It took 23 years, but Central Catholic can once again claim the title of City League football champion.
The Fighting Irish (9-1, 7-0 CL) turned a 5-0 advantage in turnovers into a 27-21 victory over St. John's Jesuit last night before a crowd of more than 4,000 fans at the Glass Bowl,
securing their first crown since 1982 and ninth overall.
"We've been waiting a long time for this," said sixth-year Central coach Greg Dempsey, a 1990 graduate and former Irish player. "It's been a personal goal of mine, and what these kids did tonight was just phenomenal."
Central grabbed the game's momentum midway in the first half, turning three Titan giveaways into three second-quarter touchdowns.
A fourth St. John's turnover late in the half, with the Titans (8-2, 5-2) driving toward a score, enabled the Irish to take a 21-7 lead to the break.
"Turnovers are usually the name of the game when two good teams face off," Dempsey said. "And, when you capitalize on them, it's even bigger. Our kids did a great job of doing that."
Finally, with St. John's in position to right all of its wrongs in the closing minutes, an interception (of Titan QB Sean Patterson) by Irish defensive back/quarterback Kevin Jansen all but killed the Titans' comeback bid.
"That was a great feeling," Jansen said. "I hadn't had an interception all year. I really wanted to get one so that everybody would quit making fun of me.
"He rolled right and came back to the left. His receiver broke on it, and I was just lucky enough to be able to jump in front."
St. John's final possession ended with 0:57 left on Patterson's incompletion on fourth-and-30 from his 3.
Jansen completed 8 of 15 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns, complementing tailback Chris Willis, who carried 34 times for 103 yards and a TD.
"We really capitalized on those turnovers," Willis said. "They coughed the ball up, and we punched numbers up."
Central thus holds its No. 2 spot in the Division II,
Region 6 computer rankings and the 11th-ranked Irish will host a first-round playoff game in Toledo on Friday.
St. John's, ranked 10th in the Division I state poll, will have to wait and see if it will play at home or travel for a Region 2 playoff game.
The Titans scored on their second possession, taking advantage of a fumble by Willis to grab a 7-0 lead.
Patterson (15 of 31, 165 yards) hit running back DeAndre Ware (26 carries, 154 yards) over the middle on a 20-yard catch-and-run TD with 5:29 left in the first quarter.
After Phil Reynolds recovered a Ware fumble at the Central 49, the Irish went 51 yards on nine plays. The last was a 10-yard TD strike from Jansen to tight end Chris Dominiak on the first play of the second quarter.
Just 10 seconds later, Central had another TD and a 14-7 lead. Brodie Wagener's kickoff was fumbled by Titan return man Ross Hartwig, and standout Irish linebacker Ryan Brown dived on the loose ball at the St. John's 10. On the next play, Brown ran a reverse to the left for a 10-yard score.
"The momentum really shifted there when they scored two so quick," Titan coach Doug Pearson said. "But, that's kids. That's high school football."
"I saw [Hartwig] fumbling around with the ball and I just dove right on it and got the ball," Brown said.
"That [TD run] felt great. That was the first time I touched the ball on offense all year. We put that play in [Thursday]."
Patterson's fumble on an attempted handoff to Ware also led to an Irish TD. This time Central covered 44 yards, with Willis bolting 11 yards for the TD and a 21-7 lead 1:37 before halftime.
St. John's pulled closer on Patterson's 41-yard TD bomb to Jake Bombrys with 49 seconds left in the third quarter, but Central answered with a pivotal play early in the fourth.
On fourth-and-five, Jansen hit wideout Dane Sanzenbacher on a 25-yard TD pass down the left sideline with 9:53 remaining.
St. John's added an eight-yard TD pass from Patterson to Jalil Carter with 5:22 left in the game.
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