MASSILLON, Ohio — The Central Catholic sideline thumped and howled while the other one quietly hoped.
In retrospect, Trotwood-Madison coach Maurice Douglass said he should have called for a punt. The defending state champion Rams faced fourth down at their own 44-yard line trailing by a touchdown with less than two minutes remaining in the first half.
But in the clutch of the moment, he was desperate for a show of life. All running back Israel Green — who had dashed for six touchdowns in the title game a year ago — and an offense that had not scored fewer than 27 points since September needed was two yards.
Douglass kept his offense on the field.
“It’s a big championship game,” said Central senior defensive tackle Jon Perrin, when asked if was surprised by the call. “Why not go for it?”
The Fighting Irish showed why.
Safety Jayme Thompson, junior cornerback Tejuan James, and linebacker Chris Green stopped Green for a two-yard loss. Six plays later, the Irish punctuated the half with a back-breaking touchdown.
"Beyond huge," Central coach Greg Dempsey said of the stand.
For all but the final, frantic minutes, it was that kind of night in Central’s 16-12 victory against Madison in Friday’s Division II state championship game at Paul Brown Stadium.
Adding a rich new chapter to Toledo high school football history, Central delivered the city of Toledo its fourth state championship since Ohio adopted a playoff system four decades ago with a defensive performance for the ages.
Through three quarters, the Irish did not once allow Madison past midfield and held the Rams to 44 yards of offense — including minus-one through the air — on 38 plays. Madison finished with 227 yards.
It was the ultimate team effort, with no Irish defenders piling up more than five tackles, but nine having more than two. Perrin and James had five stops, linebackers Paul Moses and Green had 4.5, and defensive end Keith Towbridge had four. Thompson, cornerback Derich Weiland, defensive end Jeffrey Dew, and safety Mitchell Cochell each added 2.5.
No big play in a night filled with them decided this one. But the game seemed to pivot on Madison’s fourth-down gamble at the end of the second quarter.
Punt the ball, and perhaps Central is content to enter halftime with a 7-0 lead. Fail to convert, and Central would undoubtedly want to make Madison pay.
Douglass owned the decision afterward.
“We should have punted,” he said. “I take responsibility as the head coach. I can man up and do that.”
Douglass added: “We only have two seniors on the offensive line and, experience-wise, we knew they were good on the defensive line. They had some good interior guys."
And some good edge guys. On the biggest defensive play of the game, every Irish defender seemed to be in on it.
"That was something we needed," Thompson said. "I missed a tackle before that, so I knew I had to come back with a better play. It was just punch, punch, punch, knock them down."
EXTRA POINTS: Among the college coaches in attendance included Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and defensive assistants Luke Fickell and Kerry Coombs. Thompson and Trotwood-Madison cornerback Cameron Burrows are both committed to Ohio State. … Will Toledo become the city of champions today? If Whitmer takes down Cincinnati Moeller in the Division I state title game, Toledo will become just the second city since 1990 to simultaneously claim state champions from the top two divisions. In 2007, Cincinnati St. Xavier won the Division 1 title and Cincinnati Anderson won in Division II. … Announced attendance was 4,899.
Contact David Briggs at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084, or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.