Two years ago, it was St. Francis de Sales that matched up with Ohio s top-ranked Division II football team in the playoffs, and the Knights steamrolled the Avon Lake Shoremen 40-13 in the regional final at Huron en route to winning a state championship.
This year, it is Maumee s turn to take on a No. 1-rated Avon Lake squad, although the task seems much more difficult for the 9-2 Panthers of coach John Boles at 7:30 tonight at Fremont s Harmon Stadium.
First and foremost, the 11-0 Shoreman have a stout defense which proved its worth in last week s 14-3 first-round win over Ashland by limiting all-district Arrows running back Nate Summerfield to 85 yards, 100 below his per-game average.
On offense, Avon Lake features a balanced attack led by quarterback Kyle Booher (1,700-plus passing yards), and running back Jon Schroeder (1,800-plus rushing yards, 27 touchdowns).
This overall success has Boles struggling to find the right game plan to attack the Shoremen.
“I don t see a weakness,” Boles admitted. “They re obviously a good team and they have an excellent program. They re big and they try to dominate you, physically, on both sides. On offense, they are very run-oriented, and they can take it inside or outside. Plus, they are big and strong up front and they move well.”
Boles feels for his team to execute its offense effectively, the Panthers must find a run-pass balance that works, something that hinges on their ability to move on the ground.
Running back Joe Incorvaia is Maumee s top rusher with 699 yards, quarterback Greg Giddens has completed 84 of 174 passes for 1,256 yards and 11 TDs with eight interceptions, and Chris Fleig is the top receiver with 33 catches for 495 yards.
BEST IN NORTHWEST: The weekend s top playoff matchup from a northwest Ohio perspective also comes in Division II tonight at 7:30, when third-ranked Southview (11-0) battles Defiance (9-2) at Donnell Stadium in Findlay.
The potent Southview offense, led by D-II district offensive player of the year Kelley Rowe, will find perhaps its toughest challenge of the season against the Bulldogs, who have yielded fewer than 200 yards per game, including just 58 a contest on the ground.
That defense is anchored by the strong and agile 5-11, 340-pound senior nose tackle Dan Orta, the D-II defensive player of the year. Senior linebacker Mitch Waxler is the top tackler with 77.
Rowe - an elusive and multi-skilled senior quarterback who passed for 2,525 yards and 22 TDs, plus ran for 861 yards and 15 TDs - kept up that impressive pace in last week s 48-28 first-round win over NLL rival Anthony Wayne, exactly doubling their 24-14 regular-season outcome.
Junior receiver Aaron Waldie, who had 52 catches for 1,126 yards and 13 TDs, has been Rowe s top target. Back Eric Thompson has improved rapidly throughout the season to add another rushing threat for the Cougars.
Defiance is led offensively by junior all-district running back Robert Orta (Dan s brother), who has rushed 267 times for 1,713 yards and scored 19 TDs. Senior quarterback Austin Keel, a third-year starter, has completed 104 of 209 passes for 1,281 yards and 12 TDs with five interceptions. L.J. Helton is the top receiver with 60 catches for 900 yards and seven TDs.
NORTHEASTERN KNIGHTS: In a Division I contest tomorrow night at Daniel Stadium in Lorain, St. John s Jesuit (8-3) of the City League looks to advance beyond the first round for the first time in its matchup with 10-1 Brunswick, which last week eliminated St. John s rival and CL champion St. Francis by a 10-7 count in overtime.
The Blue Devils are led offensively by back Joe Francescangeli (159 rushes, 1,073 yards, 13 TDs) and quarterback Kevin Hradek (441 passing yards, 659 rushing).
In Brunswick, a Cleveland suburb, Titan coach Doug Pearson actually sees a lot of St. Francis.
“They re very much like a good Dick Cromwell team,” Pearson said, “with the big linemen [254-pound average] and the fact that they like to punish you with the iso [run play].
“The key for us is we have to do what we do best, and that s control the football, not turn it over, and play good defense. We have to fly to the football.”
St. John s attack is paced by junior backs Dorian Milletti (217 carries, 1,157 yards, 11 TDs) and Marcus Waugh (167 carries, 897 yards, 12 TDs) and senior quarterback Mickey Cassidy (68 of 124 passing, 1,032 yards, 11 TDs). The big and powerful Titan offensive line is anchored by 6-4, 284-pound district lineman of the year Andrew Decker.
DIVISION IV: At Lima Senior Stadium tomorrow at 7 p.m., ninth-ranked Delta (10-1), the NWOAL runner-up, meets 10th-ranked Urbana (10-1) of the Central Buckeye Conference northeast of Dayton.
The Panthers of coach Mike Vicars, appearing in the playoffs for the fourth straight year, are looking to go beyond the second round for the first time. Junior running back Nate Kmic (1,350 rushing yards, 29 TDs) is the focus of the Urbana defense, but junior quarterback Ryan Vicars (45 of 82, 1,015 yards, 12 TDs) adds a threat with his timely if infrequent connections to senior receiver Glen Borck (21 catches, 712 yards, 11 TDs).
The Hillclimbers, who feature a spread offense, are paced by quarterback Justin Hart, who has passed and run for more than 1,100 yards each. His main receiver is Scott Peterson (43 catches, 850 yards).
DIVISION V: NWOAL champion Patrick Henry (10-1), ranked 10th, puts its 10-game winning streak on the line against Lorain Clearview at 7:30 tonight at Frost-Kalnow Stadium in Tiffin.
The well-balanced Patriots have a three-pronged attack triggered by senior quarterback Trent Meyer, who passed for 2,215 yards and 19 TDs during the regular season. Meyer has several able receivers, but the go-to guy is 6-2, 190-pound sophomore Marc Krauss, who grabbed 52 passes for 1,251 yards and scored 15 TDs. On the ground, Pats senior Chris Tietje has turned in back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
At Lima Bath Stadium tonight, D-V district offensive player of the year Kyle Rhoad, who accounted for 3,331 total yards and had a hand in 37 TDs during the regular season, leads his SLL-co-champion Elmwood Royals (8-3) against perennial state small-school power Delphos St. John s (9-2).
The Blue Jays - who have reached the playoffs eight times (all since 1991) and won three straight state championships (1997-99) - are led by running back Matt Shumaker, who rushed for 1,553 yards and 26 TDs during the regular season, and by 6-4, 260-pound district lineman of the year Nick Mox.
DIVISION VI: TAAC champion Northwood (9-2) has the unenviable task of taking on top-ranked Columbus Grove (11-0) at 7 tomorrow night at Napoleon.
The unbeaten Bulldogs, state semifinalists the past two years, have outscored the opposition 443 to 73 in 11 games, including a 52-6 pounding of Hicksville last Saturday. They are led by district offensive player of the year Blaine Maag, a 6-1, 185-pound junior back who rushed 212 times for 1,731 yards and 31 TDs.
Elsewhere, a league-champion showdown takes place at Fostoria Memorial Stadium, where Blanchard Valley Conference co-champion Cory-Rawson (10-1) meets Midland Athletic League tri-champion Carey (8-2).
MICHIGAN: In a Division 6 second-round matchup at Navarre Field in Monroe, host St. Mary Catholic Central (8-2), a playoff regular over the years, takes on postseason rookie Blissfield (8-2) tonight at 7:30.
The Falcons of coach Jack Giarmo have not taken flight much this season, relying instead on a 367-yards-per-game rushing attack paced by senior backs Andy Flint (721 yards) and Bill Bacarella (689), and junior quarterback Kris Fanslaw (635), who has completed just 8 of 16 passes all season for 202 yards.
The SMCC defense is led by senior linebacker John Reilly and junior DB Nick Jordan.
The Blissfield Royals of coach Ron Estes aren t much different in that regard, as junior QB Chris Saylor (33 of 62) passed for just 659 yards and six TDs. The Royal run game is paced by junior Justin Wilson (692 yards) and Dustin Gardner (621).
Blissfield s other top players are senior all-leaguers Zach Benko, Bobby Love and Jesse Sieler.
“We re not going to trick each other much,” Giarmo said. “We re going to have to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball because Blissfield is big up front.”
Erie Mason (10-0) looks to stay unbeaten in a D-5 road game against 9-1 Detroit Crockett. Junior quarterback Aaron Roelfs and senior back Jared England lead the Eagles potent offense as Mason shoots for a second straight quarterfinal advancement. The Eagles 11-1 season last year ended with a 28-12 loss to Detroit Country Day.
In Division 2, Adrian (10-0) travels to face fellow unbeaten Novi (10-0) tonight at 7:30. The Maples are led by seniors Tom Molter, Mike Jennings, Matt Vanover and D.J. Howard.