Central Catholic's DeShone Kizer gets past Mansfield Madison's Seth Gowitzka. Kizer has scored four TDs and passed for six in the playoffs.
The Blade/Andy Morrison
A year later, Central Catholic gets another shot at Avon.
The Irish (11-1) were knocked out of last year's Division II playoffs by the Eagles in a game Central players, coaches and fans won't soon forget.
In the 2011 regional semifinal at Fremont Ross, Central seemed somewhat in control after taking a seven-point lead at halftime.
But that game quickly spiraled out of control, as the Irish fell prey to Eagles quarterback Paul O'Rourke and wideout Matt Eckhardt.
All that duo did was connect for five touchdown passes (6, 8, 62, 83, and 45 yards) in a span of 12 minutes, 43 seconds in the third and fourth quarters, giving Avon a convincing 49-28 victory.
This time the teams meet in a regional final at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Clyde.
"Last year we were really mixing it up and moving the ball and then we kind of lost momentum going into halftime," 13th-year Central coach Greg Dempsey said.
"That stuck with me all year," Irish senior running back Amir Edwards said. "We were a young team last year, and we had to regroup after that."
The Eagles would then advance to the state championship game before falling 42-28 to Trotwood-Madison.
O'Rourke and Eckhardt have graduated, but the Eagles (11-1) still have Michigan-bound running back Ross Douglas, who has rushed 152 times for 1,280 yards and scored 24 touchdowns this season. Douglas also has 13 receptions for 107 yards.
After a 42-28 loss to Avon Lake in its opener, the Eagles have won 11 straight games. They average 386 yards of offense (182 passing) per game while giving up 214 (131 rushing) a contest.
Avon is outscoring foes 36-13 per game, and has advanced with playoff wins over Perrysburg (28-11) and Tiffin Columbian (24-14).
Quarterback David Zeh is 132-of-255 passing for 2,014 yards and 23 TDs with seven interceptions. His top targets are Ralph Smith (34 catches, 647 yards, 7 TDs), Braeden Friss (26-272, 5 TDs) and Rhys Fatino (24-419, 4 TDs).
"It's a different season, but their kids are obviously experienced in big games, going all the way to the state final last year," Dempsey said. "They have the size of a Division I team, and the depth of a Division I team.
"They've got playmakers — a kid going to Michigan at running back and a kid going to Ball State at wide receiver. They've reeled off 11 straight wins. They're a great football team."
The Irish counter with 6-foot-4, 205-pound junior quarterback DeShone Kizer, who has gotten off to a great start in the first halves of Central's playoff wins over Grafton Midview (50-7) and Mansfield Madison (45-7).
Against Midview, Kizer passed for four TDs and ran for two more, all in the first half as the Irish mounted a 43-0 lead.
Versus Madison, Kizer passed for two scores and ran for two while Central took a 28-7 lead at the break. That gave him six TD passes and four TD runs in a four-quarter span. For the season he is 87-of-133 passing for 1,355 yards and 16 TDs with one interception.
"The end was very shocking," Kizer said of last year' s game against Avon. "Going into the half we were pretty confident. Our defense was holding up. We knew Ross Douglas was a good running back, and we were stopping him.
"We figured we'd come out and use ball control and try to run Amir a bunch. Then they started passing the ball a lot. It put pressure on me [to answer], and I can't say that I was ready for it at the time."
Last Friday saw the return of Edwards, who sustained a concussion in the first quarter Oct. 26 against Whitmer, and was out of action for seven quarters.
Edwards has carried 191 times for 1,367 yards and scored 24 TDs, and has been complemented by junior running backs Paul Moses (76 carries, 582 yards, 13 TDs) and Cedric Gray (62 carries, 378 yards, 5 TDs).
Kizer's top targets are junior slot back Derich Weiland (29 catches, 436 yards, 9 TDs), and 6-5, 250-pound Louisville-bound tight end Keith Towbridge (18 catches, 241 yards, 5 TDs). Weiland and Towbridge each have three TD catches in the postseason thus far.
Central is averaging 395 yards of offense (280 rushing) per game, and is outscoring opponents 46-17 per contest.
The Irish defense has been led up front by tackle Jon Perrin (46 tackles) and end Towbridge (37 tackles), at linebacker by sophomore Chris Green (72 tackles) and Ian Butler (45 tackles), and in the secondary by Ohio State-bound Jayme Thompson (43 tackles, INT), senior Mitch Cochell (52 tackles), and Joe Solomon (4 INTs).
"It was real shocking," Perrin said of Avon's aerial attack last year. "Coming out of the first half we really thought we had them. When they switched it up and starting passing the ball, that really shocked us.
"Now we're ready for them. When need to play a whole game a show how much better to we've gotten."
The Avon defense has been paced in tackles by Kevin Skotko (97), Cory Ohradzansky (80), and Kevin Maloney (70), and in interceptions by Logan Juhl (4).
"What's been good is the attitude the kids have been bringing to practice, and it's been there the whole season," Dempsey said of his team. "They have a look in their eyes like they want it.
"I know that doesn't guarantee anything, but it means we've got guys who are locked in and focused on their goal."