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Central Catholic has been out to prove something all season.
The Irish started the year with no returning starters on offense. They lost two top offensive linemen and the City League's leading rusher to graduation.
Central coach Greg Dempsey, who is in his 12th season, said his team has played as underdogs since being picked to finish third in the first season of the Three Rivers Athletic Conference.
"Everybody thought this would be a rebuilding year because we lost a lot of numbers, so the seniors have been playing with a chip on their shoulders," Dempsey said. "They have the desire and the want to keep playing. They're a group that appreciates the opportunity. We can be that team that surprises everyone."
Central (8-3) thumped Olmsted Falls 48-19 in a Division II playoff opener. The Irish take on Avon in regional semifinals Friday at Fremont Ross. Both teams are coming off impressive wins.
Avon (10-1) piled up 509 total yards in its 45-24 victory over Highland. The Eagles are the top-seeded team in D-II, Region 6 and were ranked fifth in the final AP state poll.
"This will be a tough test," Dempsey said.
Central, which was third in the TRAC with a 5-2 record, has outscored its foes 326-166.
The Irish, who won a state title in 2005, are 2-5 in playoff games.
Central is led by junior running back Amir Edwards, who has rushed for 1,130 yards and 22 touchdowns. Edwards had TD runs of 4, 8, 8, and 7 yards against Olmsted Falls. Sophomore quarterback DeShone Kizer, who connected all six of his passes for 154 yards and a TD last week, has thrown for 1,084 yards.
"We start our offense with the running game," Dempsey said. "But our passing game has grown very much over the season. It's about being efficient and keeping balance."
Dempsey said he saw the offense's confidence begin to build after a 28-14 win Sept. 30 over Fremont Ross.
Avon has outscored its foes 369-138. The Eagles' only loss was to Lake Catholic, which also is 10-1.
Avon has made five appearances in the state tournament and has a 4-4 record. The Eagles also were the top seeded team in the region last year and entered the playoffs 10-0 but fell in the opening round.
The Eagles won a West Shore Conference title this season.
Avon senior quarterback Justin O'Rourke has thrown for 2,141 yards and 26 touchdowns with only six interceptions. His top target is senior Matt Eckhardt, who had 41 receptions for 795 yards and 11 touchdowns during the regular season.
"They are very comparable to Findlay on offense. They have good skill players," Dempsey said. "They are very explosive. They have it all. They have a good quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. They hit you in every area."
Dempsey said the Eagles are similar to St. John's Jesuit on defense.
"They are big and physical," Dempsey said. "They're very sound and don't give up big plays."
Dempsey said the biggest key will be for the Irish to move the ball on offense to take time off the clock.
"It's not the type of offense you will shut down," he said. "You have to get some stops and create some turnovers."
L-B looks to roll on
A regional semifinal in Division V features a match up of two teams that posted huge upset wins last week.
No. 6 seeded Liberty-Benton (10-1) takes on No. 7 seeded Hicksville (9-2) Friday at Lima Senior.
Liberty-Benton upset top-ranked Lima Central Catholic 45-35, while Hicksville posted a surprising 28-7 victory over Hopewell-Loudon, the No. 2 seed in the region and fourth-ranked team in the state.
Liberty-Benton is 12-6 in seven playoff appearances. Hicksville is 4-3 in four appearances.
The Eagles are led by running back Brady Vaught and quarterback Mitch Linhart.
Vaught rushed for 269 yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries in last week's win. Overall, Vaught has 1,274 yards on 166 carries (7.7 per tote) and 21 TDs.
Linhart connected on 92 of 179 passes for 1,638 yards and 21 scores during the regular season. Linhart, who also rushed for 410, tossed two more TDs and kicked a 22-yard field goal last week.
Dakota Conkle is the top receiving threat with 26 catches for 572 and 11 TDs.
Hicksville is led by running back Seth Klepper and quarterback Justin Miller.
Klepper has 804 rushing yards and 18 scores. Miller has 747 yards on the ground with 11 touchdowns. Kaleb Jones also has 593 yards on the ground and six scores.
Miller has thrown for 1,009 yards (59 of 103) and 15 scores. Dean Conley is the Aces' leading receiver with 477 yards and seven scores.
McComb meets Leipsic
McComb (8-3) faces off against fellow Blanchard Valley Conference member Leipsic (10-1) in a Division VI regional semifinal at Tiffin Columbian at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Leipsic won a fifth straight BVC title this season, which included a 48-20 win over McComb on Oct. 28.
McComb has a 14-13 record in 15 appearances. The Panthers won a state title in 1983 and reached the regional final last season.
Leipsic is the top seed in Division VI, Region 22. The Vikings also made the playoffs last year and the program has a 3-3 record in the playoffs.
McComb defeated Edgerton 49-39 in a regional quarterfinal on Saturday to advance.
Running back Cody Wilson paced McComb with 78 rushing yards, while quarterback Dalton Buck competed 12 of 19 passes for 217 yards. Jerry Brown had 61 rushing yards.
Brown led all scorers in the BVC with 33 touchdowns this season and now has 1,186 rushing yards. Wilson has rushed for 798 yards and Buck has thrown for 1,958 yards.
Leipsic, which was ranked sixth in the final state poll, is led by running backs Trevor Schroeder and Brady Schroeder.
Brady Schroeder ran for 103 yards and two touchdowns in the Vikings' 51-0 win Saturday night over Arcadia in the regional quarterfinals. Trevor Schroeder had a team-high 654 rushing yards and 13 TDs before getting injured in last week's game.
Tough task for Summerfield
In the Michigan playoffs, Summerfield (8-3) advanced with a 44-38 comeback win last week over Melvindale in the Division 8.
The Bulldogs will play undefeated New Lothrop (11-0) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday in the third round of the D-8 playoffs.
Summerfield is 2-0 in the playoffs. Last week, Josh Golkiewicz scored four touchdowns and rushed for 241 yards. Golkiweicz now has 1,317 yards this season and 18 touchdowns.
Summerfield quarterback Lucas Diver tossed two TD passes. He has 1,053 passing yards and nine touchdowns.
Diver's top target is Chris Sylvester, who scored on a 16-yard pass from Diver last week. Sylvester has 367 receiving yards.
Summerfield has scored 335 points (30.5 per game) and given up 198 (18.0 per game).
New Lothrop has buzzed through its schedule, scoring 601 points (54.6 per game) and has given up just 47 (4.3 per game).
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade