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Published: Thursday, 9/13/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

SIDELINES: FOOTBALL

High-powered offense is a big reason why Irish are ranked No. 1

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Toledo Central Catholic running back Amir Edwards, 20, breaks free for a long run against Bedford High School earlier this year. Edwards has rushed for 443 yards on 52 carries and seven touchdowns in three games. Toledo Central Catholic running back Amir Edwards, 20, breaks free for a long run against Bedford High School earlier this year. Edwards has rushed for 443 yards on 52 carries and seven touchdowns in three games.
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When he was coaching national championship teams at the University of Oklahoma, Barry Switzer used a line that became a catch phrase for Sooner fans.

"Let's hang half a hundred on 'em," Switzer said, exhorting his team in pre-game talks, and his Sooners frequently made good on the scoreboard.

Three games into the season, coach Greg Dempsey hasn't borrowed Switzer's line, but his Central Catholic Fighting Irish are scoring 50 points per game.

"One of the biggest advantages we have is that we're able to get into what looks like multiple offensive [sets] without changing personnel," Dempsey said. "These kids have different skill sets. All the running backs are very good blockers and work hard at it.

"They can all catch and run routes. They have a multiple dynamics. That makes it hard on the opponent."

Central opened with a 66-14 blowout of visiting Springfield, followed with a 49-28 home romp over Bedford, and last Friday took a 35-7 win at Perrysburg.

"The key is everybody trying to get better every day," Dempsey said. "If you rest on last week's stats, this week's game could really suffer.

"We need to focus on our goals, the goals we set back in July. If we stay focused on those goals, things will hopefully work out."

At the heart of the Central scoring glut is a group at the offensive skill positions that may eventually rival any past contingent at Toledo high schools.

It starts with heavily recruited 6-foot-5, 210-pound junior quarterback DeShone Kizer, and is highlighted by power and quickness of 5-11, 190-pound senior tailback Amir Edwards, who has carried 52 times for 443 yards and seven touchdowns in three games for the 3-0 Irish, who were ranked No. 1 in Division II in the first Associated Press poll.

It is the first time Central has been voted to a No. 1 state ranking since week 9 of the 2006 season, when the Irish followed their 14-1 state championship run of 2005 with a 9-0 start.

Toledo Central Catholic player Keith Towbridge looks to elude Bedford High School defenders at Gallagher Stadium in Toledo earlier this year. Toledo Central Catholic player Keith Towbridge looks to elude Bedford High School defenders at Gallagher Stadium in Toledo earlier this year.
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"The team bonded over the summer," Edwards said. "That brought us together a lot more than we were last year. We're more like brothers.

The confidence level is up there in the locker room, but we just have to stay focused from game to game. We can't start thinking like we're too good. We've got to take it one game at a time."

Kizer and Edwards may be the marquee guys in the Irish attack, but they are well complemented.

Joining Central's multiple spread offensive scheme are 6-4, 250-pound senior tight end Keith Towbridge, who has committed to Louisville, dynamic 5-10, 180-pound junior slot back/kick returner Derich, and 5-11, 198-pound junior fullback Paul Moses.

"We have some diverse players who can make good plays in big situations," Towbridge said. "Each person can do something to make plays.

"Our coaches tell us, ‘Look at the person next you. Are you as ready to play as he is?' The confidence level is high. Even if the other team knows what's coming, if we make the blocks, the play can still work."

Weiland echoes Towbridge.

"It all starts with playing as a team," Weiland said. "Our offensive line has been getting a lot better, we have a set of receivers that makes plays, and we've got a great quarterback and running backs.

Toledo Central Catholic player Derich Weiland finds the end zone for a touchdown earlier this season. Toledo Central Catholic player Derich Weiland finds the end zone for a touchdown earlier this season.
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"Having all that enables you spread it out a little bit instead of having to rely on one guy all the time. That's makes us a big threat."

"It's great to be a part of the team and this atmosphere," Moses said. "I can block, go out to wide receiver, and play running back.

"We need to work more on our passing game, because sometimes the running game can get stopped. If we get the passing game down, we'll put more points on the board."

Dempsey also utilizes senior running back Cedric Gray, and 6-2, 190-pound senior wideout Michael Anderson.

"They're complete football players," Dempsey said of his skill personnel. "They can block and they have speed. This is one of the faster teams we've had. It's definitely a dynamic group."

Dempsey (12th season, 107-35 record) said he believes a key to maximizing the talents of this group is keeping it simple.

"The biggest thing, when you have this type of setup, is to pick what you do well and do it often, and then work things off of it," Dempsey said. "I had a coach tell me, you don't want to be the guy who walks into a candy store and thinks everything tastes good.

Toledo Central Catholic head coach Greg Dempsey roams the sidelines earlier this year. Toledo Central Catholic head coach Greg Dempsey roams the sidelines earlier this year.
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"If you eat it all you're going to get a bellyache. You have to find out what works best for this team and the skill set of the players, and work off of that instead of trying to dabble in everything."

Entering Friday's Three Rivers Athletic Conference opener at Clay, Central has already rushed for 1,008 yards as a team in 124 carries (8.1 average), limiting the need for Kizer to take to the air.

Kizer, who said he has eight Division I college scholarship offers, a list headed by Nebraska and Illinois, has completed 20-of-31 passes for 276 yards and three TDs with no interceptions.

"Being able to have Amir in the backfield, and have somebody at almost every position who can make a big play on any given play, makes you more comfortable," Kizer said. "You don't have to worry about who you're throwing to, or who your go-to guy is. They can all make big plays."

Last season, Kizer was part of an 8-4 squad (5-2 TRAC) and reached the second round of the playoffs.

Paul Moses, 5, breaks free for a long run in a game against Bedford earlier this year. Paul Moses, 5, breaks free for a long run in a game against Bedford earlier this year.
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"The chemistry's better this year," Kizer said. "We've all been together for at least a year, so we know each other's strengths and weaknesses.

"When things aren't going well, you can look each other in the eyes and say, ‘We can do this.' If we apply that to each play in a game, there will be a lot of teams who won't be able to hang with us."

The Irish's skill crew is supported by a rapidly-improving front five on the offensive line, a group that averages 6-1 and 265 pounds per man, and more when 6-1, 305-pound senior defensive nose guard Jon Perrin checks in at offensive tackle. Perrin, the anchor on the defensive line, was a All-Ohio first team at that spot as a junior.

Also adding fuel to Central's offensive fire as a crossover is Ohio State-bound 6-2, 184-pound senior defensive back Jayme Thompson, who returns kickoffs and occasionally slides in as a wideout.

Contact Steve Junga at: sjunga@theblade.com, 419-724-6461, or on Twitter @JungaBlade.



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