SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio - Shaker Heights known as "The Team Down the Street" to longtime rival Cleveland Heights hosted the Tigers on Senior Night last night in an intense matchup. The two schools who are no stranger to each other both left the Lake Erie League after over 70 years of being in the inner city conference.
Beard's Early Dominance:
After the Raiders defense forced a fumble off QB Ammaar Lakes, Shaker's senior running back Cornell Beard, known simply as "Beard," wreaked havoc on Cleveland Heights' defense. Beard's powerful runs left the Tigers searching for answers in the opening moments of the game. Beard finished the game with 20 rushes for 153 yards and two touchdowns.
However, the turning point came when 4-star junior defensive end Brandon Cesar took matters into his own hands. Cesar's impressive display, marked by multiple tackles for loss, halted Beard's momentum and galvanized the Tigers' defense.
"I'm proud of this win today," Ceasar said postgame. "I'm happy that we made our coaches proud. It was a good game today. We came out hot, fired up, and ready to go."
Mother Nature intervened with a relentless downpour starting in the second quarter, transforming the field into a slippery battleground. While the pouring rain posed challenges for both teams, it proved to be a catalyst for Cleveland Heights. The adverse conditions revitalized their running game, allowing them to exploit the slippery terrain to their advantage using multiple runners similarly to last week in their win over Euclid.
"Flash" Gordon's Game-Changing Moment:
As the first half drew to a close, Shaker Heights appeared poised to take a 17-14 lead into halftime. However, senior two-way athlete John "Flash" Gordon Jr. had other plans. Gordon electrified the crowd and his teammates by returning a kickoff an astounding 82 yards to the endzone with 17 seconds left.
This breathtaking play injected a surge of momentum into Cleveland Heights, changing the course of the game. Gordon finished the game with three total touchdowns, a 60-yard pass on a wheel route from Lakes, and a 53-yard rushing touchdown to put the game away. Gordon also blocked a short field goal attempt by Jack Geisler in the third.
Gordon accredited his spectacular game to the strong week of practice he had this week, which he said was arguably the best practice he's ever had.
"My coaches was telling me to be mentally focused and locked in this week. I practiced my heart off this week. Coaches will tell you, I never practiced this hard ever. Wednesday and Thursday was probably my best practices ever," Gordon Jr. said postgame.
Marquise Davis: Mr. Ohio Football Case Made:
Another standout performer of the day was undoubtedly Cleveland Heights' junior 4-star running back, Marquise Davis. Davis dazzled the crowd and silenced doubters with three remarkable rushing touchdowns(9-yard run, 6-yard run, and a 30-yard run), stamping his compelling case for the coveted title of Mr. Ohio Football. Davis and Gordon combined for all six of the Tigers touchdowns on the day showing why their one of the best rushing duos in the state.
Shaker Heights' Last Stand:
Shaker Heights, refused to surrender easily and fought valiantly. Senior QB Abdullah Ahmad displayed his versatility by connecting with junior wide receiver Trey McNutt for a touchdown and adding one of his own with a rushing score to keep the game close. Ahmad finished the game 14/32 for 204 yards and 1 touchdown which was to McNutt. Senior wide receiver Kyle Waites had 7 receptions for 152 yards in the contest for the Raiders. McNutt had 3 receptions for 25 yards.
State Championship Mindset:
With the Greater Cleveland Conference Title secured, Cleveland Heights now shifts its focus to the playoffs. They will be hosting their next opponent in the opening round, displaying a relentless determination to continue their journey toward glory.
Ignoring the conventional "24-hour rule," the Tigers' offensive coordinator Kahari Hicks delivered a resounding message to his team postgame, saying, "Be ready tomorrow. The road to Canton just started."
This resolute attitude reflects the spirit of a team who was counted out to win the GCC and has defied expectations, etching their name in the annals of Ohio high school football history.
"I couldn't be more proud of this group of kids. We work them so hard, and coach them so tough. They accept the coaching. I always compliment my coaching staff who puts a ton of work and hours in to get these guys ready," Tigers Head Coach Mac Stephens said postgame.