Thanks to the construction of its new field, the Cleveland Hill High School football team’s home and road openers were played on the same field. Happily for the Eagles, however, the results of their first two games at Maryvale High School were vastly different.
Cleveland Hill bounced back from a three-touchdown loss to the powerful Flyers in Week 1 and took a big step forward in the Class C North race, posting a 36-28 win over a high-powered Wilson team on Saturday afternoon.
“It felt very good to bounce back after that embarrassing loss last week,” Cleveland Hill quarterback/halfback Aaron Wahler said. “It was nice to come out and get a big win against a very good football team in Wilson.”
Cleveland Hill won its 10th straight Class A North game and 25th in 26 contests. The Eagles only league loss since the 2013 season was a 2015 loss to a Bennett team that was moved up to Class A the following year.
That run featured several blowout wins over Wilson, including 48-7 last year and 48-0 the year before.
This time, however, the Lakemen proved to be a worthy opponent that could prove to be a problem later in the year.
“I always know I’m in for a hard-hitting, fast team,” said Wilson coach Bill Atlas, who estimates he’s only beaten Cleveland Hill just once in his 12 seasons. “We gave it our best and came close but in the end, we couldn’t do it.”
After a back-and-forth first half, it looked like Cleveland Hill was about to pull away when Javon Thomas broke the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter for a 53 yard touchdown and a 10-point Eagles lead.
Steven Frerichs and the Lakemen (1-1 overall and in the league) had other views on that subject. Wilson’s star quarterback connected with receiver Marcel Wilson for TD passes of 23 and 20 yards to give the Lakemen a 24-20 lead
But the Eagles always-powerful rushing attack proved too much. D’Mario Grant gave Cleve Hill the lead back again with a 43-yard TD run and Thomas added a 1-yard scoring run in the fourth – and then sealed the deal with a nifty interception with less than a second to play.
“They’re a heck of a football team,” Eagles coach Glen Graham said of Wilson. “They have a lot of great athletes out there so I knew it was going to be a test. Defensively, we were able to come up with some stops in the second half and offensively, i was happy with our explosiveness.”
Thomas led the Eagles with 219 rushing yards and three touchdowns – and also had two touchdown runs wiped out by penalties.
“It was about trusting my line and running hard until the whistle,” Thomas said.
Wahler was also a standout on both sides of the ball. He ran for 141 yards and two touchdowns, lining up at quarterback at times and other times at halfback with Kahlil Jackson under center.
We were able to mix him in with Kahlil and that gives us a little more flexibility, a little more versatility. Right now we’re just trying to figure out what works best for us.”
Frerichs threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns for the Lakemen and also recorded about a dozen tackles and a fumble recovery on defense.
“He’s got a great football mind,” Atlas said. “He calls a great game and sees a lot of things. He’s usually his toughest critic but I love him, he’s a good football player to have. I hate playing my quarterback on defense. But when he plays like that, I have to have him out there.”
Wilson caught four passes for 75 yards and two scores but left the game with an apparent leg injury midway through the fourth and did not return.
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