For the Star Beacon
PAINESVILLE TOWNSHIP —
It’s been two generations since Riverside last tasted defeat against rival Harvey in The Battle of Painesville.
And even though the Red Raiders’ last win against the Beavers was 18-13 verdict was on Sept. 25, 1992 at Riverside, there are indications this could be a season of change as the two teams set to square off Friday night at Riverside Stadium.
First, second-year coach Michael Tucci’s Red Raiders come into this matchup at 2-0, having defeated visiting Whitney Young, 47-0, and visiting Fairport, 34-8.
On the other side of the coin, Bors’ Beavers enter this clash at 0-2, having fallen at Perry in the season-opener, 22-8, then bowing to visiting West Geauga last week in their home debut, 48-29.
Then, there’s this — Bors’ bunch is beat up. No less than seven guys will not play this week.
The list is headed by starting senior quarterback Maxx Brubaker, but also includes Chris Pierce (concussion), London Locklear (concussion), Paul McGlothin (knee), Blake Maxwell (foot), Ethan Shust (foot) and Collin Baldwin (knee).
The Beavers really struggled on defense last week against West Geauga as the Wolverines ran for 396 yards on 35 carries, a staggering 11.3 yards-per-carry average.
“They definitely outexecuted us, and they were pretty physically impressive... we got beat,” Bors said. “I think our inexperience really showed on defense. Good teams like that will take a weakness or two and blow them wide open.
“We're taking our lumps right now as we only return one starter on that side of the ball. Then, factor in some injuries which we've been hit pretty hard by, and you've got a major problem versus good teams.
“Our offense and special teams were solid, our defense was not. We cleaned a lot of things up from Week 1, but we're still miles away.”
When pressed, Bors elaborated.
“To give you an example of where we're at, there are times when three of our four defensive linemen on the field are guys who didn't even play football last year for one reason or another,” he said. “Now, they're doing an excellent job, but there is no substitute for experience. Thus, it may take us a little longer than usual to get things going until we get healthier and get some guys more game experience.”
One aspect that went well for the Beavers was the performance of Nick Fitzgerald, who is handling the quarterback duties since Brubaker went down in the first half of the Perry game with his shoulder injury.
Fitzgerald, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound sophomore, completed 16 of 23 passes in his first varsity start for 273 yards and touchdown strikes of 41 yards to Pat Remington, 49 yards to Joe McDonald and 26 yards to Marcus Jones.
“Nick did a tremendous job... we're very proud of him,” Bors said. “He's a kid that worked his tail off in the offseason, and did as much as he could to better himself.”
Bors is impressed with undefeated Harvey, which had won four games total in the last three seasons entering the 2013 campaign, including an 0-10 struggle a year ago in Tucci’s first season at the helm.
Included in the winless campaign was a 42-0 thumping administered by Riverside at Jack Britt Memorial Stadium, the Beavers’ 20th win in a row in the series, which they now lead, 35-21-1.
The Red Raiders are off to their first 2-0 start since 2007, when home wins against Lakeview (33-27) and Wickliffe (42-19) put them there going into a 34-6 loss at, you guessed it, Riverside.
“I think they're much improved,” Bors said. “Coach Tucci is doing an excellent job with them.”
And then, he added this.
“This surely won't be like last year.”
The Red Raiders are led by fullback-linebacker Alonzo Turner, backfield mate Tra Smith and a big offensive line.
“They are a multiple, pro-style offense and a 3-4 defense,” Bors said. “The guys who stand out are first of all, Turner. He is a quick and gutty runner who doesn't get tackled by one guy.
“On defense, he is a heat-seeking missile who is all over the place. Their quarterback looks to have a real nice arm and good poise in the pocket, and their offensive and defensive lines are mammoth.
“With all of our injuries to our lines right now, it's definitely not a good matchup for us.”
Bors knows it won’t be easy for Riverside this week.
“We must continue to execute on offense, because if we don't, we're really in trouble,” he said. “Our defense needs to bounce back and mature quickly because Harvey is averaging 40 points a game.
“We need to be plus-three in the turnover margin because possessions will be key in this game, for sure.”