BROOKFIELD - Normally Randy Clark is a low-cut goatee guy.
Now, thanks to the Brookfield Warriors' 12-0 record, he looks like Grizzly Adams. The Warriors coach wouldn't mind if someone called him Abe Lincoln if it means that Brookfield can win three more games and capture the Division IV state football championship.
Clark began growing a beard last summer. When the season started and the Warriors began winning on a weekly basis, Clark's youngest son said there's no way he could shave the beard as long as the wins kept coming.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Brookfield coach Randy Clark, right, talks with lineman Gary Hiner during a game earlier this season. The Warriors take on Creston Norwayne, the defending Division IV champions, on Friday night.
That's exactly what happened, and now the Warriors are on the verge of winning the Region 13 championship. They can clinch that step on the road to the state title with a win over undefeated and defending Division IV state champion Creston Norwayne Friday at Stow-Munroe Falls High School.
The beard has turned into a source of pride for the players.
"They love it," Clark said. "They think it's great - 'Fear the Beard.' "
Linebacker-offensive lineman Tyler Miller calls Clark St. Nicholas. Perhaps Clark can deliver an early Christmas present with a win over Norwayne, which won its 10 regular-season games by an average score of 53-8.
The Bobcats have defeated West Salem Northwestern, 48-7, and Liberty, 54-7, in tournament action. Brookfield advanced with a 38-14 win over Ashtabula Edgewood and a 55-14 win over Manchester.
The Bobcats' offense is powered by quarterback Joe Dreher and running back Jon Zimmerly. Dreher had the difficult task of replacing Adam Wallace, who passed for 2,959 yards and was a threat as a runner last season. Dreher has surpassed Wallace's school-record for passing in a season with 3,182 and counting, and has thrown for 35 touchdowns.
"We thought he had great potential," Bobcats coach Joe Harbour said of Dreher. "He's probably exceeded our expectations in his first year as a varsity player. He's a pocket guy. We knew he had a lot of good talent around him. He has the ability to find the open guy, and, although he's not a scrambler, he scrambles not for yards but to keep plays alive."
Clark's mission defensively is to get after Dreher.
"For some reason teams in that area don't try to pressure the quarterback that much," Clark said. "They try to play pass defense and let the guy throw. We're going to go after him and put pressure on him."
The Bobcats can also strike on the ground. They're averaging 238.9 rushing yards a game and have scored 45 touchdowns. Zimmerly leads the way with 1,999 yards and 34 touchdowns.
The Warriors also have a potent one-two punch in quarterback Jeremy Quinlan and running back Ryan Mosora. Mosora has rushed for 2,039 yards, and Quinlan has added 1,180.
"They're more of a dual-threat this year," Harbour said. "They run the option a lot more. The quarterback was good last year, but he didn't run the option as well. The option makes them a two-headed monster and more dangerous."
The Bobcats defeated the Warriors, 42-7, in the first round of the tournament last season. Clark put up a sign with the score on it during offseason workouts as a reminder of this season's goal.
Clark has read and heard about how dominant the Bobcats have been this season. He figures that will make the Warriors even more determined to get the job done.
"It doesn't take much (to motivate them)," Clark said. "This week it will be pretty simple to get the kids ready to go. This has been on their minds for the last 12 months.
"Last year was the first time in 18 years that we were in the playoffs, and the kids were a little shell-shocked where we were at. Now after winning two games and getting this opportunity, you couldn't ask for anything better."
Considering how prolific both offenses have been Norwayne averages 52.5 points a game and Brookfield averages 55.7 a shootout appears to be in the works.
"Both defenses are underrated," Harbour said. "I think it (the score) could go either way. It could be explosive like last year against Kenston when we won the championship (48-42), or it could be a defensive battle. I can't imagine it being 7-0."
That's safe to say.