East beats West, 14-7
By Ryan Kaczmarski
It is no secret that North Olmsted High School’s Brad Novak knows his way around the gridiron. The display of talent and athleticism he showcased in Friday night’s Greater Cleveland Football Coaches Association Cuyahoga County East-West All-Star Football Game cemented that fact into the minds of the nearly 2,600 spectators at Baldwin Walllace University’s George Finnie Stadium.
Even though the East squad defeated Novak’s West team 14-7, he could have been easily called the best player on the field for either team, which earned him MVP honors for the West team.
“It was so much fun, and such a great time,” Novak exclaimed. “Any time you get to come out (and play) with a bunch of players like this, you it’s going to be a good time.”
Novak led the West in both rushing and passing as the starting quarterback, gaining 70 and 93 yards, respectively.
“That’s what I try to do, just come out here and do what I do best – run around and have some fun,” Novak said. “I played as hard as I could, and all these guys played hard right next to me, too.
“It was a good feeling to have 11 guys next to me, all playing as hard as they can. It meant a lot to me.”
Even though the teams had only two weeks to prepare for the contest, Novak felt comfortable with the team’s timing.
“When you have a group of guys going out there, with this much athletic ability, you know it’s going to mesh,” he stated. “You saw after one week, that we were getting our footwork and timing down. We had a couple of route mix-ups, but that is going to happen.”
After taking the West’s first possession 56 yards down the field to the East’s 18-yard line, the West turned the ball over on downs. But in the West’s second drive, Novak used 10 plays to drive the ball 36 yards, culminating in the first score of the game, as he threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Cuyahoga Heights receiver Jack Alpert, putting the West up 7-0 after the PAT by Holy Name’s Don Stepic.
The East team went on to score 14 unanswered points, but Novak moved the ball 61 yards down the field late in the fourth quarter to give the West a chance to tie the game, or win it outright, but the drive stalled on the East’s 23-yard line, which sealed the game for the East.
“You have to give (the East team) their props, too,” Novak said. “They played good red-zone defense.”
The West team had some shining defensive moments also, as they made a strong goalline stand to keep the score 7-0 going into halftime. With fourth-and-goal, the East had the ball on the West 1-yard line and decided to run up the gut, but West linemen Beau Bilinsky (North Olmsted) and Cortez Harris (Fairview) stopped East running back Anthony Shumpert (Shaw) just shy of scoring.
“We just fired right off the ball,” Harris said. “I knew the snap-count, so I was just happy to get the tackle. I grabbed his legs and that was it.”
Harris recorded five tackles in the game.
Bilinsky not only helped on that great defensive play, but he also served as center to both West quarterbacks, including Novak, who will be joining him this fall at Mercyhurst College.
“(Novak) has been my best friend since sixth grade,” Bilinsky said. “We’ve been playing quarterback-center for God knows how long – maybe seventh grade – and we’ll be moving on together.
“It’s an awesome thing to have someone like that going into college with you. I love it.”
Olmsted Falls High School’s Mike Hansinger led the West in receiving, with 46 yards on four catches, including a reception of 22 yards. Lakewood’s Aaron Morit hauled in a 14-yard catch in the game.
Olmsted Falls’ Jack Grimm recorded four tackles, followed by Lutheran West’s Sam Shick with three and Bay’s Tyler Campbell with one.