Warren G. Harding single-football game records aren't broken very often, but when they are, it's usually done by an athlete in his senior year. Maurice Clarett's 410 rushing yards against Lakewood St. Edward in 2001, Roger Matlock's 293 pasing yards against Cleveland Glenville in 2004, Mario Manningham's 257 receiving yards in that infamous Glenville game in 2004, Lynn Bowden's 497 yards and 7 touchdowns worth of total offense against Chardon in 2016, Thomas "Teco" Powell's 4 interceptions against Boardman in 1990, etc. There are some exceptions to that tendency, such as Anthony Hoke's four-sack performance against Mentor during his junior year of 2002.
The latest exception to that trend came on Friday night courtesy of the arm of junior quarterback Elijah Taylor, who eclipsed Matlock's 15-year old mark with 346 passing yards while adding three touchdowns and two interceptions on the road against Canton McKinley. In fact, his three scores marked the first ever touchdown catches for seniors Brandon Arnold (63) and Ty Artis (45) as well as for sophomore Tyirq Ivory (47). While each of those milestones are tremendous accomplishments that kept bringing Raider fans to their feet, every one of the aforementioned players shared the sentiment that Harding head coach Steve Arnold gave the Tribune Chronicle's John Vargo in his postgame interview.
"Our major concern is results," Arnold said. "The result is that we lost 33-27 on the road against a very good football team."
Throughout Arnold entire coaching career, he has never been one to settle for moral victories. Him and his staff have instilled that mentality in his players, who could have easily been happy with simply pushing one of the country's most storied football programs to the max on their turf. Rather, their focus is to continue to get better in all aspects of the game. One major concern is their rushing defense as McKinley's All-Division I running back Lameir Garrett plowed his way to 250 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries, including the go-ahead four-yard score with 3:27 remaining in the game. In the process, the Raiders' focus on him allowed junior quarterback Elijah Wesley to navigate in open space with his legs to the tune of 94 rushing yards and a score on 10 carries. The bright side is that Harding's pass rush and secondary were outstanding as they limited the Bulldogs to 1/8 passing for 8 yards. That effort included holding Kent State tight end commit Jasper Robinson without a catch.
The Raiders will look to build on those positives and clean up the negatives when they start their season-long four-game home stretch this Friday against James Ford Rhodes High School. The Rams are a member of the Cleveland-based Senate League, a conference that has, arguably, produced some of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen. Rhodes' contributions to the NFL include Bill Putich, Les Horvath, and Don McCafferty while other legends from the Senate include track & field legends Jesse Owens and Harrison Dillard from Cleveland East Tech, Denver Broncos "Ring of Fame" member and former ESPN analyst Thomas Jackson of Cleveland John Adams, current NFL players Marshon Lattimore, Frank Clark, and a host of others from Cleveland Glenville, etc.
When you have a 100+ year history of competing against great athletes in numerous sports within your own conference alone, it creates a competitive culture that breeds even more stellar athletes. That's what the Senate always represented, which is why their late, great sports figures will always hold a high level of importance. Many of Cleveland's best of the best pushing each other to greatness. Last season, Rhodes streak of solid football seasons was interupted by a 2-8 campaign. While they're usually pretty successful within the Senate, they finished an unusual 2-4 in conference play while also having the likes of 2018 playoff participants Harding, Maple Heights, and Garfield Heights on the slate as well.
While the Rams' efforts to bounce back in 2019 were met abrubtly by another big loss to Maple Heights last week, Harding isn't in the position to take anybody lightly. With the tough loss to McKinley in the rearview mirror and a huge week 3 match-up with a powerful Massillon squad on the horizon, the Raiders can't afford an emotional letdown this week. Just like each day is another opportunity for them to get better, the same can be said for the young men over at Rhodes. If Harding is as hungry for success as they say they are, they'll look to polish things up at Mollenkopf Stadium on Friday.
LET'S GO RAIDEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERS!!!