LIBERTY - It didn't matter that there was 35 years of coaching experience at their respective schools for coaches Tony Napolet (John F. Kennedy) and Jeff Whittaker (Liberty).
Regardless of their backgrounds, neither was exactly sure what to expect from his team during a scrimmage on Aug. 21. Part of what created the unknown for the two coaches was that this wasn't any normal scrimmage.
The teams treated the matchup like a regular-season game, with kickoffs, referees, first downs, regular clock stoppages and a full halftime.
Both coaches came out of the scrimmage cautiously optimistic after each team showed positive signs - and a few negative ones - as the regular season approaches.
Napolet was especially pleased with the play of quarterback Anthony Angelo. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior threw the ball extremely well, tossing two touchdown passes and displaying precise accuracy on numerous throws.
''He's had a nice preseason,'' said Napolet, now entering his 20th season as Kennedy's coach. ''He's worked hard, and he's got some nice receivers to throw to. But you can't just throw it. We did a nice job throwing the ball, but we did a horrible job running the ball''
Sept. 4Niles7 p.m.
Sept. 11at Campbell7 p.m.
Sept. 18Struthers7 p.m.
Sept. 25at Salem7 p.m.
Oct. 2at Champion7 p.m.
Oct. 9Lakeview7 p.m.
Oct. 16at Hubbard7 p.m.
Oct. 23at Howland7 p.m.
Oct. 30Girard7 p.m.
2008 results - 8-3
Aug. 21at BrookfieldW, 56-21
Aug. 29NilesW, 48-9
Sept. 5CampbellW, 40-13
Sept. 12at StruthersW, 32-14
Sept. 19SalemW, 42-7
Sept. 26ChampionW, 35-0
Oct. 3at LakeviewW, 20-16
Oct. 10HubbardW, 33-28
Oct. 17HowlandL, 6-10
Oct. 24at GirardL, 22-36
Nov. 1Chagrin FallsL, 0-21
italics denote playoff games
Angelo is in his first year as starting quarterback, but he didn't play like it on Aug. 21. Both of his TD passes came in the second quarter after Liberty took a 7-0 lead. His first TD pass was on a fourth-and-4 play from the 10-yard line. He rolled to his right and floated a pass to Colin Smedi. The 6-2 senior leaped up and grabbed the ball just before a defender came flying in to try to swipe it away.
After a slow start, Angelo and the receivers showed a good rapport as most of his passes were on target, and when they weren't, the receivers made nice catches.
''Things really came together today,'' Angelo said. ''Last year it didn't seem like we really helped each other out. The offense didn't help the defense and the defense didn't help the offense. That's something that we've lacked, but this year I think that's going to change.''
His next touchdown pass came after the teams traded turnovers - Kennedy fumbled a punt and Liberty threw an interception on the next play. Angelo directed the Eagles to the Liberty 23-yard line with 10 seconds remaining in the first half. On third-and-7, he threw near-perfect post pass to junior receiver Carl Broadbent. Broadbent made a nice play by jumping up and catching the pass in traffic and was able to hang on despite being hit by two players.
''That post was on the money,'' Napolet said. ''We saw (the post). The defensive back was playing off and he was giving up the inside. So we told (Angelo) to look for the back-side post.''
The Eagles weren't the only team whose young players did well. Liberty had a slew of running backs who demonstrated a good combination of size, speed and strength. The Leopards started the scoring with a 35-yard touchdown run by Charles Perdue. He darted up the middle and then cut outside untouched into the end zone. He, along with Brandon Martin, Robert Smith-Harris, Antonio Kinard and Nico Minniti all had gained positive yardage for Liberty.
''We're excited about all our running backs,'' said Whittaker, who's in his 15th year with the Leopards. ''Charles is a little green back there right now. He's got a lot of athletic skill, there's no doubt about that. They all offer something different and I like the idea of having fresh running backs.''
The Leopards' defense, which was especially tough against the run, also played well at times. Kennedy gained very little - if any - yardage on the ground. Returning inside linebackers Kinard and Anthony Guiterrez were solid, and the defensive line wreaked havoc by penetrating the line of scrimmage and disrupting the Eagles' run game.
''There was too much confusion with formations and personnel wise,'' Napolet said. ''And we didn't block for (crap). There's a lot of room for improvement.''
Similar to Liberty, Kennedy's defense also played well. The Eagles had three sacks and several other plays in which they stopped Liberty running backs well behind the line of scrimmage. It was their special teams that put the game out of reach. Broadbent returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. He broke a tackle and darted down the sideline to put Kennedy up, 21-7.