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Dave 'Dino' DeNatale's "Final Thoughts" after Archbishop Hoban defeats Avon in WKYC.com High School Football Playoff Game of the Week

The Knights heading to the Division II state title game after a thrilling 31-24 win over Avon at Parma's Byers Field.
Credit: Dave DeNatale

PARMA, Ohio — Now I've done it. 

The bosses are apparently so pleased with my "Final Thoughts" that I've been tweeting out after our WKYC High School Football Game of the Week webcasts that I've been asked to move it to our site. So here we go!! 

Final thoughts from Byers Field after Archbishop Hoban's thrilling 31-24 victory over Avon to advance to yet another Division II state title game...

1. I have seen a lot of talented running backs in the four years that we've been doing the WKYC Game of the Week, but I have not been as blown away by anyone like I was with Hoban's Lamar Sperling tonight. Wow! He's got everything you want out of a feature back: Speed, vision, footwork, toughness. He finished tonight's game with 270 yards on the ground and a pair of touchdowns. Keep in mind, Sperling ran for 357 yards last week against Walsh Jesuit with 5 touchdowns. The week before, he rushed for 198 yards and 4 scores against Nordonia and before that, 283 yards and 5 TDs against Austintown Fitch. That's putting your team on your back and carrying them to the promised land. 

2. Think about how many active coaches in Northeast Ohio have won state championships. Just off the top of my head, Chuck Kyle has 11 at St. Ignatius, Tiger LaVerde has 6 at Kirtland, Tom Lombardo has won two at St. Edward and will look for his third coming up, Mitch Hewitt will be looking for #2 for Chardon next week, and Bob Mihalik (Aurora) and Jeff Grubich (Kenston) are in the group with one title. 

What Tim Tyrrell has done at Archbishop Hoban is ridiculously good. Just since 2015, the Knights are 91-8 with five state titles. They'll go for number six next week and I sure won't bet against them. It's a dynasty and Coach Tyrrell and his staff deserve a ton of credit for keeping this incredible run going.

3. What can you say to console the Avon Eagles tonight? They've now lost five consecutive state semifinal games in Division II, four of them to Hoban. How's this? The gap is closing. The Eagles are a legitimate powerhouse program in Northeast Ohio. They've gotten deeper and more talented during this run and will be back strong next year. QB Sam DeTillio and RB Jakorion Caffey will return on offense, with DE Austin Mitchell and S Cam Santee among those back on defense. And you have Mike Elder and his coaching staff there to lead them. 

It wouldn't shock me a bit to see the same two teams battle it out at the same stadium this time next year.

4. Props to Hoban quarterback Jayvian Crabel for bouncing back after an opening drive fumble at the goal line. Crabel's accurate passing kept the Eagles defense honest all night. He also set up a pair of touchdowns with his running, finishing with 103 yards on 7 carries. Yes, Sperling is a superstar. But Crabel is an important cog to the Knights' attack. 

5. As we wait on Kirtland to play Saturday night, we now know that there are three Northeast Ohio teams that have punched tickets to next weekend's state championships in Canton: St. Edward in Division I, Hoban in Division II, and Chardon in Division III. You've got two defending champions in that mix, with the Eagles of St. Edward no stranger to playing at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. It could be another very special weekend for our area!

Talk to you from Canton next week! And if you missed any part of tonight's game, check it out below:

WKYC Game of the Week stories: