Every successful high school football team has players like Avon seniors Jack Liber and Danny Burdick.
They are program players who sacrifice their own glory for the good of the team and it’s another reason Avon has been so successful over the years.
If the Eagles are going to get past Olmsted Falls tonight at North Ridgeville and move on to the Division II state semifinals, Liber and Burdick will likely be big reasons why.
Liber, a 6-foot, 215-pound center, and Burdick, a 6-3, 210-pound nose guard, aren’t highlight-reel players, just guys who do anything for their team.
“Jack Liber is a kid that played tight end last year and around Week 7 we looked at next year’s roster and thought, ‘Boy, we’re going to be thin up front,’” Avon coach Mike Elder said.
“We asked him to move and he made the move from tight end, no questions asked.
“Practiced throughout the last four weeks as a center and the whole offseason. Got in the weight room, got bigger and stronger and became first-team all-conference. He’s probably our most valuable offensive lineman.”
Liber didn’t think twice about the switch. He was all for it.
“I just worked all offseason on snapping and asked any of my teammates if they’d be willing to take a snap from me,” he said. “My coaches did a great job helping me get ready for this year. We do a pretty good job communicating up front.”
Liber’s one of only two seniors on the offensive line. Left tackle Jimmy McKenna is the other. Juniors Jack Roesch and Matt Schuler are the guards while junior Michael Bergen is the right tackle. Junior tight end Joey Allen will probably play tonight in place of injured senior Kyle Kudla.
“Waited till his senior year to get the opportunity to start,” Elder said of Liber. “Today’s society, that’s not common. When kids don’t get their way early on, they do something easier. They don’t want to wait their turn. He’s done that.”
On the other side of the ball is Burdick, who also waited his turn to be a starter. Burdick smiled when asked about Liber. The two have obviously gone against each other a time or two.
“Yeah, every once in a while in practice,” Burdick said with a wry smile.
“Danny Burdick is as important to our defense as anybody,” Elder said. “All the accolades come out — we have two really outstanding defensive ends and two linebackers that are all-conference so we have four first-team all-conference guys surrounding him in our 3-4 defense. He demands double-teams and keeps people off those guys.”
“Those guys’ are defensive ends Roesch and senior Max “Todd” Torbert. The inside linebackers are Kudla and junior Mark Steinmetz. On the outside are senior Logan Sherrill and junior Aaron Endrizal.
“He’s an unsung hero,” Elder said of Burdick. “He’s the guy that does all the dirty work in the trenches. No one knows about him. No one talks about him. But on our football team, he’s as valuable if not the most valuable guy because of what he does.”
“It feels good especially when I take up a double-team and I see a linebacker come free and he makes the tackle,” Burdick said. “I feel I’m just as much of the tackle as he is.”
Burdick and Avon’s defense pretty much controlled the game last Friday against Highland. Burdick was credited with three tackles, one for a loss. For the year, Burdick has 25 total tackles and three sacks. He’s caused and recovered a fumble.
“Our defense is awesome,” Burdick said. “Our coaches always tell us ‘Do your one-11.’ Do your job and everything will fall into place.”
Avon’s defensive theme is “Bama-ball,” taking a page out of Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide defense.
“Alabama ball,” he said. “It’s flying to the ball, making sure you wrap up and stop forward progress. Make sure the back goes backwards every time.”
Olmsted Falls and its triple-option offense provides another challenge for Burdick and his defensive buddies but they’ve seen the Bulldogs before and know what to expect. Avon won 31-7 the first time around, but that was the second week of the season.
“Our coaches make it clear that the first score means nothing,” Burdick said. “It’s a whole new season. We’re both different teams. We’re both looking forward to going head-to-head. It’ll be fun seeing them again.”
Liber and Burdick were both big fans of Avon football as kids and couldn’t wait to get to high school and play.
“I just remember coming to the games every Friday night growing up,” Liber said. “Came with my mom and dad or my friends.”
“I’d always be coming with my friends,” Burdick said. “My parents would drop me off and I’d always watch from the student section. It was awesome.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.