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Central Catholic made its first 20 points look easy against rival St. John's Jesuit in the City League opener for both teams last night at the University of Toledo's Glass Bowl.
But what the Fighting Irish got the rest of the game was a lesson in old-fashion, black-and-blue, smash-mouth football as the Titans (2-2) rallied from a two-touchdown deficit to win 21-20.
There was nothing complicated about how St. John's slowly turned the tables on Central (1-3). It was even pretty easy to figure out that tailback Dorian Milletti was going to get the ball.
Stopping it was a completely different story.
Milletti pushed and bruised his way for 170 yards on 35 carries and a TD, before developing cramps on the Titans' game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. Titan Marcus Waugh, all 235 pounds of him, added 75 yards on 18 carries, when Milletti needed a spell or diversion.
“Dorian is a tough, tough kid and he just kept at it,” said St. John's coach Doug Pearson. “Marcus was very consistent for us and stepped right in there and made big plays for us.”
Quarterback Mike Cassidy rushed for 17 yards, but two of those yards were the game's biggest on two fourth-quarter quarterback sneaks. After Milletti and Waugh set up the final drive with runs of 25 and 19 yards, respectively, Cassidy converted a fourth-and-one on the Irish 5.
Three plays later, Cassidy scored on another quarterback sneak with 2:30 left in the game. His extra-point gave St. John's the advantage it needed.
Central Catholic's Dan Amato went five-for-five in the opening Irish drive, hitting Dustin Dauer on a five-yard touchdown pass with 8:22 left in the first quarter to take an early lead.
But Amato's point-after attempt hit the left crossbar and bounced back onto the field of play. It didn't look like it would matter on St. John's next series as Dauer intercepted Cassidy at the Titans 32 and returned it to the 3.
On the next play, Amato found Tony Howell for a three-yard TD pass to increase the Irish lead to 13-0.
St. John's then started feeding Central heavy doses of Milletti, as the tailback carried the ball on all six of the Titans' plays, scoring on a 24-yard run where he broke several tackles and trimming the lead to 13-7.
The Irish, though, marched right back down, sparked by a 21-yard run by Howell (7 carries, 79 yards) and a 17-yard gallop by Nick Boyle. Amato found Dauer for 19 more to the St. John's 9 and Boyle scored two plays later with 1:23 left in the first quarter for a 20-7 lead.
The Titans ran 7:47 off the clock on a 21-play drive that died at the Irish 15, but it proved to change the tide.
After the Irish failed to move the football deep on its end of the field, St. John's drove 40 yards for its second TD, ending with Cassidy's 5-yard TD pass to Mike Floyd, getting the Titans back in the game.
“I thought we lost our intensity,” Central coach Greg Dempsey said. “Teams have [moved the ball on the ground] on us all year. We were actually a little better today, but not good enough to beat a quality team like St. John's. We don't have that killer instinct yet, but I know we will develop it soon.”