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Published: Monday, 11/16/2009

St. Francis defense to be tested

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The next destination on the playoff football journey of fifth-ranked St. Francis de Sales (11-1) will be a return visit to Fremont's Harmon Stadium Friday night at

7:30, when veteran coach Dick Cromwell's Knights will battle unranked Maple Heights (10-2), which has already eliminated the City League's other two Division II postseason qualifiers.

St. Francis staged a thrilling, come-from-behind triumph over Avon Lake at Harmon Stadium Friday night, winning 13-10 on senior Pat Dyer's 35-yard field goal as time expired. Down 10-0 at halftime, the Knights tightened up defensively to blank the Shoremen, and pulled even after Dyer's 38-yard field goal in the third quarter and senior Scott Loy's 30-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the fourth.

First and foremost in the scheming of the St. Francis coaching staff this week will be some kind of a plan to counter Maple Heights' dangerous combination of speed and elusiveness. Those strengths became glaringly obvious the past two weeks in Mustang victories at Rogers (36-26) and over Central Catholic

(27-13) at Huron.

Last Friday, Mustang quarterback Shaq Washington (114 rushing yards, two TDs; 20-of-25 passing for 171 yards and another score) and running back Devonte Ransom (185 rushing yards) proved lethal to a Central defense that had blanked St. Francis 10-0 back on Oct. 9, the Knights' only loss.

In his 26th season guiding the Knights, Cromwell has led St. Francis to 13 playoff appearances, including a Division I state championship in 1984, a Division II state title in 2001, and a D-II state runner-up finish in 1982.

Elsewhere, in a Division V regional final, eight-time defending Northwest Ohio Athletic League championship Patrick Henry (12-0) will take on Green Meadows Conference champion Tinora (11-1) at Fred Brown Stadium in Defiance Friday at 7:30 p.m..

Coach Bill Inselmann's top-ranked Patriots have advanced with wins over Northwood (41-14) and Jeromesville Hillsdale (42-19), while 12th-ranked Tinora moved along with victories over Fairview (45-6) and Lima Central Catholic

(24-14).

Inselmann has led PH to 11 postseason appearances, including a Division V state championship in 2005, state semifinal appearances in 2004 and 2007, and regional finals in 2003 and last year.

The stunner of the weekend was fourth-ranked Genoa's heartbreaking 36-35 loss to 9-3 Orrville at Ashland.

Orrville has a D-IV regional final matchup Saturday night in Tiffin against Ottawa-Glandorf (10-2), which hammered Eastwood 48-3 last Saturday.

North of the border, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (11-1) will meet Constantine in a Michigan Division 6 state semifinal at Jackson Saturday at 1 p.m.

Contact Steve Junga at:

sjunga@theblade.com

or 419-724-6461.



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