By JOHN BASSETTI
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
HE INFLUX OF THE O’BRIEN BROTHERS
to Brookfield from Kennedy Catholic has been a boon for the Warriors, who enter Friday’s game against Lakeview with a 4-1 record.
“They’ve been a great addition to the team,” Brookfield coach Randy Clark said.
The O’Briens, along with Corey and Cody Blake, both linemen who came to the school from Kennedy Catholic, provided four instant starter for the Warriors, the only Division V school in the Trumbull Athletic Conference.
“That helped immensely and, along with a good senior class and supporting cast, it’s working out pretty well,” Clark said.
Recovered from injury
Mack O’Brien has 449 yards on 51 carries, despite missing the season opener. The tailback made his return to the field following a six-week recuperation for a serious pancreas injury that occurred during a 7-on-7 passing scrimmage in July.
“Someone’s knee to my stomach smashed my pancreas against my spine and cut it in half,” said O’Brien. “It went through the abdominal wall. That’s what took six weeks to heal.”
Clark said O’Brien had 30 percent of his internal organ removed after being rushed by ambulance to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.
“I couldn’t drink for eight days and couldn’t eat for nine,” said O’Brien, who still hasn’t regained all 18 pounds he lost since the surgery.
“I’ve got to put some of weight back and increase my stamina,” said Mack, whose 5-foot-8, 150-pound frame should be 160-ish.
In his first appearance for the Warriors, against Jackson-Milton, Mack O’Brien ran eight times for 88 yards. He also made three extra-point kicks in the 23-0 victory.
“That was pretty sweet because I didn’t think I would play this season,” he said.
Big game against Tigers
In a 28-14 win over Newton Falls last week — technically, his first start — the junior rushed 22 times for 233 yards.
“I would have had over 300, but a 70-yard run was called back,” said Mack, who is most productive on outside runs out of Brookfield’s spread offense. His backfield companions include Grant Rogers, Mike Bender and freshman Denny Sulick (24 attempts, 172 yards).
“We got a lot of talent, we just can’t beat ourselves with turnovers and penalties,” Mack O’Brien said. “Girard was a solid team, but we had 120 yards in penalties and some turnovers. We can’t keep shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Brookfield’s other wins were against Conneaut and Jefferson Area. The Warriors were blanked by Girard, 23-0.
In their next Trumbull Athletic Conference clash, the Warriors are in a situation similar to last year’s.
“This is deja vu,” Clark said. “We were 4-1 going into this game last year and beat Lakeview in double overtime. Then, the wheels fell off,” the coach said of 25 turnovers in Brookfield’s last four games, all losses.
“This year, Lakeview has a very nice team and this is a very big game for us. We’re 13th or 14th in our [computer] region, but this game could put us over the top.”
Switched to receiver
Devin O’Brien, who said he didn’t play football until he was a sophomore, started the first four games as quarterback, then moved to the slotback/wide receiver positions.
Dave Nehlen, Brookfield’s starting QB the last two years, is back at the helm.
“It worked out well where they played,” Clark said of the switch and subsequent results of the Newton Falls game. “For now, Nehlen is our man.”
Nehlen gained 50 yards on 13 carries and scored two touchdowns against Newton Falls and completed 10 of 19 passes for 143 yards and one TD.
Devin’s talent was utilized as the 6-foot, 170-pound senior caught a TD pass.
“It wasn’t very hard to teach him the routes or the plays because he was our quarterback,” Clark said of Devin O’Brien. “He just had to adjust to being a receiver. He already knew what [players in] those positions had to do.”
In his first four games as quarterback, Devin completed 12 of 34 passes for 197 yards and ran 55 times for 190 yards.
As a receiver, he has three catches for 40 yards. Brookfield’s top receivers are A.K. Livingston (14 catches, 261 yards) and Nehlen (5 catches, 128 yards).
Devin also plays a big role on defense as strong safety. He has eight solo tackles and four assists.
Upon self-inspection, Devin is satisfied with his performance so far, but there’s more ahead.
“We’ve got a lot of games left and a lot of opportunities to do pretty good,” he said.
Corey Blake has 24 total tackles, while Cody Blake has 16 solos and one assist for 17 total.