CLEVELAND — For decades, Northeast Ohio long has been considered one of the best proving grounds for high school football players with countless athletes continuing their careers at some of the nation’s most elite college programs and others able to go one step further to the NFL.
In Sunday’s Super Bowl LIV matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers in Miami Gardens, Florida, Northeast Ohio was well represented, as four players, Frank Clark (Cleveland/Glenville), Anthony Hitchens (Lorain/Clearview), Kyle Juszczyk (Lodi/Cloverleaf) and Travis Kelce (Cleveland Heights), suited up for and made an impact in the game.
“I think we have the greatest coaches in the country, and just to have four guys is huge,” Glenville coach Ted Ginn Sr. told 3News ahead of Super Bowl LIV. “We do a great job here coaching, so that doesn’t surprise me there.”
Here’s a look at how Northeast Ohio athletes impacted Super Bowl LIV.
Juszczyk catches touchdown pass
On first-and-10 from the Kansas City 15-yard line, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo took the snap under center, turned to his left and utilized a play-action fake to running back Tevin Coleman before rolling out to his right.
Juszczyk secured the catch in front of a defender at the Kansas City 12-yard line and shook free from a free safety Daniel Sorensen’s tackle attempt before sprinting toward the goal line, where he picked up a block from tight end George Kittle.
That block at the two-yard line gave Juszczyk a cut-back lane, which he utilized to dive over the goal line and into the end zone.
“This offense is perfect for him,” Bob Lake, Juszczyk’s former coach at Cloverleaf, told 3News ahead of the Super Bowl. “We were very excited about that, and to see it come to this level, I don’t know if I could’ve envisioned that at the time, but I’m not surprised at all. He’s a big part of their success this year.”
Kelce catches TD to key Chiefs rally
One play after drawing a pass interference penalty that gave the Chiefs 20 free yards and set up the Kansas City offense at the one-yard line, Kelce hauled in a touchdown pass from quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
With the successful extra point try, the Chiefs cut San Francisco’s lead down to three points, 20-17, with 6:13 to play in the fourth quarter.
On first-and-goal from the San Francisco one-yard line, Kelce lined up on the right side of the formation, and after Mahomes took the snap under center and used a play-action fake, as well as a rollout, he found his All-Pro tight end open for the touchdown.
“He understands the game,” Jeff Rotsky, Kelce’s coach at Cleveland Heights, said to 3News before the game. “He understands where the fits are, how to settle into the zones, and when he’s got man, how to break them off on his corner routes. He’s just got it. He’s got a very high IQ.”
Clark gets key fourth down sack
Clark and the Chiefs picked a heck of a time to get their first sack on Garoppolo in Super Bowl LIV.
After getting close to sacking the NFC Champion quarterback numerous times throughout the game, the Chiefs were able to get home on Garoppolo for a nine-yard loss on fourth down on San Francisco’s third-to-last drive of the game.
Clark’s sack generated a turnover on downs and set up running back Damien Williams for a 38-yard touchdown run that clinched a 31-20 victory for the Chiefs.
“I always knew that Frank was a different guy,” Ginn Sr. said. “He was very athletic, very explosive. He’s the same guy that I saw when he was younger, so I’m not surprised with where he’s at, being one of the top pass rushers and defensive ends in the NFL.”
Hitchens was a staring linebacker for the Chiefs this season and registered four tackles with one solo stop and a quarterback hit in the Super Bowl win.
In addition to his productivity, Hitchens joined Kelce as captains for the Chiefs’ run to their first Super Bowl Championship in 50 years.
“That’s a testament to Ohio football,” Clearview coach Mike Collier said. “I think we have some great football in the area, especially in Northeast Ohio. Very blessed to be able to coach someone like Anthony Hitchens. Just a great story.”