NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – The Niles McKinley High School football program has a storied tradition, dating all the way back to 1898. And even though there has been many accomplishments, one surprising thing has eluded the Red Dragons.
“Well, you know, one thing that has never happened here in the history of our program is to win a home playoff game,” says head coach Jim Parry.
That’s right, 122 years, zero home playoff wins.
“If you go into our locker room,” Parry says. “We have a timeline above our lockers that talks about all the great accomplishments dating back to 1898, to get one of those crowns up there that no one else has ever done, that is providing tremendous focus for us.”
“You know, this is our chance to put our name in the history books here at Niles,” senior quarterback Zack Leonard says. “We could really do something special and I think this group can do it.”
The Red Dragons will have their chance to make history Friday night as they host Ravenna in the first round of the OHSAA Division 3 playoffs. Niles is playing some of their best football of the season, winning three straight games.
“I think we are peaking at just the right time,” Leonard says. “You know, Coach Parry has been talking about we want to be peaking at Week 7 and that is right now and I think we are at that point.”
Leonard has paced the Red Dragons’ offense in those three-straight wins, racking up 11 touchdowns and averaging over 32 points per game in the three games. He could be a game-changer in the postseason.
“A player like that,” says senior wide receiver Alleni Fryer. “Him scrambling me getting open, any of us getting open really, making the play and that just gives us energy.”
“He has certainly done that for us this year and the last three years really,” Parry says. “But I will say beyond that, more importantly he brings everyone along with him. He is a great leader and our kids believe in him.”
He is such a good leader that he kept his promise on a little preseason bet.
“You know I promised the guys if we had a home playoff game, I would get a mullet for them,” Leonard says. “So I texted the group chat and the boys said yes so I went out and did it yesterday. I got a lot of mixed reactions. People are like, ‘what are you doing?’ but I like it so that is all that counts.”
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