Week full of Senior Bowl memories will last a lifetime | Opinion

Jun. 21—The sun has just crept beneath the tree line at Mayfield's Wildcat Stadium last Friday when the people started to filter out following the 2022 News-Herald Senior Bowl.

Clinging to one last moment of high school glory, players from both teams took time to pose for pictures with their family members, teammates — new and old — and to gaze across a high school football field one last time before moving on with the next steps of their lives.

When the participants of the Senior Bowl, proudly presented by Hooley House, exited the gates that night, they set their sights on their futures, some heading off to college, some to the work force, some to trade schools, etc.

But one thing all those boys had in common was that this night was their last night of playing high school football, representing themselves, their schools and their families.

Behind them on the scoreboard read the final score: White 23, Blue 20.

Everyone will remember the late go-ahead field goal by West Geauga's Joey DiLalla. The game-clinching strip-sack and fumble recovery South's Jayden Searcy will go down in Senior Bowl lore as the best — to date — ending to an NH Senior Bowl. Brandon Boyd's 79-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter and DiLalla's 69-yard punt enter the Senior Bowl record books, at least until someone else breaks those records down the road.

There are memories galore from the 2022 News-Herald Senior Bowl. But many weren't known to the public ...

Until now.

Memories such as:

—Benedictine's Derell Bedingfield Jr., a first-team All-Ohioan who signed with Toledo committing to and playing in the game.

Bedingfield has a full ride to play football in the Mid-American Conference. He's a first-team All-Ohio linebacker. He could have cruised through his June before departing for college in a few weeks, but told The News-Herald he wasn't selected for any other all-star game, so there was "no way" he was going to miss the one he was selected to play in.

—Speaking of college, West Geauga's Lucas Sadler missed a few days of practice while on orientation at Wisconsin-Whitewater. He hurried back early in the week to practice.

Upon walking into Wildcat Stadium, an onlooker looked at the chiseled 6-foot-4, 250-pound linebacker/defensive end and said, "Good lord. Where did you find this guy?"

Sadler told The News-Herald the day after the game, "I loved my teammates. If I could play in that game all over again today, I'd do it."

Oh, Sadler also skipped out of the Thursday night cookout, telling his coaches, "I can't. Gotta go to the gym and get a lift in."

—The fun being had by both teams at practice was a joy to watch.

After one Blue team practice, Ceejay Yarboro — a Benedictine alum headed to Walsh University — challenged coaches Mick Mohner and Keon Willis to a throwing contest. Mohner and Willis both threw between 50-55 yards, but Yarboro went 64 yards in the air.

"Well, yeah," Willis said, pointing to his braced leg to support his torn ACL, "you had two hours of practice to get loose, Ceejay!"

A day later, the White team ended with a best-of-three, 1-on-1 coverage drill. Euclid's Ken "Munchie" Brandon and Riverside's Dylan Simpson squared off. Both go about 6-4 and 300-plus. Simpson won with a pass breakup, setting off a wild celebration with teammates.

"Yeah that's my first PBU," Simpson said, "but I don't want to brag or anything."

—Harvey's Deuce Coffee and Fairport's Josiah Cooper are hilarious. Trust us on this one. They both work at Chipotle in Concord Township, which must be the must fun shift in that building.

Again, trust us.

—On the flip-side of comedy, kudos to the Benedictine players who missed a midweek practice to be with a friend who was hospitalized. The brotherhood of football goes way beyond the gridiron. The boys texted why they'd miss practice — to be with a hurt friend in need of their support.

—The specialists for both teams — DiLalla on the White team and Jake Hite on the Blue team — were told they didn't have to come to every minute of every practice all week because, well, the special teams portion of practices lasted 10 minutes. Fifteen at tops.

But both stayed every minute, working their craft on the side.

"I've wanted to play in this game since I saw the article about the game," Hite said. "I am not missing any of it."

—They didn't have to, but a handful of players, including Cardinal's Zach Czako, dressed up to come to the pregame dinner on Friday night.

—Kenston's JP Germano missed the final few playoff games for the Bombers this year with an ear injury. He was on the sideline watching the Bombers lose their playoff finale to Dover, 24-7, and thought he'd never play high school ball again.

Until the Senior Bowl came calling.

"I can't wait for this," said Germano, who will play college ball at John Carroll. "I didn't get to play my last game (at Kenston). I wanted this."

—Enough cannot be said about the contributions of presenting sponsor Hooley House, Bob Collins and his staff at Cleveland Clinic Sports Medicine, La Vera Party Center (for the pregame dinner), Zappitelli Financial for sponsoring shirts and the Mayfield crew that is headed by AD Keith Leffler and head football coach Ross Bandiera.

When contacted about the game, each responded, "Absolutely. What do you need?"

We, as a community, are blessed.

Full disclosure, The News-Herald Senior Bowl is an arduous task to put on. It gives a whole new perspective and appreciation to coaches and administrators — such as this year's Senior Bowl coaches Rossi Santo and Mohner — who go through this every year. Tasks such as uniform sizing, paperwork, practice times, food-gathering, weather concerns, etc.

Someone once asked me, "Man, why do you guys do this?"

When reminiscing about the memories of the week, the relationships that were forged, players exchanging contact information and posing for photos together after the game, the answer is simple.

Kampf can be reached via email at; On Twitter @NHPreps and @JKampf_NH