ITCL foes unite for North-South

After spending four years battling each other in the trenches as opponents, Columbiana’s Mike Buzzard and South Range’s Garrett Sorley will be competing this weekend as teammates.

The two standout linemen will represent the Div. IV-VII North team in the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association North-South Classic at 11 a.m. Saturday at Welcome Stadium in Dayton.

“It’s definitely a little different,” Sorley said. “He’s somebody I’ve been competing hard with since junior high and now at the end of our careers we are all of a sudden on the same team. It’s been fun.”

Sorley and Buzzard are sharing a car down to Dayton together this weekend. They have also traveled to practice sessions the last few weeks with Josh McDade and Collin Gilbert from Crestview. A chunk of the time has been passed recounting their careers and past games as members of the Inter-Tri County League upper tier.

“We’ve talked a lot about our seasons and some of the teams and players we played against,” Buzzard said. “It’s fun because we’ve been rivals during our careers, but still gotten along off the field. I’m glad they are on my team now.”

For his part, Sorley-an offensive tackle-is also glad he doesn’t have to line up against Buzzard-primarily a defensive end-this weekend.

“Mike (Buzzard) was one of the toughest guys I ever had to block,” Sorley said. “We had some good battles with each other.”

Though they did not play the highest profile positions on the field, Buzzard and Sorely helped dictate the tempo on both sides of the line of scrimmage-where games are often won or lost. They were both considered indispensable parts of their respective teams.

Buzzard helped anchor the Clipper defense from his first start as a freshman.

“Mike was one of the best we’ve ever had here at Columbiana,” Columbiana coach Bob Spaite said. “He would have started on any team I’ve ever coached. We are going to have a very tough time replacing him.”

Sorley was a vital cog in the Raiders return to the top of the ITCL upper tier last fall, helping pave the way for a talented stable of backs that rushed for 2,972 yards.

“Garrett was very strong, but also had a lot of quickness for a tackle,” South Range coach Dan Yeagley said. “That combination served him very well. He got out and set the edge in the running game very well.”

Both players-while enjoying considerable success on the field-also took lessons from the game that will serve them well off the field.

Sorley already had a number of starts under his belt as a sophomore before he was sideswiped by a torn ACL. He endured a painful rehab and admittedly did not regain full strength until this past season.

“I tried playing a couple games after I tore it but the pain was too great,” Sorley said. “Rehab took a very long time. Even though I came back my junior year, I never really felt 100 perecent. The trust in my knee wasn’t there. I felt like I got a lot better this past year, it was great because our whole team really clicked this year.”

Buzzard, who is planning to play college football at Ashland, saw his team struggle during his last two years, as the Clippers struggled to a combined 7-13 record. However, he said that he discovered that there was more to the game than wins and losses.

“Coming in and starting as a freshman, I didn’t really know what to expect, but it turned out great for me,” Buzzard said. “I learned a lot about football from coach Spaite and the other coaches. I learned a lot of things about life too, about how to conduct yourself and respect other people.”