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    Blue Devils close out second straight unbeaten season


    Independence closed out the regular season with a 4-0 win at Lutheran West on Saturday.

    With the win, the Blue Devils closed out their second straight undefeated regular season and extended their unbeaten streak to 47 straight games. Independence has won 36 straight regular season games dating back to 2016.

    “It has been a pleasure to coach these two very special teams in back-to-back undefeated regular seasons,” said Independence coach Ryan MacRaild. “We have had ups and downs, but the focus and work it has taken to accomplish this is a testament to these athletes’ determination and drive. It is a great accomplishment but we have more goals to obtain.”

    Sam Belitz led the Blue Devils with three goals and Casey McGhee added one. Elek McDonald recorded and assist in the win.

    Kral set up the first goal with a long throw-in. Belitz worked his way around the congestion then buried his shot into the back of the net. Belitz stole a Lutheran West pass then beat the goalkeeper one-on-one to score his second goal of the game.

    Belitz again used his speed and foot skills to score his third goal of the game.

    “I completed the hat trick tonight with a quick run through three or four guys,” Belitz said. “Their defense was tired at that point so it made for an opportune moment to test them. It didn’t go so well for the Longhorn defenders on that play.”

    Ethan Manelski recorded three saves in notching his 10th clean sheet of the season.

    “Our defensive line has been fantastic and is getting better as the season progresses,” Belitz said. “Kyle Streibel is a quality sweeper. He has speed, defensive awareness, composure and the ability to find a good pass out of the back line. Jimmy Senick can take great players completely out of the game with his man-marking. Joe Wisniewski and Andre Yost rotate for each other in the right back position and do a solid job snuffing attacks out and serving diagonal balls. Finally, the freshman Emmett Stralka starts on the left side. He chases down wingers in a way I’ve only ever seen out of Jared McCullough before; he’s developing into a force to be truly reckoned with.”

    Independence enters the postseason as the No. 1 seed in the Division III Elyria District tournament.

    “Going undefeated in back-to-back seasons shows our team’s continued commitment to winning and excellence. It’s a nice way to cap off the regular season of my senior year,” Belitz said. “We have to sort of hit the reset button now and focus on each playoff game as it comes. Obviously, now it’s one loss and you go home, so our focus has to reset as well. Every team is fighting to keep their season going now. We need to also find a resurgence in intensity that may have been lacking as the regular season came to a close.”

    Steve Hare
    The creator and publisher of, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for, a member of the network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. was created in 2004 and was a member of the network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.
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