Central Catholic's Cedric Gray outruns Findlay defenders for a big gain during the second quarter.
The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
The much-anticipated shootout between Central Catholic and Findlay started out as just that Friday night at Gallagher Stadium.
But, by the time the final seconds had run off the clock, one thing was abundantly clear — the host Fighting Irish had literally run Findlay off the field in a 56-27 Three Rivers Athletic Conference victory.
Central (5-0, 2-0 TRAC), Ohio's top-ranked Division II team, rushed 70 times for 517 yards and seven of its eight total touchdowns.
Three Irish running backs eclipsed 100 yards, led by senior Amir Edwards, who ran 30 times for 220 yards and four scores.
"It was great," Edwards said. "The O line did a great job all night. They had my back. The defense stepped up a lot, and that was just the same.
"We believe in our O line, and we just had to run it behind them. I'm really shocked by the score. I thought it was going to be closer. We came out ready to go."
Paul Moses (10 carries, 146 yards, two TDs) and Cedric Gray (17 carries, 113 yards, TD) were icing on the cake behind the work of offensive linemen Ramone Miles, Kevin O'Rourk, Jeff Dew, Zach Harmon, Marwan Marsenburg, and tight end Keith Towbridge.
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Their collective execution left it necessary for talented 6-foot-5 junior quarterback DeShone Kizer to attempt just four passes in the game, completing two, both in Central's first possession of the game.
The Irish owned a 571-306 edge in total offense against the Trojans (4-1, 1-1), the state's eighth-ranked Division I team and the preseason TRAC title favorite.
"They whipped us up front on both sides," Findlay coach Mark Ritzler said. "I don't want to say it's a shock, because we've seen them on film and they've shown they could do it.
It was a far cry from one year earlier when Findlay handed visiting Central a 31-7 defeat.
"I was a little bit surprised that we weren't able to run the ball a little better, and that we got it handed to us like that on the defensive side," Ritzler said.
With the two teams coming in averaging a combined 108 points per game, it was little surprise that the defenses were behind the eight ball. But the first half went above and beyond expectations, as Central (393) and Findlay (224) combined for 617 yards and 69 points.
The Irish struck first in the game. Kizer hit Derich Weiland on a 43-yard touchdown pass over the middle just 2:19 into the game.
Just 19 seconds later, Findlay fired back on Paul Cosiano's 36-yard TD pass to Wyatt Krupp.
After the Trojans' defense forced a rare punt, Cosiano (13-of-28 passing, 235 yards; 11 rushes, 78 yards) wasted no time putting his team on top, running 31 yards around right end for a 14-7 lead with 7:08 left in the opening quarter.
Then it was Central's turn. Make that Edwards' turn. He ran 22 times for 176 of his yards in the first half and responded with the game's next four TDs on carries of 1, 1, 13, and 4 yards to give the Irish a 35-14 lead two plays into the second quarter.
"We started out hot, and then they went up 14-7," Irish coach Greg Dempsey said. "That's when you worry, and that tests your mettle a little bit.
"The kids really responded by putting a drive together. I didn't know we'd get that many yards just running the football, but the weather definitely played a factor in that."
Findlay caught its breath and mounted an eight-play, 78-yard march capped by a 23-yard scoring run from senior back Vance Settlemire (10 carries, 50 yards).
Moses interrupted Edwards' string of scores, carrying for 40 yards before adding 28 more on Central's next TD play, and the Irish led 42-21 with 2:09 left in the half.
That was plenty of time for one more score in the wild first half.
Findlay got that by moving 70 yards on seven plays. Cosiano hit Austin Niswander over the middle on a 24-yard scoring pass 35.5 seconds before the break.
Halftime adjustments, rain, and perhaps weariness, took some luster out of the offenses, which each failed to score in the third quarter.
Central, which blanked the Trojans after halftime, added its final scores in the final quarter on Moses' five-yard run, and a seven-yarder from Gray midway in the period.
"When your quarterback is telling you to run the run plays again and again, that's a good sign of your team's chemistry," Dempsey said. "They get what it's all about.
"We have to not be complacent now. You can get banged up, so you have to still develop some guys [as backups], and people will have to step up. We're only at the halfway point. But I couldn't be any more pleased with a group of guys after five games."
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6461 or on Twitter @JungaBlade.