The 50th installment of the Irish-Knight football rivalry offered a little drama early on as the St. Francis de Sales defense rose to the occasion against third-ranked Central Catholic.
But, by game's end, thanks in part to two costly second-quarter Knight turnovers, Central cruised to a 31-6 City League victory before a crowd estimated at 5,500 at the Glass Bowl.
The Irish (8-0, 5-0), preseason CL favorites, thus remain in the driver's seat for a fourth straight City championship heading into Friday's home test against Whitmer (4-4, 4-1).
For Central's senior tailback Michael Marrow and junior quarterback Dave Walender, this was their first exposure to the Irish-Knight clash, which now stands 28-21-1 in favor of the Knights.
Marrow moved to Toledo from New Albany near Columbus, and Walender transferred from Bedford. Each put their stamp on this win. Marrow carried 24 times for 136 yards, and Walender completed 12 of 16 passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns.
Marrow picked up the slack for his usual tailback partner Brad Rogers, who was out with an ankle injury. Marrow slammed between the tackles early on, softening up the Knights (4-4, 3-2) for Walender's subsequent play-action work.
'With Brad injured I knew I had to come out strong and be ready to go,' Marrow said. 'I just wanted to run it down their throats.'
Later, the outside running of Zeke McIntosh (15 carries, 76 yards) was another byproduct.
'The defense made it possible for the offense to keep getting back on the field and score some points,' Walender said. 'The line gave us great time for the receivers to get open and make the plays.'
Two nearly identical Knight turnovers led to Central's first two TDs.
After a scoreless first quarter, the St. Francis defense had just made its second defensive stand on fourth down to open the second quarter.
Two plays later, however, Knight QB D.J. McPartland lost a fumble at his 30, which was recovered by Vincenzo Cardone.
Seven straight runs netted Central a second-and-goal at the Knight 3, and Walender capped the drive on a rollout TD pass to Marrow 7:38 before halftime.
'We had good field position [earlier] and didn't take advantage of it,' Irish coach Greg Dempsey said. 'Their defense was doing a great job of staying low and clogging up lanes, and we didn't finish off some drives.
'But then we took advantage of a couple of turnovers. That's always going to be the difference in a game like this. I knew turnovers were going to be a huge part of this game.'
St. Francis had four giveaways in the game, Central two.
On the ensuing kickoff, Central coverage man Alex Geis sustained an apparent head injury and had to be taken off on a stretcher as a precaution.
On the next play after the delay, McPartland lost another fumble to Cardone, who recovered on the Knights 19.
Central lost 11 yards on a botched reverse on the first play, but Walender completed a 14-yard pass to Matt Cochell, then went to Nate Hobbs on a 16-yard catch-and-run for the TD with 6:34 left in the half.
'They've got good running backs and a big offensive line,' Knights coach Dick Cromwell said of Central. 'You can't turn the ball over against good teams. They took advantage of a couple 30-yard drives, and it was 14-0 all of a sudden.'
Kyle Burkhardt added a 32-yard field goal with one second left in the half for a 17-0 lead.
Walender and Hobbs then connected on a 26-yard TD pass with 3:34 left in the third quarter, and Dave Pickerel added a one-yard scoring plunge with 8:39 left in the game.
St. Francis avoided the shutout on Joe Pasczykowski's three-yard TD run with 3:00 left in the game. The Irish topped the Knights 400-220 in total offense.
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com or 419-724-6461.