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Northeast 8 champs have impressed so far

Back on Oct. 10, the Beachwood Bison came away with the first playoff win in the school’s football history. To get their third win, they’ll have to do it against the South Range Raiders, a program with a storied tradition and history.

The Raiders have qualified for the playoffs 17 times with a record of 18-17, including two state semifinals appearances.

Coming into the 2020 season though, South Range coach Dan Yeagley had some questions about the offensive line and how his team would fare in the Northeast-8 Conference after he thought his team snuck up on league opponents a year ago.

He got his answer almost immediately when the Raiders (7-0) knocked off returning state semifinalist Poland, 24-21, in the opener, en route to an undefeated season and the league title.

“We had a lot of question marks at the beginning of the year, and you weren’t sure how exactly things were going to pan out in the league,” Yeagley said. “We knew Michael (Patrone) was going to do a great job at quarterback and that we had some nice receivers there. We knew Dylan (Dominguez) was a very good running back along with Luke Blasko. We knew those guys would pan out. The question was the offensive line, but they came together.”

That they did, to the tune of an offense that averages 421.3 yards and 43.7 points a game with a perfect balance of rushing and passing.

Dominguez led the Raiders with 773 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. Patrone added another 477 on the ground with five touchdowns, while throwing for 773 yards with 13 touchdowns and just one interception. Blasko added 298 yards on the ground with four touchdowns.

“Dylan had room to run and he’s been doing a fantastic job, and Michael had time to pass and he’s been running the ball well too,” Yeagley said. “So, I mean, they’ve really come along and matured quickly. We had to because of the league. They both have done just a great job.”

The Raiders won their playoff opener, 55-14, over Harrison Central. South Range and the Huskies played out to a 7-7 tie after a quarter of play before the Raiders expanded that lead to 27-14 at the half.

What they saw last Saturday will serve them well moving into their matchup at home against Beachwood, in Yeagley’s opinion.

“We came out a little slow,” he said. “We struggled a little bit at the beginning with fundamental stuff on tackling, our angles of pursuit, execution on blocks, and just these little things that you lose track of if you have an extra week off. As the game went on, we adjusted.”

The Bison (6-0) have averaged 491 yards and 36.2 points a game. They have been paced by dual-threat quarterback Jalen Minter (610 yards rushing, 677 yards passing) and running back Kendynn Wiggins who has added 517 yards on the ground.

“We’ve got to throw a couple of different wrinkles at them,” Yeagley said. “We’re going to try and get pressure on the quarterback and try to get him to step up in the pocket. We might have to spy on him a little bit and make sure we tackle him before he gets running too far. Wiggins is also a very good running back.

“They have a lot of team speed. Their size is a little bit different than Harrison Central. They have big skill kids but a smaller offensive line. Beachwood has a big offensive line and defensive line. Their skill kids are smaller, but still really quick. We’re going to have to adjust again on the fly. It’s going to be interesting. That’s the nice thing about playing Harrison Central here last week. They had a dual-threat quarterback also. Their quarterback could run and throw really well.”

The South Range defense has been up to the task all year, giving up 277.6 yards a game while allowing just 15.7 points a game. It’ll look to mold the same success it had against the Huskies.

“Beachwood and Harrison Central run very similar offenses,” Yeagley said. “Luckily we got to Harrison Central first to prepare us. It’s a smooth transition, but their size is going to give us a little bit of trouble because they are a lot bigger. They’re just big. We just got to get our angles.

“Our offensive line has to play well. I think we’ll be okay but we have to play our best game again. You’re now down to eight teams in the region, which is normal playoff numbers now. Only good teams are left.”

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