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High school football 2017: Lorain lost lots but still thinking big

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LORAIN — What can they possibly do for an encore?

That may be the burning question going around the city of Lorain as Dave McFarland and the Titans prepare for the upcoming football season.

Lorain is coming off a memorable year. The Titans, after losing their first two games, went on a record-setting

10-game winning streak and came within a touchdown-saving tackle by Olentangy Liberty of qualifying for the Division I Final Four.

Gone is Carlos Chavis and his 1,500-plus rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. Gone are Aaron Huff (900 yards, 12 TDs) and Naz Bohannon, a two-way vocal leader. Leading receiver Daesean Brooks also graduated. Gone too is most of Lorain’s offensive and defensive lines, but if you ask McFarland, starting his fourth year, more excitement and more success is on the way.

“We do lose a lot of great kids,” McFarland said. “But we do have a freshmen program with 50-plus kids, we have a JV program with 50 kids and we’ve got a varsity program, so hopefully we can plug a few guys in.

“We do have some good kids to replace them from our JV team.”

Those losses to start the year — Midview and Elyria — only made the Titans more determined to turn things around.

“Losing to Midview and Elyria kind of boiled-up,” said returning senior Zion Cross. “We really didn’t lose hope. It just made us hungrier. That’s when everything began. We just got hungry.”

“The most important thing – the two games we lost at the beginning of the season were very winnable,” McFarland said. “Our kids started to realize, when you start to buy in, there is a lot to body language and attitude. How you handle adversity, the ups and downs during a football game. There’s ups and downs in life. Our kids started to buy in. When we got here, we tried to emphasize the word reliable — being reliable, having character.

“That season to me is just an example of growing up.”

By the time Lorain played at unbeaten Sandusky, the confidence level was sky-high. In fact, McFarland wanted to tone it down a bit. Bohannon, an outstanding football and basketball player, had some t-shirts made up with the words 6-1 printed on them. His idea was that would be Sandusky’s record once the Titans had played them.

“We had some good leaders last year, like Naz, Carlos and Huff,” said sophomore defensive back and receiver Daylin Dower. “This year, we’ve got a lot more. We’ve got that motor now.”

“I remember being upset with Naz,” said McFarland. “They made t-shirts that said 6-1. That goes against everything I believe in. You don’t put it out there so I wouldn’t let them off the bus. Basically, in their way, they were saying they were going to win.”

Lorain did just that, upsetting the Blue Streaks 24-23 at Strobel Field in Sandusky. The Titans trailed, 23-8 going into the fourth quarter, but scored twice – a 65-yard pass from Justin Sturgill to Daesean Brooks and Sturgill’s 12-yard run, along with two 2-point conversions.

“That was a big win,” McFarland said. “Justin Sturgill played well and a lot of kids played well. Carlos (Chavis) and Aaron Huff started taking off as running backs and our defense played with a little more oomph. Bedford came in there and we beat them pretty good. It was rolling from there.”

Lorain won its first two playoff games and the extended season gave McFarland and his staff three more weeks of practice. The underclassmen were able to get in extra work as well.

Not only is Sturgill back at quarterback but Lorain returns lightning-quick Cross, the state’s 100-meter dash champion as a sophomore. Dower returns as a two-way player. Dower’s senior brother – Davion Dower – returns as a receiver and defensive back. Sophomore Savon Chavis is ready to step in where his brother Carlos left off. Both the freshmen and junior varsity teams had winning years, too.

“Last year, Coach McFarland gave me and Savon the opportunity to play varsity,” Dower said. “It was a blessing. He’s giving the young guys a chance to really show your talent. If you can play, you can play the varsity field.”

“We’ve got a lot of talent that came back,” Cross said. “The freshman class went undefeated. We’re going to be great this year. There will be a lot of energy on the field.”

Lorain defends its Lake Erie League championship but with Cleveland Heights, Bedford and Maple Heights all coming off winning records, the task won’t be easy.

“What I like about the league is it’s physical,” McFarland said. “We want to be physical. It’s good for us.”

McFarland retained his staff, including long-time assistants Bill Groomes and Honester Davidson. Also on board are Tom Reighley, Jason Whitehead, Jeremy Wilt and Edmund Hall. Lorain will have seven games at George Daniel Field this year. Last year, the Titans played six games on the road.

“Sometimes it’s just the way the schedule falls,” said McFarland. “But (athletic director Bryan Koury) brought in a Canadian team (from Ontario). I just know he did a great job. It’s exciting to have seven (home) games.”

Lorain Titans

CONFERENCE: Lake Erie League

2016 RECORD: 10-3, 5-0 LEL

RETURNING LETTERMEN: 18

RETURNING STARTERS: 9 (5 offense, 4 defense)

PLAYOFF APPEARENCES: 2

LAST TIME IN PLAYOFFS: 2016 (Defeated Olentangy and Dublin Jerome before losing to Olentangy Liberty)

NUMBERS GAME: 10 – Wins in a row last season including two playoff victories.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Senior quarterback Justin Sturgill. Sturgill took over the reins about the time Lorain started to gel a year ago. He threw for nearly 900 yards and 10 touchdowns.

SCHEDULE

Aug. 25 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ....Midview

Sept. 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. Kennedy

Sept. 7 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .… Elyria

Sept. 15 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . at Garfield Heights

Sept. 22 .. .. ..…Football North (Ontario, Canada)

Sept. 29 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .… Cleveland Heights*

Oct. 6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . ….. Warrensville Heights*

Oct. 13 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..…Maple Heights*

Oct. 20 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .…at Bedford*

Oct. 27 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .… at Shaw*

* Lake Erie League

All games at 7 p.m.

Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or at timothygeb@msn.com.

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