CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – For the second time in South Range football history, the Raiders will be making an appearance in the state semi-finals.
Back in 2005, they reached the finals, losing to eventual state champion Patrick Henry 48-28.
This time around, they will be facing the undefeated Eastwood Eagles at Strongsville High School at 7:30 pm. Friday.
“I haven’t really had time to think about it,” Raiders coach Dan Yeagley remarked about whether this trip to the finals is more special. “You win last week, and automatically, you go into preparing for the next week. You get into a routine.”
“I have great memories from 2005, oh my goodness,” Yeagley exclaimed. “We practiced on Thanksgiving morning, which was always a goal, in a snowstorm to boot because we had a huge snowstorm that morning.”
“There were a lot of great memories, but this one hasn’t sunk in yet, because we’re still in game mode,” Yeagley added. “After the season, you’ll sit around and you’ll enjoy the memories and get to enjoy the season a little bit more.”
“I remember it being really, really cold,” Raiders defensive coordinator David Rach remarked about that 2005 game.
Rach was a starting junior wing back and outside linebacker on that 2005 team.
“I remember being really proud. I mean, the community had a send-off and just the whole community excitement and those kinds of things.”
“As far as the game itself, the thing that sticks out the most is that we felt afterward that we let one get away,” he added. “We didn’t take care of the ball in the second half. The run game is what separated them. They were able to run the ball in the second half, us not so much.”
South Range led that game in 2005 at the halftime intermission 28-27. However, they were limited to just 87 yards in the second half as Patrick Henry reeled off 21 unanswered points in the half.
“I remember thinking after the game that I hope to get back there next year because I was a junior on that team. So I guess that’s what makes it that much more special now, 12 years later,” Rach said with a smile.
With both Rach and Yeagley having the experience of traveling to the semi-finals, they can now try to prepare their players for the experience, but both admitted that it isn’t the same as 2005.
“It’s so different now in how team’s prepare,” Rach explained. “Now we have Hudl, and back then we had two DVDs that we were passing around, trying to watch film.”
“You can’t compare,” Yeagley said when asked if this year’s team is better than 2005. “The game has changed. You can’t compare because the game has changed. Which is better? You can’t do that because both were very, very talented and both were playing in week 14 for a reason.”
Yeagley pointed out that despite the differences in the game, this Raiders team has a lot of similarities to the 2005 squad.
“If you sit down and look at the team speed and the skill with how you had receivers, running backs, and quarterbacks. You had dual-threat guys that allowed you to do different things and a good offensive line. There are a lot of similarities.”
“When you get down to this level, playing in the later weeks of the playoffs, there has to be something special. There has to be a good running back, good quarterback, a good team. And if you look at the personalities and the leadership, there are a lot of similarities there too,” Yeagley added.
Rach explained that the best advice he can give this team is the mental approach.
“I think the biggest thing is from a mentality standpoint. You show up to win the game. You prepare and you expect to win the game.”
Rach added of Eastwood that you can tell they are really well-coached.
“They obviously have very good backs, but the thing to me that is most impressive is their offensive line,” he said. “They are so in sync; they don’t blow assignments. They come off the ball with low pad levels, and they use their hands well and move their feet. They are athletic. We’ll definitely have our work cut out for us on the defensive side of the ball.”
“When I watch them I see a team that is very disciplined,” Yeagley said. “I see a team that is very well-coached. A team that is very fast offensively and defensively. They run to the ball. I look at them, and I start comparing them to our team. They are going to cause us some problems, and we’re going to cause them some problems. There are going to be some interesting match-ups, which I’m curious to see how it all pans out.”
“The war in the trenches is huge,” Yeagley explained as to what will win this game. “We talked about that last week, where we won the war in the trenches. We have to win this war. Their offensive and defensive line are probably one of the best that we have seen. They are very physical, and they are very fast.”