Nobody practices “social distancing” better than Warren G. Harding wide receiver DeAveion “Nutty” Burgess. After hauling in 12 catches for 67 yards last year, Nutty can now often be found “distancing” himself from opposing defenses as the senior enters this week with 27 catches for 257 yards and 3 touchdowns. His emergence has been a welcoming site for his quarterback Elijah Taylor, who continues to add to his lengthy high school resume. For his career, the southpaw is 326-of-590 for 4,108 yards and 39 touchdowns. While all are tops in Harding history, Taylor’s site is set on something far rarer in the sports world… A state championship, but before that, his Raiders will look to improve each week in what has been a very unusual year for everyone.
While Taylor had his hand in two of the Raiders’ touchdowns this past Friday against Akron North, it was the rushing attack that paved the way as 229 of their 273 total yards came on the ground. Delmarr McMillian (42 yards), MaJaurice Williams (55) and Trevon Allen (3) all crossed the goal line for Harding while senior Emarion Perkins got in on the scoring with his 43-yard interception return for a touchdown. It was the exclamation point for a defense that limited the Vikings to 100 yards of total offense. Their 42-0 victory ties the school record for their largest margin of victory in their postseason history. Harding opened the 2003 Division I-Region 1 playoffs up with a dominant 49-7 victory over Solon. This week, the Raiders will welcome a former conference foe to Mollenkopf Stadium that hasn’t given up a single score in over a month.
Voted as the tenth seed in Division II-Region 5, Maple Heights enters week 8 riding a five-game winning streak. During that stretch, they've outscored their opposition 154-6, which includes a 128-0 advantage since week 4. Their success shouldn't come as no surprise as their program is led by one of the greatest athletes in their school's history in Shaq Washington. In 2010, the former high school quarterback led the Mustangs to their crowning moment, a 45-33 victory over Trotwood-Madison in the Division II state championship game. He went on to have a solid collegiate career at the University of Cincinnati and as a 24-year old in 2018, he was named the head varsity football coach at his alma mater. He enters this week with a overall record of 24-7 in his young career.
Washington has been extremely pleased with the production of sophomore signal caller Dawon King, who has started for the Mustangs since last year. While their roster is flooded with big playmakers, one of the main names that Raider fans should hear this week is Delonte Hall, a dynamic two-way player who came into this season with football scholarship offers from both Hampton and Southern Illinois. Known for his work from the wide receiver and cornerback positions, don't be surprised if the senior takes a few snaps at quarterback as well. Keith Allen and David Miller join Hall as key threats at wide receiver
Former conference foes in the Lake Erie League, Friday will mark the first matchup between Harding and Maple Heights on the gridiron since 2014, which resulted in a loss for the Raiders via forfeit. Prior to that, they outscored the Mustangs 62-32 in their 2012 and 2013 matchups. Back then, this year's groups of young men were in the midst of elementatry school, so the past won't be a factor in this one. After opening the season with double-digit losses to Akkron St. Vincent-St. Mary (35-8) and Cleveland Heights (41-26), the Mustangs couldn't have asked for a better response in their next five games as Washington's boys have dominated the competition. Of course, Harding has overcome their fair share of adversity as well this year, so look for both teams to scrap hard in what would be the signature win for either team to date this season.
Good luck Raiders!