Swank on Sports
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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