They're back. After pounding Massillon in the final game of 2003, Canton McKinley fans were hoping that such a convincing win would carry over into the 2004 season. Judging from the Bulldogs powerful showing Friday versus Strongsville, their hopes just might become reality.
Coach Brian Cross had to be happy with his team's performance Friday, and he's a hard man to please. McKinley has four players ranked in Ohio High magazine's top 100 list. All four came up big against Strongsville. There is a new attitude on this team, and it's a credit to Cross, now in his second year as the boss of the Pups.
After seeing McKinley in a 7-on-7 with Louisville, I couldn't wait to see Ryan Brinson play with all the pads on. Last year, at 165 pounds, Brinson was the toughest player I saw. It's hard to imagine a physical player at that weight, but Brinson is a hard running tailback and a hard hitting safety. This year, at 180 pounds, he might be a candidate for Mr. Football. Brinson was amazing Friday. He had two long runs from his tailback spot that are hard to describe. There is probably still Strongsville laundry lying on the turf at Fawcett stadium. Blazing speed, combined with sharp cutting ability left his opponents reaching for air all night. Brinson has a scholarship offer from Iowa, and if he plays at this level all season, more offers are on the way. This kid plays the game the way it should be played.
Antwon Hight does things on the field that a 280 pound player should not be able to do. He disrupts the opposition's offense from his defensive end spot, and on the other side of the ball, he's a terror at tight end. He caught a TD pass and was a devastating blocker. Hight has as much talent as any lineman in Ohio, and he is poised to have a great year. If Antwon can improve his academic standing, he will be recruited by every school in the country. He has as much potential as former Bulldog and Buckeye Kenny Peterson, now with the Green Bay Packers.
Brad Jones is another two way performer for Cross. Jones, 6' 1" 190 pounds, is a WR-DB. Brad has offers from several MAC schools, but is hoping to attract bigger schools attention with a monster year. Brad has great speed and a great frame for a cornerback. In the past, Jones has been considered a soft player, but I don't agree with that evaluation anymore. Jones made a lot of tough, physical plays Friday, and also carried the ball from his wingback spot on offense.
The more I see of senior QB Mike Shaffer, the more I like him. He seems totally comfortable in Cross' offense, and he's throwing the ball better than ever before. Mike is a great student and could be headed to the Ivy League to continue his education. He's a player that recruiters might want to give a second look because of his improvement. I'm not sure he'll put up great numbers in this offense, but I believe he's going to put up a lot of wins this season for the Bulldogs.
Teams have taken great pleasure in beating up the Bulldogs the past two
seasons. I think those days are over. Coach Cross is one of the best in the
state, and this season he has really made his mark on this team. They are
clearly more disciplined, and they are exhibiting a totally new attitude from
last season. These four seniors are tired of losing games, and I do not think
they are going to lose many this season. This team should contend for the
Federal League title and also should be a playoff contender.