If there was any question about Central Catholic bouncing back from its disappointing loss to Whitmer for the Three Rivers Athletic Conference football title one week earlier, that was answered definitively by halftime of its Division II playoff opener.
The fourth-ranked Fighting Irish (10-1) — who were throttled at Gallagher Stadium 42-0 in their regular-season finale — took their frustration out on visiting Grafton Midview in a 50-7 first-round victory Friday night.
By halftime, in fact, the Irish had already buried the overmatched Middies 43-0 behind the sterling play of 6-foot-4, 205-pound quarterback DeShone Kizer, who threw for four touchdowns and ran for two others before halftime.
“It was very important to forget last week, mentally, going into the playoffs,” Kizer said. “That was a big example of adversity, losing to a team with a score like that. A lot of teams don’t bounce back from something like that.
“We kept the intensity high in practice and, if we keep doing this, I think we’ll be very successful.”
Central rolled up 431 yards of offense and 21 first downs, with Kizer going 10-of-13 through the air for 194 yards, and the Irish rushing 57 times for 237 yards.
Central moves on to a regional semifinal matchup Friday at 7:30 p.m. against Mansfield Madison (10-1) at Tiffin’s Frost-Kalnow Stadium.
“Whitmer is a great team, and they beat us,” Irish coach Greg Dempsey acknowledged. “But that wasn’t [the real] us on the field. We’re better than that, and we wanted to come out and show people this week.
“We had a great week in practice, which was key. These kids were ready to go. The seniors had one more game here, and they wanted to have a win in their last game on this field.”
After going three-and-out on its first drive, the Irish got a 67-yard punt from Kizer to change field position, and things just got worse the remainder of the half for Midview (9-2)
Kizer sandwiched a pair of two-yard touchdown sneaks around his 46-yard TD strike to junior slot back Derick Weiland, and Central owned a 22-0 lead by the end of the first quarter.
“Our coaches told us that [Whitmer game] was in the past, and we have to move on and look to the playoffs,” Weiland said. “We came in fired up and ready to go.
“In the playoffs, in order to win you’ve got to gamble sometimes. It paid off tonight. We went deep and it worked out.”
Even when they stumbled, Kizer and the Irish made something out of it.
After their first score, a bad snap forced Kizer to pick up the ball, roll left, and complete an impromptu two-point conversion pass to Ian Butler 5:03 into the game for an 8-0 lead.
Central also get TDs on its next five possessions.
The final three scores came in the second quarter, with Kizer finding Weiland on a 35-yard TD hookup, and then hitting 6-4, 250-pound senior tight end Keith Towbridge on scoring passes of 16 and 26 yards.
The second of Towbridge’s TDs left the Irish up by 43 points with five minutes still left in the half.
The rest was just a matter of running out the clock and avoiding injuries.
Central added a TD on its first drive of the third quarter, when Cedric Gray rammed in from three yards for a 50-0 lead.
“They’ve got a nice ballclub,” Midview coach Bill Albright said. “I wish we would’ve come to play tonight, but we didn’t. But they’re an awfully good football team.”
The Irish basically cleared their bench for the final 19 minutes, and allowedg Midview’s lone score after committing their only turnover of the night.
After the Middies’ Tyler Lienerth returned a fumble by Central’s Jared Fann 18 yards to the Irish 5, Midview finally got on the board on a fourth-down pass of five yards from Cody Callaway to Eric Lauer with 9:30 remaining.
As good as the Central offense was, the Irish defense matched that effort, holding the Middies to 76 total yards on 48 plays from scrimmage, and forcing four turnovers.
Callaway, who had passed for 1,892 yards and 20 TDs coming in, was just 8-of-35 passing for 69 yards. Midview rushed 13 times for seven net yards.
Central managed this win without the services of senior running back Amir Edwards (1,284 rushing yards, 22 TDs), who sat out the game after sustaining a head injury midway in the first quarter of the loss to Whitmer.
“That’s the offense I love to see, and we did it without Amir in the backfield,” Kizer said. “If we can do that, we should be real good going into the next game with him.
“Moving on is the whole goal. It’s lose or go home. If we continue to play like this, with our offense playing like this and our defense doing what they do, I’m going to be a very happy guy at the end of the season.”
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6461 or on Twitter@JungaBlade.