
There will be a halftime three point shooting contest among girls in district 6. Some boys will be there for dunk contest as well.
The underclassmen game starts at 6 PM, with the senior game at about 7:45. Tickets for the game are $6 for adults, $3 for seniors, and free for 18 and under who donate a gently used or new children's book to the Shelby Rotary's "Big Red Book Shelf."
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Bellevue Faces Ferocious Defense
Bellevue meets Wauseon in the division four regional semifinals of the high school football playoffs on Friday night at Harmon Field at Fremont Ross High School.
Last week, quarterback Alec Foos scored with a little over a minute to play to preserve a (40-32) victory over LaGrange Keystone in the first round. Veteran coach Ed Nasonti says they knew it was going to be a battle and his kids were up to the occasion. "Coming into week one you are taking only the top eight teams in the region and everybody has a good ball club and everybody has good athletes. When we looked at Keystone through our scouting report we knew they had a nice group of athletes that could make plays at anytime and they were a good football team," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "We were tied at halftime, we blew a coverage right before halftime and gave up a big pass play and they were able to tie it up. It was 20 to 20. We told our kids this is playoff football man and we have to make plays. It was a good football game between two good teams and I thought our kids handled it well and put together a nice second half."
Wauseon (11-0) has allowed the opponent more than 10 points only twice this year. The most being in a (37-27) win over Swanton. The have thrown three shutouts this year and beat Genoa (9-7) in a first round game last week. Nasonti says this is a very good defense they will be facing on Friday night. "They had a eight ball games where they gave up a touchdown or less, so you know they are good. They have guys that can run. They have some good size up front. They have a rich football tradition. That's next up fro us," he said.
Bellevue (9-2), #2 in the final Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the league school division this year, scored more than 50 points in each of their last three regular season games. They have been very explosive this year totaling more than 400 total yards in a loss to unbeaten Norwalk. Nasonti says mistakes usually tell the story in game like this, but he wants his kids to play without fear. "You are down now to 16 teams left in the state and they are all good football teams and the margin of error gets smaller and smaller each week. That being said I don't like our kids worrying about making mistakes. We take the attitude over here at Bellevue that each Friday night we are going to fire all of our bullets and let the chips fall where they may. That is the mindset that I want my kids to play with on week two," said Nasonti.
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Bellevue Knows What to Expect
Friday night, Bellevue will be making the 15th playoff appearance in school history, the 12th under current head coach Ed Nasonti, as they play host to LaGrange Keystone in a regional quarterfinal in division four.
The Redmen (8-2), #2 in the final Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, finished runner-up in the Northern Ohio League. Their only losses this year come to Clyde and Norwalk.
Nasonti thinks they are ready for the playoffs to begin. "We have been focusing on every day in practice getting better, focusing on intensity level and being in the right frame of mind every day in practice. That is where it gets done. You can talk all you want about what happens on Friday night, but if you don't take of the business Monday through Thursday it is not going to take place on Friday. As a coaching staff we have been pushing the kids in the right direction. We have some good leaders on our team that understand that. When it comes to the end of the year you want to be where you need to be," said Nasonti.
Bellevue was a state runner up in division three two years ago and there are kids on their roster that lived that experience. Nasonti says this is just another week at the office for the team. "I think the kids are going to hear what they hear with the social media and such that kind of stuff is kind of out of out control. As far as scouting reports and practice wise it is just another week because if their was a better way of doing it during the year we would already be doing it. We feel like our approach, our system, our practice planning, our scouting reports and stuff are where they need to be," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "Like I said if there was a better way of doing it we would have already been doing it that way. From our standpoint when the kids come in on (Monday) it is going to be like every other Monday, Tuesday is going to be like every other Tuesday, Wednesday is going to be like every other Wednesday. From that standpoint it is going to be like every other game. Obviously if you don't get the job done on Friday everybody knows you get the basketballs out on Monday."
Keystone (8-2) has some experience too and Nasonti says they have some athletes. "There are eight teams in the region that made it. There are 32 teams in our region and they only take eight, so they are a pretty good football team. They have a real nice quarterback that has good quickness and he is really elusive. They have a nice receiver, a division one athlete, out there that they throw to. They have a nice running back. I think they are sound on both sides of the ball. It is going to be a good football team. It is going to be another test for us. It is one that we are looking forward to," he said.
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Bellevue Working on Getting Better
Bellevue is going to need a huge upset from winless Willard against Norwalk to share in the Northern Ohio League title this year, but they are already in the playoffs and preparing for such.
Last week, Willard almost got them, well at least scared them a little bit. Bellevue won (60-22), but they game was tied at the half. Veteran coach Ed Nasonti says he had to focus his team. "Our kids needed a little bit of a wake up call. We came out and Willard runs that triple option, like we talked about last week, You have to be disciplined and be at the right place at the right time. Our kids got out of position a little bit there. We had a tiger by the tail there in the first half. It was 22 all at halftime," he said.
Bellevue ended up with over 500 yards total offense last week, more than 400 on the ground, 157 by Alex Foos and 147 by Bryce Ray. Nasonti says they have some home run hitters. "You have Alex Foos, who has done a great job coming in as our wildcat quarterback, you have Triston Snezek, who has had really good year for us throwing the ball, you have Bryce Ray at halfback, Joey Martin in the backfield along with Maurice Barnhouse. We have some guys that can make some plays. Our offensive line has come along, we have three veterans up front. We have the ability, but we have to come ready to play every Friday night," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "I think we are playing good football this year. We have gotten better each week. Even when we played Norwalk, a team that is undefeated, we still had over 400 yards of offense. We figured we could put points on the board. Our defense has been pretty solid. We are trying to keep everybody healthy and have some momentum going into the playoffs."
Bellevue (7-2,4-1), #2 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, plays at Sandusky (3-6,2-3) in an "NOL" game on Friday night. Nasonti says they better be ready from the beginning this week because the Streaks have some speed and ability. "They have some kids with great speed. You have to have good pursuit angles. We can't be caught out of position. If we get caught out of position they could take it to the house in a hurry and make you look silly. We look at them as a formidable opponent. We tell our kids every Friday night to respect your opponent and expect the best out of them. I think if we learned anything from last week's game that is what we have to do," he said.
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Bellevue Makes Playoffs
Bellevue tops their division four playoff region and they have already secured a playoff berth this season.
Quarterback Alec Foos scored seven times as the Redmen belted Ontario (64-23) in a Northern Ohio League game last week. Ontario led early (16-12) after two Bellevue turnovers. "The kids had Thursday and Friday off from school and at first I thought they were going to take the game off too," said coach Ed Nasonti.
With the playoff berth already earned Bellevue (6-2,3-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, plays host to winless Willard (0-8,0-4) on Friday night. Nasonti says they have already addressed issues regarding focus. "Focus always concerns me any week and every week. Our focus with our kids has to be on getting better every day at practice. In our staff meeting on Sunday we addressed that and how we were going to handle the kids and we addressed it with our kids at their scouting meeting on Monday," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "It is one of those things were you have to put it out on the table and challenge the kids and push them to a point. We think we can get more out of our kids every day and we can get better in all aspects of our game. If you have any intention of being a great football team you have to stay focused every week and you have to expect the best out of your opponent every Friday night and have respect for your opponent."
Willard played one of its better games of the season last week as they lost to Sandusky (14-6) and Nasonti says they will not take a win for granted against the Flashes. "It is no secret that they have been struggling this year. They are a team that hasn't won any games. You don't have to go too far back to see what they can do. I know the year before last they knocked off a pretty good Norwalk team, I think they ended up shutting them out (28-0). You know what can happen and when you are dealing with high school kids, 16, 17, 18 years old you never know what can happen on a Friday night. We are taking the view point that we have to be the best that we can be and don't under estimate anyone," said Nasonti.
Willard runs the triple option offense and Nasonti says they have to make sure they carry out their assignments or Willard could make big plays. "There is no doubt about it you have to have a game plan and be disciplined with your game plan and that is exactly what we hope to do and that has been our focus this week in practice," he said.
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Bellevue Respects an Improving Ontario
Bellevue needs a lot of help to get a piece of the Northern Ohio League title, but they don't need any when it comes to the playoffs.
They are in first place in their region in division four.
Norwalk beat them (49-27) week in a league game last week and coach Ed Nasonti thought they played well in a game that was still in doubt with two minutes to play. "It was an eight point game with two minutes left in the game and they scored twice in the last two minutes of the game. I thought our kids played hard and gave great effort, they never quit. When you step back and look at the game we had 405 total yards of offense against a team that was undefeated and they ended up with like 470 yards," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "We felt we moved the ball well, but we didn't get enough stops to keep us in the game. When you are going up against a running back like him, he is probably one of the best I have seen in the last 34 years, you have to get a few stops to give yourself a chance."
Norwalk's Breck Turner had 283 yards and three scores.
The top four teams in each region earn a home playoff game in the first round and Nasonti says that is something they are in position to get. "We watched the film and we learned for our mistakes and we are moving on. We are in good position playoff wise coming into the last three weeks of the season with an opportunity to go 8-2. If we take care of business there is a good chance we could possibly host a playoff game. Those are the things that we are putting out there for our kids. We control our own destiny as far as hosting a playoff game. We feel we are in good shape at this point," he said.
Bellevue (5-2,2-1), #5 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, is at home for Ontario (4-3,2-1) in a Northern Ohio League game on Friday night. Nasonti says the Warriors have some players that can do some things. "They have a nice athlete at quarterback. He does a lot for them and he is a running quarterback, but he can throw the ball too. They have some good size up front on both sides of the ball and a couple is skilled guys. We know that they have a couple of real nice athletes that they lost form last year, but they are filling in with some younger kids that have done a pretty good job for them. The way we look at is we respect our opponents every Friday night and we also expect the best out of them. So, coming into this week we look at Ontario as a formidable opponent for us and an opponent we have to deal with. If we take care of business they could bring us a lot of computer points," said Nasonti.
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Bellevue and Norwalk Play for "NOL" Lead
Bellevue and Norwalk are both unbeaten in Northern Ohio League action and they play on Friday night at Whitney Field in Norwalk. The winner will have the upper hand when it comes to the 2014 league title.
Last week, Bellevue racked up over 400 yards of total offense and they handled rival Tiffin Columbian (42-29) at home to keep themselves in position for that league title.
Bellevue and Columbian have won more league titles over the last 25 years than anyone else, Columbian has won 16 and Bellevue has added 11. Bellevue coach Ed Nasonti says anytime you beat Columbian it's a big win. "Tiffin has a solid football program year in and year out it is a great win. On top of it it was homecoming. I thought our kids put their best foot forward and we were able to come away with a nice win," he said.
Alec Foos ran for 158 yards and three scores against Tiffin. Nasonti says their two quarterback system is working out pretty well right now. "We go with two different quarterbacks. I've got one that is a tall, lanky kid that can throw it in Tristen Snezek and then we have Alec Foos, who is kind of quick and a wildcat guy. It is a lot to prepare for and we are kind of growing into it," he told Swankonsports.com, "I think each week we get a better feel about what each guy can do and I think that helps us out too in trying to put the kids in the best position to be successful."
Bellevue (5-1,2-0) does not have the size in trenches that many of the teams they play do, but Nasonti says there are ways around that lack of big guys. "You don't want to just line up and let them tee off on you. You have to do some moving on defense. I think it is important for us to do some moving around, use our quickness, and give them some different looks. We want to slow them down and make them earn their yards," he said.
Norwalk is #1 and Bellevue is #2 in this week's Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the league school division.
The Truckers (6-0,3-0) smothered Sandusky (27-3) last week and they feature a possible Mr. football candidate in Breck Turner at running back. He has ran for almost 700 yards in just "NOL" games this year. Their defense has allowed only 10 points in the last 10 quarters of play.
Nasonti says they know Norwalk is an outstanding team. "They are undefeated and it is going to be another quality opponent. My big thing over the years that I try to focus in on with our kids to just try to focus on the things that are right in front of you and not think too far ahead. We are not going to be thinking about playoffs and championships and things like that. The next thing we are going take care of is improving on the things we can improve on," said Nasonti.
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Bellevue Plays Columbian in Big "NOL" Game
Bellevue, unbeaten in Northern Ohio League play, hosts defending league champion Tiffin Columbian in a game critical to the league race on Friday night.
Columbian lost two weeks ago to Norwalk (35-21) and they can ill afford to lose another if they expect to get a piece of that league title. The Truckers are 2-0 in league action heading into a game with Sandusky this week.
The Redmen (4-1,1-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, belted Shelby (41-14) in their league opener. Coach Ed Nasonti says they did well and showed improvement in their play. "I think our kids are getting better every week and that is our goal at the end of the day. We tell our kids you either get better or you get worse, you never stay the same. We have been on them everyday trying to do a good job in the weight room and improve all of the fundamentals and techniques it takes to play football. At the end of the day the team that blocks and tackles the best is the one the is go to come out on top," said Nasonti.
Tiffin (3-2,1-1), #4 in our poll, stayed in the league race when they downed Sandusky (27-7) last week in league play. Nasonti says they are huge in the trenches with solid skilled guys, in other words a typical Columbian team. "They have great size. They have four guys that are over 300 pounds. They have some great skilled guys. Their quarterback has been around for a few years. They have some good running backs. It is a typical Tiffin football team. They don't do a lot of things, but they do a good job with what they do," he said.
Columbian is an outstanding team and Nasonti knows that, but he says really the keys to winning football games don't differ much from week to week. "It will be the way it is every Friday night. We pride ourselves of being able to hang onto the ball and not turning it over. Over the years when we have turned the ball over we have come up on the short end. We want to focus on our kids hanging onto the ball. We want to make the teams we play drive the football and quit giving up big plays. I think that will get you beat too," he said.
Over the last 25 years Bellevue and Tiffin Columbian have been the most consistent winners in the "NOL." Nasonti expects that both teams will play well this week. "More times over the years it has come down between Bellevue and Tiffin. Over the last couple of years Norwalk has done a great job too. Of course, they came up with a nice win against Tiffin a couple of weeks ago. We feel we have to play well every Friday night. I don't think we are good enough to look by anybody I don't care who it is. We are going to have to respect our opponent and expect the best out of our opponent every Friday night," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "That is what is going to happen Friday. We are going to expect the best and hopefully we can play our best football also."
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Bellevue Not taking Shelby Lightly
Bellevue has won three of its four non-conference games heading into its first Northern Ohio League game at Shelby on Friday night.
The Redmen (3-1,0-0) responded from their only loss of the season to Clyde (42-6) to outscore Toledo Waite (41-20) last week. Coach Ed Nasonti says that Waite was a team that could make big plays and they did a good job, especially on defense. "We played a quality opponent with skilled athletes. We thought it was a much improved team from the year before. It as a good test for us and I thought our kids persevered and came out on top with a 21-point win," he said.
Shelby (1-3,0-1) suffered its second straight tough loss as they were beaten at their place by Sandusky (27-21) in their first league game. It might not show in their record, but Nasonti thinks the Whippets are whole lot better than they were a year ago. "Without a doubt they have some good skilled guys. They are a real strong team with the Armstrong kid at quarterback," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "The Bellevue-Shelby rivalry goes way back to 1944 when it all stated up. You can throw out the record books when Bellevue and Shelby meet."
Brennan Armstrong is a freshman who starts at quarterback for Shelby and Nasonti says he does a good job of getting the Whippets into what they want to do and he is a playmaker. "When you are a good football team you have to have a good trigger man. We has done a nice job for them for a freshman. They have some good speed surrounding him and some good size. It is going to be a good "NOL" battle," he said.
Shelby has given up some big plays on defense, but not as many as last year and Nasonti says they do a petty good job on defense and they are getting better on that side of the ball. "They have some good speed in the secondary. They have some big size up front. They run to the ball well. They are well coached and I think that goes a long way in saying that they have a great defense," he said.
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Bellevue Travels to Toledo
Bellevue plays another non-conference game before they start play in the Northern Ohio League next week and it is a game where they have to get back to a high level of performance.
That was not the case last week when rival Clyde hammered then (42-6) and coach Ed Nasonti says all of the credit goes to the Fliers. "They are a good football team we knew that coming in and things kind of snowballed on us. We were down 21-0 in the first quarter. I thought our kids fought back hard in the second half but it was too much to overcome. Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to the other team. I thought they did a good job, they have a nice team, and they are going to be tough to beat," he said.
Bellevue (2-1) travels to Toledo Waite (1-2) for a non-conference game on Friday night. Waite has lost to Genoa (41-14) and Sylvania Northview (43-19) and then beat Oregon Clay (28-26) last week. Nasonti says they have some kids that can make plays. "They have some good skilled guys. Their quarterback and their tailback are as good as I have seen around here. They have speed and good size. They have a new coaching staff on board there so they are doing things better on both sides of the ball. We are expecting the best out of them Friday," he said.
When defending against speed Nasonti says they have to maintain good balance and prevent the big play, something they didn't do against Clyde. "You have to tell your kids they have to be under control. Their quarterback is very dangerous when he improvises. They do have some plays that they have set up for him, but he is most dangerous when he is scrambling around. We need to make them drive the field and not give them any big plays," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "I think that's what hurt us last week. We gave up two big trap plays on runs, we gave up two big flat plays and a punt return. Every Friday night we want our opponent to have to earn their yards, make them drive the field, we can't give up big plays and make it easy for them."
Beating Waite is the main thing, but above that, Nasonti thinks the Redmen have to play up to their standards. "I think playing well is the most important thing. Sure you want to win every game, but we want to play up to our potential and I don't think we did that last Friday. I don't think our kids thought so. I think if would have lost the game and played to our potential I think everybody could have been able to deal with it. I have been coaching for 34 years, 24 as a head coach, and the only thing I want out of my guys is to play to the best of their ability, show great effort, toughness, and know their assignments. Those are three things we are focusing on with our kids and those three things they can control. It has been an intense week of practice and we hope we can get up there and get something going and play to our potential," said Nasonti.
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Bellevue Ready to Come out with Guns Blazing
Bellevue and Clyde are both outstanding football teams that will figure in their league races and likely make the playoffs. They square off on Friday night at the Bellevue Athletic Field.
It's a meeting between the top two teams in the Swankonsports.com football coach's poll in the large school division. Clyde is #1 and Bellevue #2 in the first poll of the season released this week.
Bellevue rallied last week to beat Huron (14-13) when they forced a fumble and recovered it in the end zone in the later stagers of the fourth quarter. Coach Ed Nasonti says they had good focus and were opportunistic in a game that was finished on Saturday. "It's not easy to do. You get going, you are into the game. You get a couple of lightning cracks and the game gets postponed and you have to come back the next day. We have done that several times over the years. It's important to keep your kids focused and get them ready to go,'" he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday. "Last week, it was a situation where we were down 6 points with 10 minutes left in the game, so we didn't have a lot of time to get it done. We put together a couple of drives which changed the field position of the game. We were able to make a break and recover a fumble in the end zone by Huron and kick the extra point and that turned out to be the game winner."
Bellevue's defense has controlled to pretty good offenses in Sandusky Perkins and Huron. Nasonti says they players understand their roles and they don't try to do too much. "We have some experienced guys coming back on the defensive side of the ball. I think our schemes have been solid. Whenever we have played good defense over the years we have had kids that could tackle and I think we have done that. On top of that went bent a little bit, but we didn't break and we didn't panic. We have a nice group of kids and they are buying into the concepts and they are buying into team defense, so we are hoping we can keep that going," he said.
Not only are both teams good they are longtime rivals that are about 10 mile apart and Nasonti says there are always a number of factors in the game. "The thing is with Clyde they just reload every year. They have some outstanding players and they have great size. They are the defending division three regional champs. It's a great opportunity for us. We have them coming into our place and its a playoff atmosphere. It's a rivalry game. It's like Ohio State-Michigan, Bowling Green-Toledo, Army-Navy. When you have cities that are butted up right next to each other, people that work with each other, it adds a whole other element to the game. It is going to be fun. We are going to let it all hang out and let the chips fall where they may," said Nasonti.
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Bellevue and Huron Lock Horns
Two of the better teams, and traditions, meet on Friday night as the Bellevue Redmen head to Huron to take on the Tigers in non-conference play.
Both schools won their opening game last week as Huron decked Sandusky (30-6) and Bellevue downed Sandusky Perkins (28-14) at their place.
Veteran coach Ed Nasonti was pretty pleased with the performance he got from his players. "You always have a lot anxiety going into week one. I think everybody does. You want to see where you are at and how you kids respond. You have the hot weather and humidity. I think our kids answered the bell. We came out and were relentless for four quarters. Our kids played hard they played with enthusiasm. I was pleased with our conditioning. All of those things you like to check week one I thought our kids did well. It was nice to come away with a win," he said.
Pleased with the opening night win Nasonti says they have to get better every week, in fact every day is the goal. "I think we can get better in all areas. It was the first game and although we were pleased as a coaching staff when you watch the game you see a couple of missed assignments here and there on both sides of the ball. Our special teams could improve, our open field tackling. There are quite a few things we can improve on," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "People talk about making their greatest improvement between week one and week two, you know, we think we can make improvement every day. We tell our kids every day you go out you either get better or you get worse you never stay the same. As a coaching staff we continue to push our kids in that direction. If we are going to be a great football team at the end of the year we need to make our strides every day."
Nasonti has coached a lot of games against Huron and he knows what to expect from the Tigers on Friday. "We look at Huron as a program a lot like our own. They are going to be solid every year. They have a consistent coaching staff. They have a good tradition. So, you are going to have to play good football every year. They are going to be solid on both sides of the ball and special teams. We had a great rivalry with them since 1972, but the last time we played them was 2001 and then they got back on board with us last year. It is going to be fun for the community and fun for the kids. We play a tough schedule. We are not one of those teams that is going to schedule a winning season every year just by who they play. We are going to earn our wins," said Nasonti.
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Bellevue Has Potential
Bellevue only really has good years on the football field, it's just how good is the question.
When people haven been talking about the Northern Ohio League contenders all of the talk has surrounded Norwalk and Tiffin Columbian, but you would be well advised to not forget about Bellevue.
One of the few things that concerns coach Ed Nasonti is the team's possible lack of condition. "This has been 34 years for me as an assistant and a head coach. It was kind of a unique preseason because the weather was uncharacteristically cool through two a days and now on game week it heats up. It has been kind of unusual because we would like to get our kids acclimated a little more during the two a day sessions," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "We don't have that luxury, but it's been pretty good and the kids have been working hard. They have been fighting through it the last couple of days and we have had a couple of good practices."
Bellevue has some good experience on it's roster this year. Nasonti thinks they can be pretty good, but they have to prove that out on the field. "We have some guys that went through the battle last year. We have six returning guys on defense and eight guys returning on offense. We think we have the makings of a good team, but we have to stay healthy. Our kids have to be on point and play to the best of our abilities. We play a very tough schedule. Our first three games are Perkins, Huron and Clyde, the top three teams in the "SBC," so there is not much room for error there," said Nasonti.
Defending Sandusky Bay Conference champion Sandusky Perkins will come to the Bellevue Athletic Field on Friday night. Nasonti knows that Perkins will be a challenge for them. "They are a solid football team and they run the wing-T stuff and a lot of motion and misdirection. Our kids are going to have to be disciplined and do a good job of tackling when we get there," he said.
it can be a long preseason and kids can get tired of the grind, but Nasonti thinks they have done a pretty good job this month and through the summer of keeping the kids fresh. "I think we have done a good job with our kids in the summer. We don't overdo it. We try to keep our kids hungry and for the most part I think our kids are," he said.
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Bellevue Ready For Tiffin
For many years it has come down to the game between Tiffin Columbian and Bellevue to determine the Northern Ohio League football champion. They meet Friday night at National Field in Tiffin.
Bellevue (3-2,1-0) put together one of its best overall games of the season last week in beating Shelby (35-0) in their first league game of the year. Coach Ed Nasonti likes what he is seeing. “Our defense has been getting better and better each week. We are doing a great job of tackling. I think coach Will does a great job at Shelby. They have some good kids, but we stepped up and we did a good job. We got out of there with a nice win and we stayed pretty healthy on top of it,” he said.
Bellevue lost to Akron St. Vincent/St. Mary in last year’s division three state championship game, but they lost a lot to graduation. Nasonti says this year’s group is getting better because they are learning fast. “That is what happens when you have young guys. Out of 22 starting positions, we have 12 underclassmen and three sophomores. So, there is no where to go but up. We are getting better and better every week,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Our kids have bought into the program. Our focus is on ourselves more than anybody. We have good opponents every week. They are well coached. We are in a tough conference. We play a great non-conference schedule, but we have to take care of ourselves and do the things that we are supposed to do.”
Tiffin beat Bellevue last year (35-21) on the way to a “NOL” title. Nasonti says they are very good again this year. “They have some good athletes. They are solid every year. They are well coached. They have a division one offensive lineman in Isaiah Moore. They have the Lynch kid that has been starting for them in backfield for three years. They are very explosive. They are just getting their quarterback back. He has been suspended for five games. He will be back here for our game. They are a good football program. We are looking forward to it. It’s a great challenge, but also it’s a great opportunity for us too,” said Nasonti.
Columbian (4-1,2-0) lost their first game of the season to Clyde (13-7), but they have won four start. Nasonti says Tiffin rarely has down years. “They are a power program. They have some great athletes over there. You are going to get a great game out of them every Friday night. I have been head coach for 23 years and you know when you play Tiffin you are going to get a good ballgame,” he said.
Nasonti says both schools realize what is riding on this game. “It really has and I think both sides understand that. It is a red letter game on both team’s schedule. We are going to see who comes out on top. May the best man win,” he said.
Bellevue ready For “NOL"
The mark of a great football program is when they have great talent the win a lot, but so do average programs, but the great ones never drop off much.
Enter the Bellevue Redmen.
Last year, they finished as division three state runners-up and this year, even with losses to graduation and injuries, they are starting to hit their stride again after a big win (62-0) over Toledo Waite last week.
Veteran coach Ed Nasonti, the head coach at Bellevue since 1990, likes what is developing. “I think we have some kids that are coming together a little bit. We are getting to the halfway point on the season. We have some young inexperienced guys in certain positions. I think we have stepped up our game. We have played some pretty good ball here so far this year,” he said.
Nasonti says they started the year with a number of kids that had not played much at the varsity level. “We had a long season last year. We had a 15 week season. We thought a lot of those guys would hit the ground running, but there is nothing that can replace actual game experience we found out. We have a good group of kids. They have been working very hard. They have improved each week and we are going to find out this week when we step into the “NOL,” said Natonti.
Shelby (0-4,0-1) is at Bellevue (2-2,0-0) on Friday coming off a loss to the Sandusky Blue Streaks (20-6) in their “NOL” opener last week. However, Nasonti has great respect for the Whippets tradition. “The Shelby Whippets are a proud football program and they great history and tradition in the Northern Ohio League and we give them a respect. Right now they are still trying to find their identity. We tell our kids that you have to expect the best out of each of your opponents. We are going to expect the Shelby Whippets best shot on Friday night,” said Nasonti.
Both teams will play Friday night with a quarterback that they had projected this summer as their back up. Nasonti says that forces you to adapt. “You are into your second team quarterback. We have experienced that ourselves this year. We have been playing the first four games with our back up quarterback. We understand how important that is. We saw the Osuley kid in the scrimmage against Perkins and he is definitely an outstanding player,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “I’m sure when you lose a key player on your team, I have been a head coach for 23 years and 33 years in the business overall, when you lose a quarterback it does throw you for a loop. It takes time to make adjustments. Your quarterback is the focal point of your offense, so they have been struggling on the offense end.”
Tristan Kehres is the Whippets leading tackler from his middle linebacker position. Nasonti knows they are going to have to account form him on every play. “We have been preparing for him for three years. He is an outstanding football player. He is all over the field. One game they even had him back returning punts. I know that they think a lot of him and we respect him also,” he said.
Bellevue Younger, but Still Good
Bellevue enjoyed a fabulous season last year in which they finished as division three state runners-up, losing to Akron St. Vincent/St. Mary in the state final last December.
This year the Redmen are going to be a little younger, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have talent.
Veteran coach Ed Nasonti has seen his squad come together well this month. “We have some good kids on our team. We have some good leaders. The kids are enthusiastic. The community is excited. It has been a good preseason. I don’t think we could ask any more out our kids,” he said.
Yes, there are some inexperienced players manning stating positions, but Nasonti says they have a lot more practice time than you would think. “It is like any other opener there are some question marks. We have some kids that have been in the program. They are young. They are little bit unseasoned. We feel we had a great run last year. One of the best things about that was we had 15 weeks to work with our kids. Some of our young kids that maybe didn’t play that much last year got a lot of experience practicing for an extra five weeks. That is half of a season. We are hoping that some of the young guys that we have that are in the program and maybe didn’t start are going to step up to the plate this year,” said Nasonti.
Bellevue has won more “NOL” football titles than any other school and Nasonti says they players, and the community, ranks the quality of the football team pretty high. “We do have a good tradition here. Our expectations are high from our coaches. The expectations are high from the community and alumni. Everybody has the bar high. I think that is important and I think that’s a good thing. We hold our kids to it,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We have great expectations with the way we practice, the way we play, the way we lead, and the way you focus on the team. The team is the most important thing. We have had some players that have stood out over the years. I think it all comes back to the team concept.”
Bellevue travels to Sandusky Perkins on Friday night. The Pirates are a team Bellevue beat last year in the regular season and the playoffs. Nasonti says the Pirates should be petty good. “Looking at them on paper they are an outstanding football team. They have all seniors starting on both sides of the ball. They are picked to be number one in the “SBC.” Fortunately for us the games aren’t played on paper. You are going to have to get it done in between the lines. I guess we will find out Friday at seven o’clock,” he said.
Bellevue Finds the Magic
Bellevue has been searching for something to make them more successful all season and they have finally found it, being patient.
On offense, something that started in loss to Norwalk two weeks ago resulted in a pair of victories over Shelby (38-31) and non-conference rival Clyde (55-33) on Saturday.
Coach Mike Raifsnider says it is really what their personnel has dictated they do in order to win games. “That is what we figured we needed to do with the personnel that we have. We have actually struggled shooting the ball the entire year and we have gone to a little bit more of a deliberate pace. Not really trying to stall the ball, but actually just trying to work it for the best shot. I think the only way that you could actually do that is kind of buy into what you are asking them to do. I think the last two, three weeks here the kids have done a nice job of realizing that was something we needed to do. Plus, we have the personnel to kind of do it also. It is just something that has kind of worked for us the last couple of weeks,” said Raifsnider.
If you are going to make this offense work, like Upper Sandusky has, you have to play great defense. Raifsnider says they have done that. “We had a game Friday night over at Shelby and only gave up 31 points and turned around the next night against Clyde, who is a pretty nice team, and gave up 33 points. We had a really good defensive weekend. You have to try and get ahead of people or at least stay in the ball game so you can remain deliberate offensively and stay with your game plan,” he told Swankopnsports.com on Tuesday, “We have done a little bit of that and we have mixed in some of our regular stuff to keep things moving that way and kind of guessing and off balance with what they doing defensively too. It has worked the last couple of weeks and we just have to keep plugging away here.”
There next test will be Friday night against Sandusky (3-18,1-8), a team that upset Bellevue (57-56) on January 12, in Northern Ohio League action. Raifsnider says like always the Streaks bring some athleticism to the table. “Sandusky doesn’t have a whole lot of size. I think maybe their biggest kid is like 6’1”, but they are very quick and athletic. They get up after you and they are going to press you full court and make your guards have to work to bring the ball up the floor. They are team that graduated nine seniors from last year’s team, so they were inexperienced at the beginning of the year. They are playing a couple of freshmen that are pretty nice players themselves right now. They have kind of changed their lineup from what they were doing at the beginning of the year, but it seems to be working for them. I think their kids are playing a lot better right now too,” said Raifsnider.
Bellevue (11-10,3-6) plays Port Clinton (4-14) in a sectional tournament game next week at Oregon Clay High School. Raifsnider says with their new energy they could do some damage in the postseason. “It has taken us pretty much the whole season to actually get ourselves somewhat 100 percent. We just got Jarvis back. He didn’t even practice last week until Thursday. He got a lot of minutes for us against Shelby on Friday and got a lot of quality minutes for us Saturday night against Clyde. Just having him back on the floor and Stam had been out four or five games himself. Those two haven’t played together in about 12 or 13 games. Little by little we have gotten ourselves a little bit more healthy. Hopefully we can get another one here on Friday night and kind of ride some of this momentum into to the tournament and see where we can do in the tournament,” Raifsnider.
Bellevue Still Trying to Get Healthy
Bellevue is a basketball team hoping it can take off here at the end of the regular season and do some damage in the postseason, but first they have to get healthy.
Last week, the played the area’s best team and lost to Northern Ohio League leading Norwalk (47-35) in a league contest on Friday night. Bellevue coach Mike Raifsnider says they did all they could do to put themselves in position for the upset. “I was really proud of the effort that the kids gave against a really quality team like Norwalk, especially over at their place. We tried to follow our game plan of trying to spread them out a little bit and try and be as patient as we can offensively. Try to take as much time off the clock each possession that we could, but at the same time try to take quality shots,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “I thought we did a really good job of executing our game plan and try and keep the score as low as we possibly could so we would have a chance to be in the ballgame with them. To their credit they had to come out and pressure us a little bit and they are so long and athletic that they are able to do that. They are 19-0 for a reason. They have a quality team.”
First they got off to a late start due to a state runner-up finish in football and then they were hit with the injury bug. Raifsnider says they are still trying to recover. “We have had the Jarvis kid out for quite a few games here. When he was healthy we didn’t have the Stamm kid, a started for us also. We are getting Jarvis back and starting to practice with us (Tuesday), so he is possibly going to ready to go with us in some limited minutes here this weekend. If we get him back it’s going to be an added bonus for us here. Hopefully we will get him back at the right time to get a little bit healthier here going into tournament time,” he said.
In Northern Ohio league play Bellevue (9-10,2-6) is at Shelby (12-6,6-2) on Friday night. Shelby won the first game (66-54) in early January and Raifsnider says they have a solid team. “The Fenner kid presents you with some problems because he is long. He is an inside-outside type of player. Rhode is really nice shooter for them. The Karis kid has been killing people with offensive rebounding and scoring himself. They have a nice little package with the five kids that start for them. I think Troy is one of the better coaches in the area that always gets the best out of his kids. It is going to be an up hill challenge for us playing then up at their place. Hopefully we show up ready to play and it will be a good ballgame,” he said.
A win on Friday could help send the Redmen into the postseason feeling good about their chances of success. “We have two big games this weekend with Shelby and then have to turn around and play Saturday night against Clyde, who is having a really nice season. They have won nine of their last ten games. We have an up hill challenge here for the weekend, but if we could come away with a couple of wins against a couple of really nice teams like that and then finish the year with Sandusky going into the tournament then maybe that would propel us into doing some nice things in the tournament too,” said Raifsnider.
Bellevue Needs to be Good, Really Good
So far the basketball season has been a series of challenges for the Bellevue Redmen due mostly to injuries that has kept the team from performing at its best.
Without two starters out on Monday night the Redmen fell to the Huron Tigers (53-40) of the Sandusky Bay Conference. Coach Mike Raifsnider says they just didn’t have the depth that they needed. “Huron is a very talented team. They are very athletic and they have very good size and that caused us some problems in the game. We played them pretty tough I thought in the first half,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “It was 22-22 at one time, I know it ended up being down nine points at halftime. We were a little shorthanded and we kind of ran out of gas and they kind of pulled away from us in the second half. There is no same in a loss to them they are a very good basketball team. They played better than what we did on Monday night.”
Although they have had most of their kids for most of their game this season, Raifsnider admits that depth has been a concern since they stated the season a couple of weeks late. “We really haven’t been at full strength here for the last six, seven games. We still have a couple of guys nursing a couple of injuries yet from football season. A couple of them that tried to tough it out during the year and have lingering injuries and we played the other night without two of our starters, It has been off and on like that basically the whole year. We ended up having to start a freshman at the post Monday night, so we are playing some young kids and at the same time have some experienced kids playing too. We are just hoping to get healthy here eventually and just kind of keep plugging along here and give our best effort, that’s all we can do,” said Raifsnider.
Friday night, the Redmen (9-8,2-5) head down Route 20 for Norwalk to battle the Truckers (17-0,7-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the large school division. Norwalk can clinch no less than a share of the Northern Ohio League title with a win. Raifsnider says the Truckers are the whole package. “They have the inside and the outside game. They really get after you defensively. The thing that I am most impressed with them is as good as they are offensively they are as good defensively. They create a lot of their offense with what they do defensively. We are going to have to do a good offensively of taking care of the basketball number one and number two we are going to have to do a good job of defending in the half court. Obviously we are going to have our hands full with a team that is 17-0 and ranked in the state like they are, but we are going to go over there with the attitude that we have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” he said.
Everyone probably expects the Truckers to win. Raifsnider says he likes the underdog’s role. “That is the way we have to pretty much approach it. We just need to approach it one possession, one quarter at a time and hope tat we can hang around with them. If we play at the top of their game and get them on a night when maybe they are not at the top of their game, maybe when the fourth quarter rolls around maybe we have got a chance and really that is all that you can hope for. We just want to go over there and compete the best we can and see where we stack up against one the best teams in the entire state of Ohio,” said Raifsnider.
Bellevue Coming Together
Bellevue has the talent, no question, and now they are starting to come around as a team after a long football season.
They have put together a three game winning streak to get over the .500 mark for the first time this season.
They downed Upper Sandusky (55-43) on Tuesday night and coach Mike Raifsnider says they certainly have been doing things better. “Over the last two weeks we have turned things around a little bit and have been playing a little more consistent. We had a nice win over Tiffin Columbian here in overtime on Friday night and then went to Seneca East and beat a pretty good Seneca East team on Saturday at their place by 21 points and turned around Tuesday night and got Upper Sandusky, who has been having a nice year too. We have been playing a lot more consistent. We have been zeroing in on the kids that have been getting the most minutes. We have just started to do things better offensively and defensively,” said Raifsnider.
In order for a basketball team to operate best all of the players have to know what their role is and Raifsnider says the chemistry has been getting better. “I think it is just a matter of the kids understanding what their roles are on the team. Making no excuses, but we were about a month behind everybody. We knew it was going to take about half the season to get caught up with everybody. I just think in the last couple of weeks here the kids have identified a little bit more with the roles on the team. We actually bought in more with what we are supposed to defensively a little bit more. I think because of that we have been able to scores a little bit more in our offensive sets and I think our defense has come around here finally too,” said Raifsnider.
Arch rival Willard (10-5,4-2) comes to Bellevue (7-6,1-4) on Friday night. Willard won the first go around 57-52 at Willard. Raifsnider believes the Flashes have a nice mix of talented players. “I just think Willard is a solid team. They are 10-5 for a reason. They have five really good starters. They have three kids that really like to shoot the ball from the perimeter. I know they are leading our league in the three point field goals made with 80 of them. Davidson is a really nice shooter, so is Ebert and Cok. They have two really good post players in the Bohach kid and the Adams kid inside. They are really aggressive on the offensive glass,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “I just think Willard has a nice mix of inside-outside players that can cause you lots of headaches with what you are trying to do defensively, but we are going to have to play one our better games in order to just be in the ballgame and compete with them. We actually started off our year at their place and lost by five points to them. We are looking for a little revenge and hopefully we can hang with them here Friday night and give them a ball game.”
Against Willard Raifsnider says you have to be good individual defenders because anyone of the Flashes starters could have a good night. “We are going to have to do a good job on all three of those guys and stay up on them. The other part is it kind of causes you some problems defensively because you can’t help off on other people. You have to stay up on those guys because any one of those guys can shoot the ball at anytime. They don’t need a whole lot of space to get their shots off. That is going to have to be a major emphasis on our part defending the three point shot and keeping Willard off the offensive glass is going to a major factor in the outcome of the game too,” said Raifsnider.
Bellevue Still Trying to Shake Rust Off
Bellevue certainly has the talent to be a winning basketball team, but they haven’t found their shooting eye yet, and they are having problems getting in the win column.
The Redmen (4-6,0-4) lost to Sandusky (57-56) on Saturday night in a Northern Ohio League game. Coach Mike Raifsnider says they have played well in stretches, but so far those stretches haven’t been long enough. “This biggest thing for us is the consistency. We have had 10 games now that we have played. We have not played 32 minutes of a ball game yet. We play well for stretches at a time. Maybe for a quarter pr a quarter and a half at a time and then we go back to some of our old habits and don’t’ do things very well. That is one the reasons we are 4-6 right now because of that lack of consistency,” he said.
With fewer practices in than other teams due to an appearance in the football finals, Raifsnider says it’s in those workouts where that little something extra will come. “We have to continue to work on to get better in our practices on a daily basis. It is not for lack of effort on anyone’s part. The kids are working hard. I think they are trying to do the right things. It’s that we are not quite there yet. In our practices we just have to keep hammering our point home of what we are asking them to do,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Hopefully the light is going to come on a little bit more. Hopefully in the next few games here we will start playing a little bit more consistent for little longer period of time and we will be able to come out on top in a game. This biggest thing right now is we are lacking in some confidence. I think when you start winning a couple of ball games that changes pretty quickly.”
Bellevue is home for Tiffin Columbian (5-7,1-3) in a league game on Friday night. Raifsnider says Columbian is playing more zone than they were earlier and they will have to execute against it. “They have two sophomore post players that are playing really well for them. That is obviously a big concern. I know they have changed what they are doing defensively from what they were doing at the beginning of the year. They are doing a little more zone stuff and slowed the pace down and made the scores lower so they have a chance to be in the ballgame. They are going to be a tough test for us. We are going to have to play well, especially a team like us that has been struggling ourselves. We are just looking to try and build on some positives, play four solid quarters, and find a way to win a ballgame here,” said Raifsnider.
Bellevue has been playing games in the 40’s and 50’s and Raifsnider says they would like to kick the tempo up a notch with defense. “We need to get after it more defensively. We are going to have to press people and get them to turn the ball over a little bit more. We are definitely looking to do some of those things. Again it’s just a matter of consistency. We need to do things better at both ends of the floor in order to score more points. We really haven’t shot the ball well the entire year, but hopefully we can get our defense to lead to some easy baskets offensively and maybe that will change eventually for us,” said Raifsnider.
Bellevue Needs Win
Bellevue is a talented boys’ basketball team and they are ready to start winning after two tough setbacks to begin the season.
After tipping it off two weeks late the Redmen lost to Willard (57-52) in their first game on Friday night in Northern Ohio League play and lost to Sandusky Perkins, the Sandusky Bay Conference favorite, (58-51) on Monday.
The Bellevue football team advanced all of the way to the state championship game, which was played December 1. Basketball coach Mike Raifsnider admits that has made things be a little difficult to begin this year. “I think it’s had a huge effect obviously. We are at least a month behind everybody else with the type of run we had in football. I mean I’m a football coach myself and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. If we had that so called problem every year that would be a great thing for our school and our community, but from a basketball coach’s perspective I had eight days to try and get our kids ready to play our first game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “I guess fortunately I have a veteran group and I was able to throw a lot at them in just eight days that we had and I felt like we did a lot of good things in our first game at Willard. It comes down to the last 20 second of a ballgame with the score tied. The made a couple more plays than we did.”
Raifsnider says they really had about two hours to prepare for a very good team like Perkins. “Then we turn around and play two days later against Perkins, who is one of the better teams in Northwest Ohio themselves. It has not been an easy task for us by any means, but we aren’t going to make any excuses for where we are at. We are just going to try and get better as we go along here and hopefully we catch up with each other eventually,” he said.
A plus for the Redmen is they do have some guys that have played a lot of basketball and Raifsnider says there hasn’t been as much teaching. “We have five or six guys that are returning lettermen. Jalen Santoro is a three year letterman. I have a couple of other guys that are two year veterans. We had a veteran group coming back, but you also have two, three, maybe four, kids that are new to the varsity level. You are trying to get those guys acclimated to what they need to learn at the beginning of the year. We didn’t have the luxury of having any scrimmages or anything. That is why you work as hard as you do in the off season and the summer and try to prepare for what you have coming up in the upcoming season. We have had really good practices and I think we just have to keep a positive attitude,” said Raifsnider.
Bellevue visits Edison (1-4) for a non-conference game on Saturday night. Raifsnider says Edison is a young team that is improving. “I know Edison is a young team with a couple of young guards that start for them, a couple of freshmen. I have luxury of seeing them on tape. They play very, very hard. They are pretty athletic. They are a team that has been improving on a daily basis. When we go over to their place we are going to have to play well. We are looking to get into the win column for the first time ourselves,” he said.
Yes there have been some hurdles to clear, but Raifsnider says the game against Edison is won they need to win. “I have kids that are competitors and they don’t look at as a moral victory that we were in both of the games that we played. I have kids that the only satisfaction that they are going to get is if they come out at least a point ahead when the game is over and that is what we are looking to here. Hopefully we can get into the win column and just go from there,” said Raifsnider.
Bellevue Plays For All of the Marbles
The Bellevue Redmen play for a division three state football title on Saturday that their consistency over the years almost demands.
The Redmen (13-1) play Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (12-2) in the division three title game and Canton Fawcett Stadium with kickoff at 11 AM.
Coach Ed Nasonti, in his 22nd year at the helm at Bellevue, has taken the Redmen to the playoffs 14 times. This is the first time he and the team have played for a state title. They made the semi-finals in 2001. Nasonti says it is something special. “It is the ultimate goal of any high school coach to get to the state championship game. Through all of the hard work of our kids, our coaches haven’t had a day off since July 31, to be in this game is something special. I know our community is enjoying it. They are excited. Our school the spirit is at an all time high, as it should be. We are looking forward to the challenge,” he said.
It was another miraculous comeback that led the Redmen to the title game. They railed to beat Dayton Marshall (34-33) in the state semi-final last Saturday. Nasonti says they never quit playing hard. “We were down 13 points with 11 minutes to go and playing a team that can really grind it out on you. You look at what they were doing in the third quarter. They were looking at the 25 second clock, milking that. They did not want to put our offense back on the field,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Our kids kept hanging in their and we were able to get that turnover there at the end and get us into position to win it. We won it right there at the end. Our kids have been really resilient, they stood in there and fought. We have had our backs against the wall in three of our four playoff games. It’s doesn’t get any better than that.”
Bellevue quarterback Jalen Santoro was named this week as the Associated Press division three offensive player of the year. Nasonti says Jalen has been a great leader. “He has earned it. When you look at the numbers he has put up. I am not a big numbers guy, but he has put up great numbers with his individual stats. The fact that we are playing for a state championship has to have something to do with it. He is very deserving of it,” he said. Santoro has thrown for 1,227 yards and 16 scores. He is a double threat, of course, and he has run for 1,397 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary is no stranger to football success. They have 17 playoff appearances and four titles, the last coming in 1988. They beat Dover (48-13) to earn a title shot. Nasonti says there in no question they have play makers. “You don’t get to this point in the season without having an outstanding team. They have great skilled people at all of their positions. They have some quick and talented wide receivers. They have a big offensive line. A lot of times they will just “I” it up and try and take it to you. Their defense is quick. They are not overly big on defense, but they are very athletic. It will definitely be a great challenge for us,” he said.
With two more days to get ready the Redmen will continue to work hard. Nasonti says this game will be won or lost before this kickoff. “I told our kids the other day that the game last Saturday was won before it was played. Attention to detail by coaches and players. They do a great job in the weight room. If you keep your focus things will fall into place for you. That has been the formula throughout the year and it has worked pretty well. We are sticking to it,” he said.
Most of the talk statewide has been about the Fighting Irish. It’s the alma matter of that guy that used to play for the Cavs. I can’t think of his name though. Nasonti says that is alright by him. “We have been underdogs throughout the whole playoffs. Our kids understand what it’s like to be an underdog. Winning is the medicine for all. I think I can speak for a lot of coaches out there when you are successful and you are getting the job done week in and week out everybody feels good about the program and you don’t have any finger pointing going on. You don’t have any back ups that think they should be playing. Our kids are playing with confidence because we have been successful. They have a little swagger and there is nothing wrong with that,” said Nasonti.
Most everyone in the city located at the confluence of Huron, Sandusky and Erie Counties will be at the game on Saturday in Canton. If you’re not, coach Nasonti would like an explanation. “It is great for everybody involved. We are a small community of about 8,000 people. Everybody knows everybody. We have lost a lot of industry over the years. It gives everybody something to cheer about. If they aren’t supporting the Redmen this week I’d like to know why,” he said.
Bellevue Plays Explosive Dayton Marshall
Bellevue is just two wins away from winning it all.
The Redmen (12-1) play Dayton Marshall (12-1) in the division three state semi-finals on Saturday night at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware.
Last week, the Redmen handed Napoleon their first loss of the season (35-20) in the regional finals. Coach Ed Nasonti says his team was just ready to play. “I don’t know if we are ever going to play a game as exciting as the one against Perkins. This one didn’t live up to the standard that we set the week before, but it was an opportunity for us to go up against a solid football team, a team that was ranked number one in Ohio in the AP poll. They were unbeaten and we went in there and took it to them and come away with a regional championship, which was very gratifying for our coaches, our players and our community,” he said.
Napoleon was a run based team and Nasonti says they did a good job controlling the line of scrimmage and forcing the Wildcats to do some things they didn’t want to do. “I thought our kids did an outstanding job. We knew coming in that we were going to have to do a good job loading up the box to stop some of their stuff. We knew were going to have to play some man coverage in the secondary so we could put some pressure on them up front. Our secondary did a good job getting a couple of pics. We hit them hard on the line. We won the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. It was a nice win for us,” he said.
On offense when you score five times you figure you have a chance to win the game. Nasonti says they got some things done in the passing game. “I was very pleased with how we executed our game plan. They came in thinking they had to stop the run and they put a lot of people in the box and we were able to hit some passes early on and loosen them up a little bit. Then we were able to get the run game going. Jalen did an outstanding job, Al Haynes, Dalton Jarvis, our receivers did a nice job, Nick Raifsnider had an outstanding game, Trent Stamm, Derek Smith caught some big passes for us. It was one of those games that everybody contributed. Napoleon couldn’t key in on any one guy and we got the job done,” said Nasonti.
It sounds almost impossible but Dayton Marshall is averaging over 60 points a game in their three playoff wins. They have beaten Circleville Logan Elm (67-22), Gallipolis Gallia Academy (68-9) and in the regional final they downed (60-21) The Plains Athens. Nasonti says they have a very affective running game. “Anytime that you have three guys that rush for over 1,000 yards each you know you must be doing something right. They have put up a lot of points. They are very athletic. They are very explosive and we are going to have to bring our “A” game to get the job done,” he said.
It’s kind of going to be like football in a telephone both against Marshall. Nasonti says they don’t run a lot of stuff, but what they do, they do well. “They run double tight, double wing, with one back. The fullback is a guy that can really fly. They motion to get the wings involved. Both guys get carries on tosses and counters. They run traps with the fullback and draws with him. They have three backs that they get involved. They don’t run a whole lot of formations. They don’t run a whole lot of plays, but they do a nice job running them. They have some outstanding athletes. They are the kind of team that anytime they get their hands on the ball. Any guy they have in the backfield is a threat to take it all of the way,” said Nasonti.
Defense is about being aggressive, but Nasonti says against Dayton Marshall they have to be disciplined at the point of attack or they are going to get burned. “We are going to have to be strong up front. Not only are we going to have to be strong and win that line of scrimmage we are going to have to be disciplined. They run a lot of misdirection. They run a lot of counters. Our guys are going to have to do a good job of not getting up field. They can’t get trapped. That is something we have been focusing on all week. I think we have a good game plan,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We are going to try and put our best foot forward and let the chips fall where they may. There are 128 teams in division three and now you are down to four. There are 124 of them sitting at home whishing they were in our spot. We appreciate where we are at, but we aren’t satisfied. We are going to let it all hang out.”
Nasonti feels his kids will play well under the pressure of a state final four game on Saturday. “There is an old saying that when there is a crisis time you default to your training. To me you do your job during the week and coach them up as hard as you can. If the kids have good practices every day and you give them good habits. When it hits the fan you are going to default to your level of training, so if you take care of business all week I think you are going to be good when you play the game. That’s my philosophy and it always has been,” said Nasonti.
Bellevue Having Fun
Playoff success is not new to the Bellevue Redmen this year’s team is now among the elite eight in the division three football playoffs.
They meet the Napoleon Wildcats (11-0-1) in the regional final on Saturday night at Findlay High School.
Bellevue won one of the more exciting playoff football games, at least in this area in recent memory, when they scored on the final play of the game to beat Sandusky Perkins (28-27) in the regional semi-final. “It was the greatest finish that I have ever been a part of. I can say that now that we came out on top. Our kids made the plays. They kept fighting in there. We had no time outs left. Nick Raifsnider came up with a big interception and returned it to the 42 yard-line. We hit a pass play to Derek Smith and got it down to the 24. Aided by an unsportsmanlike on Perkins we got it down to the 12. With four seconds left Jalen Santoro on a pass play scrambled around and threw it up and Trent Stamm came down with it. Of course, we had to kick the extra point with no time on the clock to get it done. It was a trilling win and I’m very, very proud of our kids. They stayed in there and fought for the whole entire game and we were fortunate come out there with a win in the end,” said Nasonti.
Yes, the Redmen are talented, but Nasonti says a difference this year is they have found a way to win the close games. “I think you look at last year’s team. We finished up 7-3 on the year going into the playoffs. We looked back and there were a handful of plays that had we made them we could have been 9-1 last year, but this year we actually made those plays,” he told Swankonsports.com, “I think we have kids that have played for three years. We have a number of multi sport athletes on our team, guys that have been through the battles not only in football, but basketball, baseball, track, whatever. These guys have been through the battles. They don’t panic and they stay in there. They are competitors. They are winners and they find a way to get it done.”
Nasonti has been the Bellevue head coach since 1991 and one the things that makes him most pleased about this year’s team is its character. “The things that I have seen this year is we have a group of kids that have good character. We haven’t had to deal with any off the field problems. They have been respectful. I don’t get any complaints from any of the teachers and that means a lot,” he said.
Wins against good teams this year has added to the confidence of the Redmen and Nasonti says they don’t get nervous when they are behind. “You win some of those games where you come back from behind and the kids don’t panic when they get down or they don’t push the panic button when a couple of calls go against you in the game. They just stay in there and keep swinging. I think we are playing with confidence right now going into the regional final against an unbeaten team. We have a lot to gain here,” said Nasonti.
Napoleon has been ranked as one of the best teams in the state all season in division three. Nasonti knows what they are up against. “They are a pretty solid football team. It’s not so much what they do, but how they do it. They are very simple on offense and defense. They have some good size and good speed. Anytime you can go into week 13 and haven’t been beaten yet you know you are doing things pretty well. We are excited, not only do we have a great challenge we look at as an opportunity for us to move a step closer to the ultimate goal,” said Nasonti.
The Bellevue coach, kind of old school himself, says that is what Napoleon is all about. “In this area you see a lot of people that are spreading the ball out, running the spread formation and trying to thin the box out and then run the ball, but these guys pack it in there. They are a two back set. They will run a one tight end set with two wide outs. It’s an old school approach, but it has worked for them. They have been handling people up front. Like any football game if you can win the battle up front in the trenches you have a good chance of coming out the winner,” said Nasonti.
Bellevue Looks For Sweep
Bellevue opened the season with a win over Sandusky Perkins and they need another on Saturday night to advance in the division three playoffs when they meet at Clyde High School.
The Redmen (10-1), #2 in the Swankonsports.com football coach’s poll in the large school division, beat Elida (19-14) to win a first round game last Saturday. Coach Ed Nasonti says his kids responded when they got down in the game. “We dug ourselves a hole early on, we were down 14-0. I was proud our kids stayed in there and kept fighting and how we persevered over a lot of things that first half. It worked out for us in the end. We played physical. We were really proud of our kids. We think we beat a pretty good football team,” he said.
Bellevue quarterback Jalen Santoro grabs a lot of the headlines, but Bellevue also has a fine offensive line that gives him protection and paves the way in the running game. “We have great offensive line coaches. They do a great job up front with our guys. They coach them up every day. Plus I think our offense is offensive line friendly. We are able to thin out the box with some of our formations for those guys,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “You add to the fact that we have an outstanding quarterback and some nice running backs that can make some plays. You have to talk about our receivers too because our guys get down field and make some blocks. It’s been a team effort, our offensive line has been a strength, but overall it’s been team effort to get the job done. We are in double digit wins for 2012 and we have an opportunity to get 11 wins this week and we are excited about our opportunities.”
The defense the Redmen have been playing has been pretty good too. They have been able to hold down teams like Clyde (14-7) and Norwalk (48-21) that have some offensive firepower. Nasonti says they have had some kids fill roles. “Our defense has been outstanding this year and that was one our concerns coming in because we lost so many quality players off our defense last year. We lost Brett Atkinson, an all-conference linebacker. We lost Luke Lyton and Matt Sieger on the defensive line. Those guys were outstanding, so was Winston Hupp. We lost some quality players up front, but we have some kids that really worked hard in the off season and stepped up. I think that’s what makes us feel the best about this group is we’ve got some kids that maybe we really weren’t counting on that came in there and stepped up and did a great job,” said Nasonti.
Perkins has won ten straight games since losing (27-16) to Bellevue in their first game. Nasonti knows they will be facing a confident team on Saturday night. “Their team has gotten better every week. Anytime you have a good program hopefully your kids get better every week. I think the big thing with Sandusky Perkins is they are playing with some swagger now. They have some confidence. They are coming off winning 10 straight games. They are “SBC” champs. We are familiar with what they do on both sides of the ball. I am sure they are going to tweak their game plan a little bit as we will also. You have two comminutes that are really close together here. It’s going to be a really exciting football game and one we are really looking forward to,” said Nasonti.
With Gary Quisno added to the Perkins staff as offensive coordinator the Pirates are running the traditional wing-T, but Nasonti says they are threat to throw the ball too. “Add to the fact that they have a pretty big offensive line. They run a wing-T offense which you would say they like to run the ball. The Benkie kid that is having an outstanding year for them, but their quarterback the Smith kid is throwing a nice ball. They have some good skilled athletes on the perimeter, so they can burn you if you don’t play pass defense. You can give up some chunks to them. We are going to have to have a balanced game plan on defense. We are going to have to play solid defense. As in any game you want to win the battle in the trenches,” said Nasonti.
Bellevue is making its 14th appearance in the football playoffs and Nasonti and his staff have been through this many times before. “I have some coaches that have been on my staff for 22 years. I have some young coaches on my staff that played for me. Most of our guys our Bellevue guys. Bellevue football is more than just a passing fancy to them. It’s their passion and I think our kids understand that and they feed off of it. I know we are going to give them the best opportunity to be successful on Saturday night,” said Nasonti.
Bellevue Wants Revenge
Bellevue doesn’t lose many games by a big margin, but they did last year to the Elida Bulldogs in the postseason playoffs. They get a chance for revenge as the host Elida on Saturday night in the division three regional quarterfinals.
It was another great regular season for the Redmen (9-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com football coach’s poll in the large school division, as they were runner-up in the Northern Ohio League. Coach Ed Nasonti is proud of what they have accomplished so far. “I talked to the kids the other day. I think we have had an outstanding season. I told our kids anytime you go 9-1 I don’t care of it’s little league football, junior high, high school, college or pros, I think it’s a nice season. Especially when you look back and the only team that beat us was Tiffin Columbian that is an outstanding football team that’s 10-0 and hopefully we can keep it going,” he said.
Bellevue blasted Sandusky last week (52-6) in their final “NOL” game of the season. Outstanding quarterback Jalen Santoro left the game in the second quarter with an injury, but Nasonti says he will be ready for Elida this week. “He will be ready to go. He was ready to go last week, but we didn’t need him. He actually got hit on his funny bone and it kind of numbed up his hand a little bit. The feeling game back and we could have put him in there, but that that point the game was out of reach. We just to decided to give him some rest plus give our backup some reps that he needed. It was a good ballgame and Jalen is going to be back in the saddle this week and ready to go,” said Nasonti. Santoro is a threat to run or pass and Nasonti says he makes things happen for them. “He is an outstanding athlete. He is and outstanding leader. He understands the game. When you are running the spread offense his is what you want. He is our Braxton Miller. I think that is the best way to describe it. I mean his will to win is unmatched and he inspirers all of the players around him. He is just a special kid,” he said.
Elida finished second in the tough Western Buckeye Conference behind only unbeaten Ottawa Glandorf. Nasonti says the Bulldogs are loaded again. “Anybody that understands football or follows football at all knows that the Western Buckeye Conference is an outstanding league year in and year out. They are up there with Kenton and Wapakoneta and Ottawa Glandorf and Van Wert and Defiance. These guys have been very competitive the last few years in the Western Buckeye. They are bringing an 8-2 record into the playoffs and they are coming off a state final four appearance last year. They have a lot kids back on both sides of the ball. They are going to be a very tough opponent. We are going to have to play some good football this week,” said Nasonti.
Elisa handed it to Bellevue (54-20) last season in a first round game. Nasonti says they remember that and have reminded the players of that fact. “Yeah we bring it up. When you are dealing with high school kids or any kind of a competitor I think revenge is a great motivator. It is something we put out to our kids. We didn’t particularly play that well last year in that playoff game and Elida came in there with a good football team and they took it too us. We are about being real over here at Bellevue we point out things to our kids and we put it on the table for them. They know what to expect and I’m hoping our kids can come in Saturday with a little edge,” said Nasonti.
Bellevue and Norwalk Lock Horns
It’s simple of the Northern Ohio League has three of the best teams in this region in Tiffin Columbian, Bellevue and Norwalk. Two of them play on Friday night when Norwalk comes to Bellevue to play the Redmen.
Columbian and Norwalk share the “NOL” lead with Bellevue a game back after the Tornadoes beat them (35-21) two weeks ago. Bellevue bounced back to hammer Willard (42-6) last Friday in the rain. Veteran Bellevue coach Ed Nasonti was happy with the performance. “I’m happy with our kids considering the weather conditions and the field conditions. I thought our kids played pretty well. We went into that game with a couple of starters out and we were able to get a win and play solid football on top of it. We feel good about our season. The kids are playing good ball and we welcome the challenge this week,” he said.
Bellevue and Norwalk are rivals just down the road form each other. Nasonti says the Truckers (7-0,2-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com football coach’s poll in the large school division, has talent all over the field. “They are very talented in a lot of different areas. They have kids that have been starting for three years for them. They have some outstanding athletes that they get the ball to. Their quarterback is having a great year. He is throwing the ball well. They are averaging 46 points a game and only giving up 13. We have seen them on tape and they have been flawless in their execution. They have been uncontested in a lot of different areas. They have moved the ball up and down the field. It’s almost like watching a practice, so they have a nice ball club and they are playing with confidence,” said Nasonti.
Jake Fetheroff, the Norwalk quarterback, leads the “NOL” in passing yards this year. He threw for 265 last week against Sandusky. Nasonti says he would like to get some pressure on him, but containing him won’t be easy. “He gets rid of it fast. He is six-foot-six. He knows where he is going with the football. They do a good job protecting for him. They have some nice schemes with their pass plays and their protection schemes. They do a lot of different things. It is not as easy as one would think,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “He is the real deal and he is surrounded by a lot of nice athletes that have made some plays. He will either put it on the money or they will make a great catch and do great things after they catch the ball.”
Nasonti says the Truckers are good on defense too because they have the same quality of athletes playing on that side of the ball. “They have some of the same good athletes that they have on offense, on defense and they make plays on both sides of the ball. They have the Finch kid. He has made a lot of catches on offense. He has played outside linebacker for the on defense. Peacock is a corner. They have solid players that are making plays for them. That is what you get when you go up against Norwalk,” said Nasonti.
This is a huge game as far as the “NOL” race is concerned, especially for Bellevue, who has already lost once. Nasonti says, however, their season does not hinge on this one game. “We are not really looking at it in terms of the “NOL.” We are just looking at it in terms of it’s a big game for us. We can still be in the “NOL” hunt. When you look at it if we would win Norwalk has Tiffin on week 10. There could be a possibility for either us to still be “NOL” champion. We are hoping that Norwalk finishes the year out 9-1 and they get that done on week 10. On top of that you are playing a division two school that has seven wins. It is big for us in terms of computer points. That’s what we are looking at right now,” said Nasonti.
Bellevue Has a Lot to Play For
In a game between two of the best teams in this part of the state last week, Tiffin Columbian got past Bellevue in the Northern Ohio League opener for both schools.
Columbian downed the Redmen (35-21) to take the upper hand in the “NOL” standings. Veteran Bellevue coach Ed Nasonti says there is still a lot left in their season. “Well, I thought our kids played hard. I know going into the game we knew they were an outstanding football team. They have some real nice athletes and some good size up front. We knew we were going to have to play well. It was one of those games where it was a hard fought game on both sides. We have a lot of respect for their program,” he told Swankonsports.com, “Unfortunately we came up on the short end of the stick. It was one of those games when one play here or there makes a difference in the game. You have to learn from your mistakes and move on. We still have a lot to play for this season.”
This week, Bellevue (5-1,3-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com football coach’s poll in the large school division, travels to Willard to play the Flashes (3-3,0-1) in an “NOL” game. Nasonti says they have to keep their focus. “When you play an option football team it’s about assignment football. It’s another “NOL” game for us. We tell our kids every week you have to respect your opponent and expect the best out of your opponent. So, we are looking forward to it and we know that we are going to get Willard’s best shot,” he said. Nasonti says you have to play assignment football when you have to defend the option. “Well you have three people involved. You better tackle the dive, you better be on the quarterback and have somebody assigned to the pitch. They will run it out of multiple formations to try to stretch you on the perimeter. They do some play action pass off of that. They have some gadgets. They have some decent athletes with some good speed that we are going to have to defend,” he said.
There are still four league games to play and Nasonti says they are not out of the league race by any means, but really their focus right now is advancing to the post season. “You never know what can happen. I know last year we played Sandusky for the conference championship on week 10. The schedule didn’t change this year, so have that one on week 10. Our focus is take care of ourselves, take care of business one week at a time, Our goal right now is to finish 9-1, finish high in the region and get an opportunity to make the playoffs. So, that is what we are shooting for one week at a time,” said Nasonti.
Bellevue Having Fun
Bellevue has played some very good football this year. They have beaten Sandusky Perkins, Clear Fork and Clyde, all solid teams, in posting a 4-0 record.
Veteran coach Ed Nasonti, the head man at Bellevue for more than 20 seasons, says the players have done all that he has asked so far. “Yeah, we are really happy here. We realize we have a long season in front of us and some quality opponents to play. When you get off to a 4-0 start considering the quality of the teams that we have played makes you feel good. The community is excited, the school is excited and the kids are excited. It’s been good so far, but we realize we have good things to do,” said Nasonti.
Bellevue (4-0), #5 in our Swankonsports.com football coach’s poll in the large school division, is lead by outstanding quarterback Jalen Santoro. Nasonti says he is a coach’s dream. “He is an outstanding football player. He is a competitor. He does everything you ask him to do. He’s a team player. He is doing it all. He has been in our program for four years. He will earn four letters in the football program. He is an outstanding all around athlete. He is a leader. He is a three sport athlete. I can’t say enough about him. As he goes, we go,” he said.
The Redmen have allowed only two scores over the last three games and Nasonti says the kids that play on that side of the ball have come a long way since summer workouts. “We are really happy with our defense. Coming into the season we took the biggest hit from graduation on our defensive side of the ball. We had to replace all four of our defensive lineman. We had some question marks coming into the season, but we have had some kids that have stepped up on both sides of the ball.” He told Swankonsports.com, “The kids have been running the ball. They are playing aggressively. We have done a great job tackling. I think over the years when we have struggled on defense we haven’t tackled well. We get people to the ball, but we just don’t make the tackle. This year our kids have made the tackles. Hopefully, we continue to do so.”
With four wins in as many games the confidence of the Redmen is growing. Nasonti says you can see that in practice. “Winning is the medicine for all. We had a tough game with Clyde as we always do. We came out on the top end of it 14-7. Our kids played well and their kids played well. It was one of those games when one or two plays change the course of the game. We get the win and we come out on Monday and we have the best practice of the year. We have played games when we thought we had played well and we didn’t make those one or two plays and you come out on Monday and it’s a whole different mentality. When you play with confidence somebody is going to have a tiger by the tail,” said Nasonti.
Bellevue plays at Toledo Waite in their final non-conference game of the season on Friday night. Nasonti says Waite has athletes. “They have a lot of good athletes. They have good speed. Their offense I would say is probably farther ahead than their defense. They put some points on the board on the tapes that we have seen. Coming into week five our biggest concern is taking care of ourselves. We tell our kids everyday that you either get better or you get worse you never stay the same. That has been our attitude and our philosophy all year,” said Nasonti.
Bellevue Trying to Find Others
Bellevue is a young team searching for more players that can score as they enter the final month of the regular season.
It’s been Jalen Santoro and not a lot else, at least consistently and that has led to a record that is three games below .500. They lost a Northern Ohio League game last Friday to Tiffin Columbian (58-52) to fall into last place in the league.
Coach Mike Raifsnider says they have not been able to put a consistent four quarters together for most of the season and that is what is holding them back. “It’s been one of those types of years for us. It’s been up and down type of year it’s been part of our youth. We are a pretty young team. We are actually starting five underclassmen. We play really, really well for a half and usually don’t play very well for another half,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We have shot the ball really well for part of a game and not so well in another part of a game. When you are playing in a lot of close ball games like we have here all year. It’s going to come down to you have to play 32 complete minutes in order to win some games. I think it’s part of the reason why we are 6-9 right now. I think we have given a lot of people a good game. We just haven’t had enough to get over the hump.”
Santoro, a junior point guard, is one of the best players in the area this season and the Redmen have really counted on him to do a lot of things. Raifsnider says they have seen just about every combination defense you could think of this season. “We have seen just about everything you could see. We have seen box and one, we have seen people just double team him bringing the ball up the floor to make sure to get it out of his hands and try to make other people beat them. I have had teams that don’t even guard a couple of our other players just daring them to shoot the ball because their main focus is to take Jalen out of the ball game. He is averaging 16 to 20 points a game for us. We have done a better job. We have had some other kids step up and proven that they can shoot the ball. It’s one of those deals where some of the other guys have to do it for a sustained amount of time for us and take advantage of some of things that teams are trying to do to Jalen,” said Raifsnider.
One of Santoro’s better games this season was when he scored 26 points in a win over Willard (56-49) in the first round of league play. Raifsnider says these are two pretty evenly matched teams. “It should be a really good ball game. I know the first time we played them it was one of those nights that we shot the ball really, really well. I think we were ahead 32-17 at halftime. Typical Willard they came out in the second half, they just aren’t going to roll over, and had a nice third quarter against us. We ended up only leading by three going into the fourth quarter. It came to us making some foul shots down the stretch to pull out a close seven point win against them. It’s going to be a good ball game. I think it’s two evenly matched teams. It’s going to come down to which team can execute the most,” said Raifsnider.
Bellevue (6-9,1-5) and Willard (7-8,2-4) used to form maybe the biggest basketball rivalry in this part of the state. Raifsnider recognizes the intensity isn’t really the same, but it is still a fun match up with the Flashes. “It has probably lessened some over the years. You talk to the kids around here about it now and they don’t understand the way that it was back in the 80’s when I was growing up around here. It’s lessened, but it’s two communities that are close enough together that it is a rivalry somewhat. The kids do know what it used to be like and I’m sure the Willard kids get ready to play the Bellevue kids just like the Bellevue kids get ready to play the Willard kids. It’s still there somewhat, but not anywhere close to the way it used to be,” Raifsnider said.
Bellevue Needs to Find Fine Line
Bellevue has evened its record for the season and they hope to go over .500 with a win at home over Sandusky in Northern Ohio League action on Friday night.
Last week, the Redmen (6-6,1-3) beat Galion (50-46) and Margaretta (52-43) in non-conference games. Head coach Mike Raifsnider says they are starting to believe in themselves more. “I thought that the kids played with a lot more confidence than maybe they did in the past. We have played well at home here all year. We have six wins on the year and all six of them are on our home floor. We have done a good job of playing on our home floor. When you get a couple of wins in a row like that, it’s only going to help the kid’s confidence. Hopefully we can continue to move in a positive direction,” said Raifsnider.
Usually a team will play better at home due the crowd and the familiarity with the court, but Bellevue is an extreme case. All six of their wins have come at Bellevue this season. “I wish I could put my finger on it. We have played really well on the road at times too, we just haven’t played well enough to finish a game off and actually get a win,” he told Swankonsports.com, “We have lost a couple of close ones on the road, so it’s hard to pin point. You practice on that floor everyday and it’s familiar surroundings. We have played much, much better at home than we have on the road. We play a good Sandusky team here on Friday and hopefully we can continue that trend.”
On Friday night, the Redmen host the Sandusky Blue Streaks (4-6,1-3) in league action. Sandusky outscored Toledo Bowsher (96-87) in regulation last week. Raifsnider says they can not participate in a track meet with the Streaks because they would lose that game. “We have scored 70 points only once this year and I think our next highest has been like 60. Against a very quick and athletic Sandusky we have to make sure we play the game at our pace. Hopefully, we can control the tempo with what we are going to do defensively. We just have to be patient in the things that we do offensively. A major factor for us is to not get into an up and down game with a Sandusky team that we are obviously not capable of doing that with,” he said.
To be successful against improving Sandusky, Raifsnider says they need to get back on defense and resist the temptation of trying to run with the Blue Streaks. “Probably your transition defense is going to be one of your most important things against Sandusky. You have to get people back on defense. Don’t give them an easy basket. You get a couple of baskets yourself and then all of the sudden you start feeling good and before you know it it’s an up and down game. That’s really not what we want to do. We have to make sure we push the ball, but at the same time be patient. There is a fine line between being patient and aggressive. We want them to have to work for some of their shots too,’ said Raifsnider.
Bellevue Getting Healthy
Bellevue seems headed in the right direction after they beat rival Willard in a Northern Ohio League game last Friday night. Plus the Redmen are finally getting healthy.
Point guard Jalen Santoro had 26 points as the Redmen downed Willard 56-49 last Friday. Coach Mike Raifsnider says they got a strong game from Santoro, but they also got some other kids to step up and create more balance. “Jalen shot the ball extremely well, especially in the first half where he hit four threes for us. He has been the catalysis for us all year and everybody is well aware of that. We are really only going to be as good as the people that surround him,” he told Swankonsports.com, “We have gotten ourselves a little more healthy. We have gotten a couple of kids back in our lineup that contribute a lot of minutes to us that helped us to that victory. We have been a little banged up here early in the year. There is a little light here at the end of the tunnel and they kids have been working hard. They have kept positive attitudes even though it’s been an up and down season. We have to take it one game at a time.”
Raifsnider hopes they can put a streak of good play together as they must face “NOL” leader Norwalk in their next league game on December 30. “We are going to Eastwood on Friday and will play against a very good Eastwood team. We are going to have out hands full, especially at their place. It’s a team that we think we can at least compete with if we show up ready to play ball. We have an opportunity to get another one. Then we have to turn around next Tuesday and play Edison at home. Then we have Norwalk next Friday,” he said. A key is going to be if they can continue to get some scoring help for Santoro, who is one of the best point guards in the North Central Ohio area.
Eastwood is a new non-conference opponent for the Redmen. They picked them up when the “NOL shrank to six members and they needed to find four more non-conference games. Raifsnider knows Eastwood will put some athletes on the floor. “Eastwood has very good athletic programs at their school. They play in the Suburban Lakes League with schools like Genoa, and Fostoria just joined that league. I know that Milbury Lake has a very good boys’ basketball team this year. Traditionally Eastwood has a lot of very good athletes at their school. They have some big physical kids again this year. They have a 6-5, 6-4 post player. They have been like that the last five, six years,” said Raifsnider.
Bellevue Still Struggling to Make Shots
Bellevue has been playing solid defense this year, but the Redmen are struggling to find their shooting touch as we head into the second week of the high school basketball season.
They opened the season last week against two teams from the Sandusky Bay Conference. They beat Port Clinton 55-45 in overtime in their first game last Friday. “It was a typical first week. I thought Friday night we played really well defensively. We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well until the fourth quarter. Fortunately, we kept ourselves in the game defensively. We were able to overcome an 11 point deficit with seven minutes to go. We hit some big shots down the stretch and were able to pull out the win,” said Bellevue coach Mike Raifsnider. Sandusky Perkins, one of the “SBC” favorites beat the Redmen 58-47 in on Saturday night in a game played at Perkins. “Saturday night, we ran into a really good Perkins team that was coming off a tough loss Friday night to Norwalk. Again we struggled to shoot the ball against them and got down 23 going into the fourth quarter. The kids never quit playing and got it down to seven points. I am really happy with the effort we are giving, but we have a lot of little things we have to work out,” Raifsnider added.
It is the shooting woes that are holding Bellevue back at the moment. Raifsnider thinks sometimes they are getting good looks at the basket and aren’t making shots and other times they are not taking good attempts. “”Well, I think it’s a combination of both to be honest with you. At times I think we execute very, very well and we are getting really nice looks at the basket. We have struggled to shoot the ball in the preseason and our first two games. There are other times when I think we have not executed things and have kind of forced it at times,” he said.
Bellevue opens Northern Ohio League play at Tiffin Columbian on Friday night. “Tiffin is a very interesting team. First of all, they haven’t played a game yet, this will be their season opener,” Raifsnider told Swankonsports.com, “We are sort of going into it blind, but I know they have a veteran team. They have a lot of guys back that played on the varsity team last year. It’s a team that we are really going to have to play well against to compete with them.”
Bellevue Looking to Be More Consistent
Bellevue appears to be in a mix of teams just below Norwalk in the Northern Ohio League this year and if they develop some more scorers they might be able to challenge the Truckers.
So far, coach Mike Raifsnider says they have not shown the consistency needed to be a factor this year. “We have had an up and down preseason. We played a benefit game (against Fremont St. Joe) that I think is a great experience for the kids in front of a crowd in a game like situation. We played pretty well in that game at times and at other times maybe not so well. Some of our scrimmages have been the same way. We are just trying to get a little more consistent in what we are doing offensively and defensively. Hopefully, we can sort of take one game at time and get better as we go,” he said.
One thing that Bellevue has is one of the better point guards in the area in Jalen Santoro, who was also their quarterback during what was a strong football season for the Redmen. “It think everybody would agree that when you have a good point guard it makes a difference with your team. Obviously with Jalen Santoro coming back this year as junior was our MVP last year as a sophomore. Jalen has even stepped up his game even a little bit more from last year from what we have seen in the preseason. Hopefully, we can get other guys around him that can get scoring too,” said Raifsnider.
In order to start having a better chance to win games the Redmen are going to have start shooting the ball better and making some of the open shots they have been getting. “Our effort has been great in the preseason. I’ve got eight guys on the varsity, we actually have nine, but one guy is out right now with an injury from football. We need to shoot the ball more consistently. We have to get some other guys contributing at the offensive end. I guess on the positive side we have executed well enough to get good looks at the basket. We just haven’t knocked down some open shots like I would like us too,” Raifsnider.
It’s a double weekend for the Redmen on this opening week of the season. They host Port Clinton on Friday night and travel to meet Sandusky Perkins on Saturday. Raifsnider knows they will have play better than they have been to win those games. “Port Clinton is a preseason pick maybe in the middle of the pack in the “SBC.” They have a couple of real nice players back from last year’s team. I think it will be a nice opener for both of us and a game that you have to play well to win,” he said. Some are picking the Perkins Pirates to win the “SBC” this season and the Raifsnider knows they have the talent. “Perkins has a big post player in the Ebert boy. The Smith kid I know still has an injury from football season, but they still have a really nice mix of kids. It’s a very talented group of kids. We played them twice last season, they got us pretty good in the tournament. We will have our hands full,” he added.
Bellevue Not Changing
Bellevue finished the season at 8-2 and runners up in what was a pretty tough Northern Ohio League this year and that lifted them into the division three playoffs.
They host the Elida Bulldogs (7-3) in a division three regional quarterfinal match-up on Friday night at the Bellevue Athletic Field.
Bellevue is no stranger to playoffs, but it has been three years since the Redmen have made the postseason. “It is important to make the playoffs, but we told our kids that we can’t be satisfied. We don’t want to be one and done. We want to extend the season a long as we can. We are fortunate to have a home game, which is good for the community. We are excited about having a week eleven and we want to be the best we can,” said Bellevue coach Ed Nasonti.
Elida is a team that has relied on its passing game to get this far. Nasonti says they have faced good competition. “They are a good football team. They play is a good league in the Western Buckeye League,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “They have some good teams in Ottawa Glandorf and Kenton. They are a good team. They have an outstanding quarterback that has passed for over 2,000 yards. They have some good wide outs that have caught a ton of balls. They have a young defense, but they are aggressive and get to the ball. I think when you get to week eleven, you have to come ready to play,” he said.
Nasonti admits that Elida is likely going to throw the ball a lot more than anyone they have played this year. “They have a little bit of a different scheme on defense. They have a real tall quarterback. He’s 6’6” and 195 pounds. They put the ball up a lot, probably a lot more than we have seen this year. We are trying to work with our kids this week to get them familiar with their schemes on both sides of the ball. We are trying to get a beat on them. I think that’s the exciting part of a playoff game,” he said.
When facing teams that throw a lot Nasonti says you have to balance when you bring a lot of pressure and when you set back and play coverage. He says you can’t keep doing the same thing. “Especially when they have receivers that can make big plays. You want to bring pressure and more times than not you are going to be in man to man coverage. If you are in man coverage and don’t get to him before he throws it you are asking for trouble. You have to pick your spots. We have to contain that guy,” said Nasonti.
Bellevue has played some outstanding football this season. Nasonti says they are going to dance with who brought them. “You have to do what you do and let the chips fall where they may. We got to the point we are by playing solid defense and throwing the ball and running the ball. That’s what we intend to do. We are not going to lose our identity. It is what it is,” he said.
Bellevue and Sandusky Play For “NOL” Title
It has come down to the final week of the regular season in the Northern Ohio League as both Bellevue and Sandusky have 4-0 league records heading into a game between the two at the Bellevue Athletic Field on Friday night.
Bellevue coach Ed Nastoni knew he had a pretty good team at the beginning of the season, but he didn’t know how good. “You have to show up every week. You have Sandusky coming in. They are riding an eight game winning streak. We are looking forward to it,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We are happy to be in a good situation here with playoff hopes and “NOL” championship hopes. If somebody would have told me in August that you are going to go into week ten with all of you goals still lined up for you I would have been pretty happy.”
Bellevue (7-2), number #2 in the large school division of the Swankonsports.com football power poll, maintained a perfect league record by scoring six straight touchdowns and beating the Shelby Whippets 42-6 on week nine. “It’s like when I talked to you last week the Bellevue-Shelby game goes way back and there is a lot of history there. I was preaching to our guys all week that you have to be ready. We spotted them six points right off the bat and then we muffed a kick. We had our backs against the wall. I give our kids a lot of credit. We have a lot of character on this team. We stayed out there and battled,” Nasonti said.
Sandusky (8-1), number #3 in the Swankonsports.com football power poll among the big schools, won a thriller last week in beating Tiffin Columbian 35-34. Nasonti, like every other coach that has faced the Streaks, knows they have great talent in the skilled positions. “They are very explosive. They have an outstanding quarterback that can make big plays with his feet and in the air. They have an outstanding wide receiver in this Jeffries kid. They have good size and good skilled guys and are playing pretty well right now,” he said.
Nasonti has been the Bellevue head coach since 1991 and he has coached a lot of games in that time. He knows in the high school football it’s all about the big play. “Certainly with Sandusky that applies. I think when you are talking high school football you want to make people drive the field and not give them the big plays. More times than not if you make them take those extra snaps you are going to get a pick, you are going to get the ball on the ground. That’s something that cost Tiffin last week. They had a 14-0 lead with five minutes left in the first half and they had two pick sixes. The Streaks ended up putting 21 on them in five minutes,” he said.
Bellevue Always Ready For Shelby
On paper Friday night’s Bellevue at Shelby Northern Ohio League game looks like a mismatch with Bellevue at 6-2 and Shelby at 0-8 on the season and there might be a chance that Bellevue might look past the game if it were not for the rivalry.
Bellevue and Shelby have combined to win or share in 43 of the 66 “NOL” football titles over the years and both schools have proud football traditions.
The Redmen, ranked #2 in the large school division of the Swankonsports.com football power poll, maintained their share of the “NOL” lead with a 28-14 win over Norwalk last week. “I thought our kids stayed the course. We got off to a rough start. In the first four minutes we were down 14-0, but we didn’t panic,” Bellevue coach Ed Nasonti told Swankonsports.com, “I thought from that point on we dominated the game on both sides of the ball. They never scored again and we rattled off 28 unanswered points. I was impressed with how are kids stayed the course, kept our focus and were able to get out of there with a win.”
Shelby played one of its better games of the season last week in losing 26-6 to Sandusky (7-1), ranked #3 in the power poll, in an “NOL” game. Nasonti feels the young Whippets are still trying to get better. “It’s been a rough year for them when you look at the loss column, but when the Bellevue-Shelby game comes around you can throw out the record books. On top of that I thought they played a pretty good Sandusky team very tough last week. I know they are struggling to get the results that they want, but their kids are still playing hard. If we have any ideas of being a conference champion you have to come ready to play every Friday night and expect the best from our opponent,” said Nasonti.
Nasonti played at Bellevue and has been their head coach since 1991. He says, at least in Bellevue, the Shelby game is always one of their biggest of the season, no matter what the records are. “I probably have ten coaches on my staff that have been through the Bellevue-Shelby rivalry. It dates back to 1944 and when you look at the conference championships over the years you are looking at Bellevue with 23 “NOL” championships and Shelby with 20. That’s the balk of them right there. There is a lot of history. I know the old time Bellevue players look at the Bellevue-Shelby game as the number one rivalry in the conference,” he said.
Bellevue Likes Position
There are just three weeks left in the high school football regular season and the Bellevue Redmen are in a share of first place in the newly configured Northern Ohio League with the Sandusky Blue Streaks.
Bellevue (5-2), ranked #2 in the large school division of the Swankonsports.com football power poll, overwhelmed the Willard Crimson Flashes 61-6 last week. Veteran coach Ed Nasonti liked the way his kids played early in the game and the fact they got everybody in the lineup too. “That’s what we talked about with our kids. You don’t pay any attention to the records. You have to get after it right at the beginning of the game and play our kind of football. That’s what our kids did. It was one of those games where we could put everyone in the game early,” he said.
The Redmen travel down U.S. Route 20 to face the Norwalk Truckers on Friday night in a league game. Norwalk (6-1) lost for the first time this year when Sandusky thumped them 56-6 last week. Nastoni knows that the Truckers are a veteran group that knows what it takes to play high school football. “Our focus all year long has been to take care of ourselves. We are focusing on improving what we do. You look at Norwalk on paper and they are senior laden. Probably in 14 out of the 22 positions seniors occupy those positions. They have guys that have experience and have been playing for three years. It’s no surprise to me that they are competitive this year,” he said.
With a chance to pick up their first “NOL” title since 2004 and make the playoffs too, Nasonti says they know what a win over Norwalk would mean to them. “You take a look at where we’re at in the season and it’s down to a three week season. We told our kids to take it one game at time. If somebody would have told me in August that it would be down to three weeks to be a conference champion and have an opportunity to make the playoffs we would have been really excited about it,” said Nasonti.
Bellevue Playing With Confidence
Bellevue took a big step toward a Northern Ohio League football title with a win last week over rival Tiffin Columbian, but the Redmen still have four league games to play including Friday night at home against the Willard Flashes.
Tiffin Columbian came in unbeaten on the season and a winner of their last 14 regular season games in a row. Bellevue coach Ed Nasonti says they clearly played their best game of the season. “We are really proud and happy with the way our kids played on Friday night. We had Tiffin coming in on a 14 game winning streak in the regular season. There were poor weather conditions. There was a lot on the line. There was trying to get a leg up in the “NOL” and gain some big computer points. I thought our kids played as well they possibly could,” he said.
The Bellevue offense is lead by quarterback Jalen Santoro, who is their leading passer and rusher on the season. “Not only is he an outstanding athlete, but he’s smart and he’s a competitor. When you put all of those things together you have got a pretty good quarterback. We couldn’t ask him to do any more than he is doing,” Nasonti told Swankonsports.com.
The backbone of the Bellevue Redmen this season and been it’s a defense. “We knew coming into the season we had some guys off last year’s team. Our defensive line is all veterans. We expect them to play well. Our secondary has done a great job tackling on the perimeter. I think everybody has rose to the occasion. When you have success you have guys running to the ball. The last couple of years when we have struggled we missed tackles and I think we have done a better job with that this year,” said Nasonti.
Willard comes in with just a 1-5 record and a loser of their first “NOL” game last week when Sandusky beat them 49-21. However, Nasonti has played and coached against the Flashes and he knows what that experience is like. “When you go up against Willard, that’s a big rivalry to us. It’s a big game for them too. We expect our competition to be at their best. We tell our kids that all of the time. They have some good speed and a real solid quarterback,” he said. Bellevue plays at unbeaten Norwalk next week, but Nasonti says there is no way they are looking past the Flashes. “We have been preaching to our kids that we don’t want to get too down after a loss or too up after a big win. I think we have done a good job of staying on course,” Nasonti added.
Bellevue Needs to be at Their Best
Bellevue entertains Tiffin Columbian in a battle of traditional powerhouses in the Northern Ohio League opener for both schools on Friday night at the Bellevue Athletic Field.
The Redmen drilled Toledo Waite 55-6 last week to bring their record to 3-2 on the season. After a tough loss the week before when Vandalia Butler scored in the final couple of minutes, Bellevue coach Ed Nasonti feels they did what they needed to do to prepare for Tiffin. “We put it together. We have been playing pretty good ball,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “The week before we played a good game against Vandalia Butler, we just didn’t get the result we wanted to have at the end. We did a lot of good things and I felt like we built on that. We are doing the things we need to do to become a good football team and it’s nice to get the result you wanted.”
Both schools have won or shared in 11 “NOL” football titles since 1990. Tiffin has been involved in five of the last six. This season, the Tornados, ranked number #1 in the large school division of the Swankonsports.com football power poll, are unbeaten on the season. Nasonti says Columbian is the real deal. “They are 5-0. They are a good football team. They have won 14 straight regular season games since last year. I mean they are on a roll. They have some nice players,” he said. The veteran coach isn’t surprised that Tiffin and Bellevue are playing in an important game. “This is my 21st year at Bellevue and in most of those years when we have gone up against Tiffin it’s been a solid game. A lot of times over the years, it’s determined who is going to be the champion,” said Nasomti.
Tiffin has been strong on both sides of the ball and Nasonti says that’s because they have speed all over the place. “They have the Moyer kid. They do a lot with him at receiver. They have the Jacoby kid, he’s a junior. Sometimes they play him at quarterback or running back. They do have some kids that can run the ball. Their defense is solid and their special teams are good. They do all the things that all good teams do,” said Nasonti.
To pick up the win on Friday night Nasonti knows they can’t give up the big play. “We have to make them execute down the field. I look at them on tape and they have a lot of big plays. We have to be solid holding onto the ball. In my opinion we have to win the battle of the trenches on both sides of the ball,” he said.
Bellevue Trying to Battle Back
Bellevue lost a tough one last week to a good team and now the Redmen need to get back on the winning track with Northern Ohio league play kicking off next week.
After trailing for most of the game Vandalia Butler rallied to beat the Redmen last week 32-28, scoring in the final moments of the game. Bellevue coach Ed Nasonti was still very impressed with the effort that his players put on the field last week. “It’s kind of painful when you look back,” he told Swankonwports.com on Tuesday, “Our kids played so well. We were leading in the game for 45 minutes of the 48. I thought our kids played excellent. It was a great way to bounce back from the Clyde loss the week before. They scored with 1:10 left to beat us. We had opportunities to put the game away and just couldn’t put the nail in the coffin. They were one of the best teams I’ve coached against in 21 years.”
Toledo Waite comes to Bellevue Athletic Field on Friday night for a non-conference game. Waite is 1-3 for the season. Their only win came on week three when they downed Oregon Clay 15-7. They lost last week 14-11 to Cleveland John Hay. “They have some great skilled athletes,” said Nasonti, “They have a nice running back. He’s quick and their quarterback is quick. They have a good receiver too. They run the spread offense. We are going to see a lot of speed on the field. We are excited to have another quality opponent come in and hopefully we can get back on the winning track.”
Nasonti believes they need to force Waite to drive the ball if they are going to the score against them. He says they can’t give up the long gainer. “We have to eliminate big plays,” he said, “We have to make them execute down the field. We need to win the line of scrimmage. Most importantly for us we need to come out with some passion. We need to play like our hair is on fire from here on out.”
Bellevue Needs to Get Back on Track
After opening the season strong the Bellevue Redmen lost last week to non-conference rival Clyde and they need to get things back together with tough Vandalia Butler coming to town on Friday night.
“We got a nice win versus Perkins on week one,” coach Ed Nasonti told Swankonsports.com, “I thought our kids played pretty well. We went to Clear Fork, a team we had struggled with the last two years and put together a nice game. We had the big rivalry game last week with Clyde and we took some steps backward. I didn’t think our kids played real well. We could have played with a lot more fire.”
Vandalia Butler, from the Dayton area, makes the long trip to Bellevue for a non-conference match-up with the Redmen and Nasonti knows they come loaded for bear. “Vandalia Butler is a division two school that plays in a tough conference with Troy and Piqua. It’s going to be a big challenge for us, but one we look forward to,” said Nasonti. He says Butler has an outstanding running game that is really hard to stop. “They are very big up front and they have two offensive lineman that are going to division one colleges. One is going to Notre Dame and the other is going to Ball State. They have an outstanding running back that was rushed for 826 yards in three games,” said the Bellevue coach.
Bellevue has the firepower to score some points in the game, but Nasonti believes his defense has to play an excellent game to give them a chance to win. “We are going to have to stop the run. I mean they are big up front and have a great tailback. They are going to pound it at you. We are going to have to man up up front and stop the run,” he said.
With only six teams in the Northern Ohio League now there are two additional non-conference games on the Bellevue schedule in Butler and Toledo Waite next week. Nasonti says he is very concerned about the future of the league. “I’m not happy at all. I graduated in 1977 from Bellevue High School. I have been a Northern Ohio League guy my whole life. I have played in the Northern Ohio League. I have coached in it for 31 years and I’m really disappointed. I’m disappointed to lose those schools. I’m disappointed we haven’t been able to get a couple of people in it. I’m hoping that some things turn around for the good here. I’m not happy with the schedule that is taking place right now,” said Nasonti.
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