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Published: 11/17/2010

Whitmer, St. John's revved up for a rematch

Junior Kent Kern leads St. John's rushing attack with 1,010 yards and 12 touchdowns. Junior Kent Kern leads St. John's rushing attack with 1,010 yards and 12 touchdowns.
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Whitmer sophomore Tre Sterritt has rushed for 958 yards and scored 18 touchdowns.
Whitmer sophomore Tre Sterritt has rushed for 958 yards and scored 18 touchdowns.
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Palka
Palka
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Pearson
Pearson
JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge
Titans sophomore QB Brogan Roback has thrown for 1,924 yards and 25 touchdowns. Titans sophomore QB Brogan Roback has thrown for 1,924 yards and 25 touchdowns.
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From a historical standpoint, this 7 p.m. clash at Bowling Green State University's Perry Stadium represents the first time in the 39 years of the Ohio playoffs that two Toledo teams will meet for a chance to reach the state semifinals.

It will be the last Whitmer-St. John's football meeting for the two schools as members of the City League, as both join the new Three Rivers Athletic Conference next fall along with current CL members Central Catholic and Clay, and current Greater Buckeye Conference entries Findlay, Fremont Ross, and Lima Senior.

This game will include one of the deepest collection of football talent that two CL playoff combatants have produced from the standpoint of college football prospects.

“It's great to see two City League teams battling for the regional title,” Whitmer coach Joe Palka said. “It's one of the marquee games in Ohio this week, and it's going to be played right here in northwest Ohio.

“It's testament to both programs having two Toledo teams playing in a regional final,” St. John's coach Doug Pearson said. “When you think about our region, over the years it's usually always been a Massillon or a Canton McKinley or a Warren Harding, a storied program.

Whitmer advanced to this stage with a 28-24 first-round win over visiting Massillon Washington, and last Saturday's 35-14 regional semifinal win over Twinsburg at Ashland.

The Titans made it by beating Fremont Ross 45-35 in the first round, and topping Medina 24-6 last Saturday at Huron.

Saturday's game will be a rematch of the Sept. 24 clash which ultimately decided the City championship, an eye-opening 49-24 victory by the host Panthers over St. John's in which Whitmer dominated throughout, and owned a 514-295 edge in offensive yardage.

Panther junior running back Jody Webb emerged as a league star that night, carrying 17 times for 210 yards and scoring on runs of 41, 16, and 69 yards. He is the nephew of Chuck Webb, the former Macomber and University of Tennessee star, considered by many as Toledo's best running back.

“Our focus will be very good this week, and I don't think we'll have any problem motivating the kids,” Pearson said. “They know what we need to do to win the game against a very good Whitmer team.

“That [Sept. 24] game was really good for us because, No. 1, it showed us we weren't as good as we thought we were and, No. 2, it made our kids and our coaches work harder.”

On the flip side, Palka is well aware of the dangers of complacency or overconfidence in a rematch game for the team which won the first meeting.

“We're treating it almost as if it's a new opponent,” Palka said. “We're really focusing on what they've done since they played us. It is mentally tougher to be in our shoes than to be in their shoes, but the sign of a mentally tough team is being able to beat a good team twice in the same year.

“We talk all year about a nameless, faceless opponent, and it's just all about getting better the next week. It happens to be St. John's, but it's not the same St. John's team that we saw seven weeks ago. They were a great team then, and they're an even better team now.”

The speedy and elusive 5-9, 160-pound Webb (154 carries, 1,502 yards, 23 touchdowns) is just one of several top talents who will suit up for this big clash.

Senior teammate Kenny Hayes, a 6-6, 255-pound senior defensive end (56 tackles, six sacks), is an All-Ohio player committed to Ohio State.

“They've gotten better, and we've gotten better also,” Hayes said. “It's going to be a battle, but we feel we're going to come out with the win.

“We need to come out playing aggressive, and we have to do what we need to do to win.

“Our team doesn't give up. We play to win every game. I just try to get better every week so that we can keep playing.”

At the other defensive end is top college recruit Chris Wormley, a 6-7, 265-pounder junior (70 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 12 sacks). Between them is talented tackle Andrew Maciolek (6-0, 240; 85 tackles), and behind them are superb junior linebacker Jamar Ridley (5-11, 220; team-highs of 97 tackles and 18 tackles for loss), and standout junior defensive back Mark Meyers (6-1, 177; 92 tackles, four interceptions).

On offense for the Panthers are senior lineman Chris Reaper (6-5, 250), Webb's backfield mate sophomore Tre Sterritt (141 carries, 958 yards, 18 TDs,), senior quarterback Alex Palicki (119 of 202 passing, 1,599 yards, 14 TDs), and receivers Alonzo Lucas (junior, 38 catches, 393 yards) and Nigel Hayes (6-7, 215, sophomore; 20 catches, 290 yards, five TDs)

“We're not worried about [the historical aspect of the game],” Palicki said. “We're just worrying about getting that next W.

“I can't wait. Saturday night can't come fast enough. I think our coaches will prepare us the right way, and we just have to have a good week of practice. That will take care of us for the game Saturday.”

For the Titans, there is University of Michigan bound two-way lineman Jack Miller (6-4, 275; 59 tackles, 22 TFL, nine sacks), City League player of the year Cheatham Norrils, a senior receiver/defensive back (5-11, 175; 51 catches, 1,007 yards, 14 total TDs, eight INTs) who was a first-team All-Ohioan on defense in 2009, and a third dominant two-way player, junior running back/linebacker Kent Kern (6-1, 215; 147 carries, 1,010 yards, 12 TDs, 85 tackles, five sacks).

“Even though we're only 16, 17, 18-year-old kids,” Miller said, “we kind of know what this means in the big picture [of Toledo football history]. For us seniors, this is our last year and it's the last year of the City League [for St. John's, Whitmer and others]. On so many different levels, this game is very meaningful.”

“We're really happy to get this second chance,” Kern said.

“It was our only blemish on the whole season, and since week five we've wanted another crack at them.

“It's something we knew could possibly happen as long as we won out, and we did what we had to do to get another shot.”

St. John's also features standout players like senior running back/defensive back Nate White (128 carries, 1,026 yards, 13 TDs), senior tight end/defensive end Zach Steinmetz (6-4, 235; 20 caches, 303 yards, four TDs), senior linebacker Jake Pennese (106 tackles), who is the school's career tackles leader (278), and junior placekicker/punter Brandon Smith (10 field goals, 49 PATs, 39.7-yard punting average).

Sophomore quarterback Brogan Roback, who led the City League in passing this season, has completed 101 of 184 passes for 1,924 yards and 25 TDs.

Contact Steve Junga at:sjunga@theblade.comor 419-724-6461.



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