RICHMOND — Edison and Toronto will meet at 7 p.m. Friday night, each looking to bounce back, at the Edison Unified Sports Complex as the Wildcats celebrate homecoming.
Both teams enter this week’s matchup coming off road losses. Edison lost to Beaver Local, 27-21, Friday night at Fighting Beaver Stadium. The Wildcats had the chance to drive for the winning score, however, an interception allowed the Bears to hold on for the hard-fought victory.
“We gave ourselves a chance,” first-year Edison (3-2) head coach Mike Collopy said. “Against a good team, you want to put yourselves into a position to win the game, and we were able to do that. The loss was not due to a lack of effort. Our kids played their hearts out. We gave ourselves a chance. I am proud of the way we played.”
Meanwhile, Lakota defeated Toronto, 63-40, Friday night in a high-scoring affair.
The game between the Raiders and the Red Knights came down to which team could get the most stops on defense.
“That was pretty much it,” Toronto (2-3) head coach Josh Franke said. “We were up by 14 points at one point. They were able to close the gap, and they took a one-point lead into halftime. It was back and forth. We had to go for it on a fourth-and-long, and we didn’t get it. That allowed the score to get away from us at the end. It was a close game for a long time.”
Zane Kinsey ran for 172 yards and three touchdowns for the Red Knights, while Dominic Bouscher returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
“The offenses played well,” Franke said. “The defenses were forced to play catch-up most of the night.”
The game against the Raiders was a one-year deal. Toronto picked up Lakota after having to replace Southington Chalker on its schedule.
“They are very good,” Franke said. “They are very athletic. We gave them all they could handle. It was a tough game to lose, but our kids continued to fight until the very end Friday night.”
The Red Knights did show they can put a lot of points up on the scoreboard.
“They move guys around,” Collopy said. “They use different formations. They run multiple sets offensively. They are hard to defend. Scheme-wise, they do some different things. They are big up front. They are aggressive. They are big and strong.”
So far this season, the Red Knights have scored 33 or more points three times.
“They have a lot of weapons on offense,” Collopy said. “Their offensive line is big and strong. Offensively, they have a lot of good skill position players. Their quarterback — this is his first year starting — but he is not new to the varsity level. Their slot receivers are really good, so is their running back. Their offensive and defensive lines are enormous. Their strong. Defensively, they are very aggressive. They put a lot of pressure on you. They are going to be a big challenge.”
The Wildcats are not too shabby on the offensive side of the ball either. Edison has scored at least 21 points in all five of its games this season, and it has scored at least 29 points in all three wins.
“(Jacob) Cusick is very athletic,” Franke said. “He is a talented wide receiver. He is a big threat for them. He goes all over the field. Gage Cline is an athletic quarterback. He has a nice arm. When a play breaks down, he is able to get out of the pocket and scramble. He is dangerous with his legs. We are going to have to keep an eye on him. We don’t want him to beat us with his legs.”
Cline’s ability to run the ball presents a problem for the Red Knights as Toronto has had issues allowing the opposing quarterback to have good games on the ground, however, the team did a good job in that department last week.
“Their quarterback was not the one who beat us,” Franke said. “We were able to control him. It was their running back that hurt us. We had guys hit him, but we did not wrap him up and he was able to get away from us. We did not gang tackle. We did not have 11 guys go to the ball. He really hurt us. We have to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Defensively, Edison has limited two opponents to 18 points or fewer, but the Wildcats have allowed at least 25 points in their other three games.
“They are big up front,” Franke said. “They have good size. Their linebackers like to get their noses dirty. We want to run the football. We have to make sure we are able to get off of our blocks. We need to be able to create some holes. We want to be able to do what we do. We want to be able to establish the run.”
Toronto has struggled at times defensively as the Red Knights have allowed the opposition to score at least 20 points in all five games. So far this season, the Red Knights have given up 20, 47, 26, 29 and 63 points to their opponents.
“They have a couple of guys who are big and strong,” Collopy said. “They are fast. As a coach, you want to have quality players like that. As an opposing coach, those kinds of players give you problems. We are going to have to really be prepared for them. We need to have good day at practice. We had a good day at practice today, and we need to have good days the rest of the week. We just want to continue to improve every day.”
The Wildcats are going to need to do the little things in order to be successful come Friday night.
“We are going to have to make sure we are in the proper alignment,” Collopy said. “We are going to have to take care of the football. We are going to have to eliminate mistakes. We can’t have penalties and turnovers. We have to be able to keep them away from the ball. We are going to have to sustain drives. We are going to have to take advantage when we are in the red zone on offense.”
Edison does some different things this season under Collopy that it did not due in previous years when Shane O’Brien was the head coach of his alma mater.
“Offensively, they use a number of different formations,” Franke said. “They use more formations than they used to. Defensively, they run a 4-3 with two high safeties.
“Football comes down to you have to be able to block and tackle. We just have to take care of business. One thing we kind of preach to the kids is to limit the number of big plays they make, while making big plays ourselves. We want to limit our number of turnovers, while being able to create turnovers. We can’t give the ball away. One big thing for us is when we have a running back get 100 yards we have more success.”
The game between the schools is always big, but this year’s game being played on Edison’s homecoming only adds to the big-game feel.
“It is a big night for them,” Franke said. “It is homecoming. It is a big game. It is Toronto-Edison. It is a huge game. The two school districts are so close to each other. There is going to be a big crowd. It is going to be a nice atmosphere.”
It being homecoming presents some challenges for the Wildcats to have to deal with as they prepare for the game.
“I told the kids that they only have four years to play high school football,” Collopy said. “There are a lot of things you have to deal with when it comes to homecoming. When it comes to the homecoming game, you have to be very focused. Aside from everything else, the most important thing is we have to execute Friday night.”
The Wildcats will be playing with heavy hearts Friday night. Todd Smith an Edison teacher, assistant athletics director, head volleyball and track coach, died last Friday afternoon.
“He coached some of our kids in track,” Collopy said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. He was out at Edison for a long time. It is hard to put into words when something like that happens. He is definitely gone too soon. I think our guys are OK, but they are young high school boys. They internalize things. I think they are OK. The school is devastated.”
For Toronto, this situation has become all too familiar.
“Last week, they had two memorials for coaches from Lakota who have died,” Franke said. “With Lisbon, we had a memorial for one of their players. This is our third time dealing with this situation this season. This is the third time we are playing a team dealing with this the week we play them. These are hard circumstances to have to deal with. There are a lot emotions involved. We offer our condolences to them. We told them if there is anything Toronto can do, we would be happy to help.”
Edison enters the game in 11th place in the Ohio Division V Region 17 rankings. Toronto is just outside of playoff position as the Red Knights are in 17th place in the Division VII Region 25 rankings.