Whitmer quarterback J.J. Fought grimaces after being pulled down from behind by Central Catholic's Josh Sinift on a third-down play in the first quarter.
In a postgame talk on the field at Whitmer Memorial Stadium after his team's 28-7 football victory over the host Panthers last night, Central Catholic coach Greg Dempsey warned his 3-0 Irish players about their next step Friday, calling Rogers' junior receiver/ back Fred Davis and his nine touchdowns in three games the “best player in northwest Ohio.''
As his head sank, Central's big-play senior wideout Ryne Robinson seemed a bit humbled or at least puzzled by the remark.
After all, Robinson is no slouch, and had just shown it once again with eight receptions for 177 yards and two TDs.
Dempsey made sure his own All-Ohio candidate knew he was appreciated afterward.
The third-year coach also understands that balance is the key to most successful offensive schemes, and senior Irish tailback Derek Barksdale did his usual share with 30 carries for 143 yards and Central's other two TDs.
He scored on runs of three yards in the second quarter for a 14-0 lead, and of 24 yards with 5:17 left in the third quarter for a 28-point lead, and has seven TDs this year.
“They make life tough on a defensive coordinator,'' Dempsey said. “If you cover Ryne with two guys, that leaves only seven guys in the box and Derek can do some things.''
Also pivotal in the Central formula was the time the offensive line gave sophomore quarterback Dan Amato (8-for-11 for 177 yards).
“He's a real poised kid,'' Dempsey said. “Usually you worry when you have a sophomore quarterback but he's very calm. He never gets too high or too low.''
Central's defense yielded yardage to Whitmer (1-2) and its sophomore quarterback, J.J. Fought (17-for-35, 253 yards), but kept the Panthers off the scoreboard until 3:39 remained in the game when Fought zipped an 11-yard TD pass to sophomore Kyle Andrews.
If one play can actually be seen as deciding a 28-7 contest, that play came 2:07 into the third quarter when Andrews appeared to score on a 29-yard TD pass from Fought. But Andrews was stripped of the ball just before crossing the goal line, and Central recovered in the end zone for a touchback.
“That was the biggest play of the game by far,'' Dempsey said. “They were really establishing something there, and I was worried about the first drive of the half. But the play's not over until the end, and our kids didn't give up. I wasn't happy with the drive, but I was happy with the technique there.''
One play later, Robinson made a fine, leaping grab near midfield, spun from the grasp of three potential Whitmer tacklers, and barely beat Panther speedster Chris Watkins to the end zone for an 82-yard TD.
“I was taught to protect myself in traffic,'' Robinson said of his escapability. “I just got my arms and head and shoulders down, made it through that tackle and took off. A lot of the stuff I did tonight I made up as I went along.
Robinson's other score came on a 22-yard toss from Amato on the first play of the second quarter.
“The big play was the strip,'' Whitmer coach Dan Fought said. “I'd love to see it on film because I hope to God he was in. But I trust the officials made the right call. That's a young mistake. You squeeze the ball, dive in the end zone and it's touchdown - 14-7 and we're back in it.
“There is no doubt [Robinson] is a great athlete, and our kids knew where he was at all times. But players make plays, and Robinson made plays tonight and we didn't. We blew a lot of tackles.''
Central held a 369-299 edge in total offense over Whitmer, which was without standout junior running back Edwin “Petey'' Hood (ankle sprain).
“It would've been nice to have Petey in the game, but he was at about 75 per cent and didn't practice all week,'' coach Fought said.