MAPLE HEIGHTS, Ohio – The Cleveland Heights Tigers came into this season with a goal to win the Lake Erie League title, and on Friday night, the Tigers, ranked No. 14 in the cleveland.com Top 25 for Week 10, achieved their goal.
The Tigers beat the Maple Heights Mustangs 21-12 at Maple Heights Stadium. With the win, the Tigers won the LEL championship, going undefeated in conference play. They also secured the final spot in the playoffs for Division I, Region 1, according to joeeitel.com. This season marks the first time the Tigers have been to the postseason since 2015.
“It feels great,” Tigers coach Mac Stephens said. “Our kids have worked hard. We’ve had a lot of adversity going back to the summer. Kids have just overcome a lot. But to their credit, they’ve worked very hard. Coaching staff just went above and beyond, but we’re not done yet by any means.”
The Tigers’ 21 points were a season-low for conference play, as Maple Heights contained their passing attack. Each of the Tigers’ scores came on the ground, with senior quarterback Bay Harvey tallying two touchdowns and senior Justin Wodtly the other.
“Our (offensive line) was pretty dominant throughout the game,” Harvey said. “We made a few miscues throughout the game, with the fumble, a couple missed blocks and stuff. But overall, we just dominated up front, and that led Justin and me punching it in for the scores.”
Harvey threw an interception during the second quarter, and the Tigers committed a fumble late in the fourth quarter. The Mustangs had the ball with under two minutes left, and they scored off a double pass. Delonte Hall, a junior, flipped it to Corey Brown, who then passed downfield to Keith Allen for a touchdown.
The Mustangs were down 21-12 after failing on the two-point conversion. They recovered the onside kick, but the Tigers sealed the game with an interception from Nick McGee.
“Coach Shaq Washington, he did a phenomenal job getting his team ready,” Stephens said. “But to the credit of our kids, they stayed focused. We were focused coming into the game, but on a night like this, anybody can win.”
The Tigers (9-1, 5-0 LEL) have won nine straight since a Week 1 loss to Medina. They came in ranked No. 8 in Division I, Region 1 before Friday, but for Stephens and the Tigers, simply reaching the playoffs is not enough.
“We had a high expectation going into the season,” Stephens said. “And the thing is we don’t want to just go to the playoffs. We’re going to go to the playoffs and do what we’ve been doing all season.”
Maple Heights (7-3, 3-2 LEL) came into the game ranked No. 7 in Division II, Region 6. Despite the loss, the Mustangs maintained their spot in the playoffs, according to joeeitel.com.
The OHSAA high school football playoffs begin Nov. 8.