HURON, Ohio — St. John's Jesuit got its offense fully in gear after halftime, and the Titans rode a steady bend-but-not-break defense throughout Saturday night, taking a 24-6 win over Medina in a Division I regional football semifinal at Memorial Stadium.
The win sets up a regional final between the City League's top two teams — the Titans (11-1) and CL-champion Whitmer (11-1) — next Saturday night, likely at the Glass Bowl.
“[Jason] Suggs is a great player,” Titans coach Doug Pearson said of the Medina tailback. “I don't know how many yards he got [155 on 29 carries], but I do know that he never made it into end zone.
“That was the big thing for our kids defensively. We bent, but we didn't break.”
The Titans, who topped the 9-3 Bees 379-246 in total offense, overcame a late second-quarter miscue by scoring touchdowns on first two third-quarter drives.
That was all the Titans needed against a Medina squad that last week upset top-seeded Canton McKinley (31-28).
The first third-quarter Titan march covered 79 yards on 14 plays. A 23-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Brogan Roback to senior wideout Cheatham Norrils on third down was key.
Junior running back/linebacker Kent Kern later ran 14 yards to set up his own two-yard TD run on the next play for a 17-6 lead.
The next time the Titans went 91 yards on just four plays to take a 24-6 lead.
Kern (12 rushes, 73 yards) ran for nine and then 33 yards, and back Nate White (15 rushes, 91 yards) rushed for four more to set up Roback's second TD toss of the game, this one a 45-yard strike to Norrils (five catches, 121 yards). Norrils outran Bees defender Leterian Brown and dived into the right pylon to complete the score with 2:51 left in the third quarter.
“On offense we pounded the run game and then that opened up the pass game,” Norrils said, “and that gave me a great opportunity on that pass from Brogan. Then it was just a race to the pylon.”
“We didn't have much to show for our offense in the first half,” Pearson said. “At halftime there was no yelling or screaming. Everybody just said ‘Look, we've got to be more consistent.'
“The second half when we went to a two tight end formation and we pounded it 80 yards. Then our defense gets a big three-and-out, and we went right back and hit Cheatham with a pass. That was huge.”
On its first drive of the game, St. John's went 69 yards on five plays to grab a 7-0 lead.
Joe Robie started that march with a 19-yard run around left end, and Roback (9-of-14 passing, 183 yards) closed it with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Beach.
After Medina's Justin Letts and St. John's Brandon Smith traded 27-yard field goals, the Titans had a golden opportunity late in the first half. Starting on its 20 after a Medina punt 1:45 before halftime, St. John's senior running back Nate White broke back-to-back runs of 20 and 23 yards, putting the Titans at the Medina 37.
But Roback's pass toward the left sideline was intercepted by Ben Hamel, who returned the pivotal pick 54 yards to the Titans' 13 with 1:06 left in the half.
But St. John's defense stiffened to limit the damage as the Bees settled for a 24-yard field goal.
“When you get in the playoffs, you're going to give up big plays, but it's about the ability to keep fighting and not give up,” said Titan senior two-way lineman Jack Miller. “That's what we did tonight.”
Medina rushed for 124 yards in the first half, but only 65 after the break. “To only be down four was great, but it would've been nice to have tied that up right before the half,” Bees coach Larry Laird said.
“St. John's did a great job adjusting at halftime. They just decided, ‘Hey, we're going to take them off the football.' Size matters, and that's what happened.”
Contact Steve Junga at:firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6461.