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If there is a golden rule in football it starts with not beating yourself with mistakes.
Fremont Ross broke that rule repeatedly last night in a Three Rivers Athletic Conference game at Central Catholic's Gallagher Stadium, and the Fighting Irish capitalized completely in a 28-14 victory.
"The first half was one of those things that coaches draw up and you hope happens," Irish coach Greg Dempsey said. "Everything clicked - special teams, offense, the defense giving it to the offense, and the offense taking advantage of it."
PHOTO GALLERY: Central vs. Fremont Ross Friday Sep. 30
Irish junior back Amir Edwards rushed 14 times for 72 yards and scored two first-quarter touchdowns before sitting out the second half with what Central coach Greg Dempsey described as a cautionary move.
Junior backup Cedric Gray added 102 yards on 20 carries in the game, and accounted for Central's final TD in a one-sided 28-6 first half.
Highlighting the defensive effort was senior cornerback Derek Hafner, who had both of the Irish interceptions, including a crucial pick in the end zone that prevented Ross from getting within a single TD with 10:45 remaining in the game.
In all, Ross (4-2, 1-2 TRAC) committed four turnovers and had a punt blocked in the game, negating an otherwise evenly played contest that saw Central outgain the Little Giants just 272-244 in total offense, and the possession time split almost equally (24:10 to 23:50 in favor of Ross).
What made it not so even at the end was that Central (4-2, 2-1) turned the first four Little Giants mistakes into touchdowns, all in the first half. The fifth miscue was Hafner's key interception.
The Little Giants' troubles began from their first possession. Quarterback and punter Tyler Wolf had his punt blocked and Central started at the Ross 30. Two plays later, Edwards broke a 28-yard TD run for a 7-0 lead just 2:21 into the game.
On its next possession, Ross committed the first of its three first-half giveaways, a fumble by sophomore back Jabree Lather (26 rushes, 116 yards) which Central recovered at its 47.
The Irish made Ross pay once again, driving 53 yards on 10 plays, the final one being sophomore quarterback DeShone Kizer's 17-yard TD keeper with 5:01 left in the first quarter.
Fremont's charitable ways continued later in the period, when Lather lost another fumble, this time setting Central up just 17 yards from the end zone.
Edwards capped this one on a one-yard plunge with 8.3 seconds left in the first quarter, and the Irish led the stunned Little Giants 21-0.
"We knew we were going to face an angry team after their loss [31-7 at Findlay] last week," Ross coach Derek Kidwell said of Central, "and we told our kids we had to avoid early momentum for them.
"But exactly what we preached came back to bite us tonight. We shot ourselves in the foot in the first quarter, and you can't spot any team in this league 21 points. We made uncharacteristic mistakes, and we've got to go back and watch film and learn from this."
Things went from bad to worse for Ross in the second quarter when Wolf was intercepted by a diving Hafner at his 41.
"I was so happy for Derek," Dempsey said. "He had a rough week last week [at Findlay]. That's a senior leader coming out and having a great night tonight. He knew they were going to be coming at him [with passes], and he stepped up."
The Irish cashed in for the fourth time, covering 59 yards on six plays, the big one a 48-yard completion from Kizer (5-of-13 passing, 77 yards) to Jake Garcia, setting Central up at the Ross 13. Gray capped that TD march on a three-yard run 6:13 before halftime.
Ross used a 12-play, 72-yard march to get within 28-6 on Lather's four-yard TD run 1:15 before the break.
The Little Giants' added a score and a two-point conversion - both on runs by fullback Trent Stout - 4:28 into the third quarter, but Ross could get no closer.
Hafner's second interception spoiled Fremont's bid to pull with striking range, coming on the 17th play of a drive that began on the Ross 22 and consumed 7:07 of the clock.
"The defense made big plays and the offense pushed it in," Hafner said. "That was about it. On the first [interception] they ran a slant and I just stayed back in cover-four and picked it.
"On the last one, coach put me in a good call and I got the pick. They were driving on us the whole third quarter, so to come out and get that play capped everything. This is a good bounce-back win. We should get on a roll now."
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com, 419-724-6461, or on Twitter @JungaBlade.
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