Once Side By Side, Former Shoremen Face Off in College Playoffs
Zach Murray and Sean McCann with both play in the second round FCS playoff game, against each other.
Friends and former Shoremen who used to spend time terrorizing the opposition for Avon Lake High School, will find themselves playing against each other on Saturday, Dec. 1 in an NCAA D-1AA football division playoff game.
Wofford College’s Zach Murray, a defensive end, will be playing against University of New Hampshire’s Sean McCann, a starting left tackle, with the game's winner advancing in the FCS tournament.
At Avon Lake High School they lined up side-by-side on the D line. The two, who became fast friends in high school lived right behind each other. In 2008, their friendship and "sacking power" were the subject of a Morning Journal story.
This weekend’s meeting marks a rare occasion when two former Avon Lake grads find themselves lining up on opposite sidelines as their college teams play in a second-round Football Championship Subdivision game.
The duo, both redshirted juniors, still keep in touch.
Contacted by phone, Murray said he sees McCann when they’re both back in Avon Lake.
“I’ll probably say ‘hi’ after the game,” Murray, an environmental studies major with plans to attend graduate school, said.
Although both schools are D-1AA, this marks the first time Wofford and UNH have played each other.
“I texted him when I found out we were playing them,” Murray said.
McCann said he learned the teams would square off last Sunday while watching the playoff selection show on ESPN.
"We all sit down and watch the show and when the brackets were announced, we cheered," McCann said. Then he realized they would be playing Wofford.
UNH, which plays in the Colonial Athletic Association, had been trounced 64-35 the week before by Towson and was not certain they would make the FCS playoffs.
“It was the Conference Championship game,” McCann said. “If we won we would have been outright champs. Now it’s a four-way tie.”
Wofford, which plays in the Southern Conference, ended its season 6-2 in a three-way conference tie.
The game will mark the first time Murray has played against a former Shoremen in college.
Several years ago McCann found himself playing Pittsburgh’s Dan Schneider at Heinz Field.
While the Southern Conference Terriers and the Wildcats battle to advance, Murray and McCann, both of whom play defense, likely will not be on the field at the same time unless it’s for special teams.
McCann and Murray
McCann, a mechanical engineering major, said the two haven’t seen each other play since high school and he expect to see Murray over college break if both are in town.
He expects to return to the Cleveland area and work with his dad’s welding company after graduation.
Murray is a 6-2, 245 lb. defensive end who was named to the Southern Conference Academic Honor Roll in 2010. At ALHS he was a three-year letterman on the defensive line for coach Dave Dlugosz.
Murray said his current coaches style are very similar to Dlugosz's.
"It's a very similar program to Avon Lake," Murray said. "The coaches have same mentality. Work hard and you get what you work for."
As a senior, Murray was named all-conference, all-county and second team all-district. As a high school junior he was all-conference and first team all-county with 47 tackles, six tackles for loss, twelve sacks and two fumble recoveries and was named one of the top 40 players in northeast Ohio by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
He is the son of Jack and Tracey Murray, who still live in Avon Lake.
McCann, a left tackle for the University of New Hampshire is now a 6-3, 277 lb. junior (redshirted as a freshman) majoring in mechanical engineering.
At ALHS he played defensive end for Dlugosz and recorded 86 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery during senior season and 130 tackles, 15 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, 5 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries in high school career. McCann, a former captain for the Shoremen, was named First-Team Southwestern Conference; First-Team All Lorain County and defensive lineman of the year; First-Team All District; Second-Team All State and voted team captain and team MVP by Shoremen teammates.
His parents are Matt McCann of Richfield, and Sue and Marty Diemer of Avon Lake.
Kickoff is 2 p.m. at Gibbs Stadium in Spartanburg, SC. The game will be televised on ESPN3.