Monday, Apr 23, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

High School

No. 4 Irish square off with No. 5 Aurora: Central expects tough challenge in state semi

The last time Cen­tral Cath­o­lic reached a Divi­sion II state foot­ball semi­fi­nal, a 2005 Fight­ing Ir­ish team ar­rived there as a some­thing of a long­shot.

Even­tual Ohio State and Chi­cago Bears re­ceiver Dane San­zen­bacher was then an emerg­ing ju­nior star re­ceiver/de­fen­sive back for Cen­tral, in the midst of a su­perb five-game post­sea­son per­for­mance (nine touch­downs, six in­ter­cep­tions) that would help the 10th-ranked Ir­ish (14-1) win a state cham­pi­on­ship.

As fourth-ranked Cen­tral (12-1) faces fifth-ranked Aurora (12-1) at 7:30 p.m. to­day at Huron, there is no fly­ing un­der the ra­dar for the Ir­ish, nor has there been since the play­offs be­gan.

“In 2005, we were kind of a Cin­dere­lla team,” 13th-year Cen­tral head coach Greg Demp­sey said. “This year peo­ple have been talk­ing about us get­ting to this point since the pre­sea­son. I think these kids have han­dled that pres­sure and those ex­pec­ta­tions re­ally well.”

Cen­tral was ranked No. 1 in Divi­sion II for the first seven weeks of the As­so­ci­ated Press poll be­fore be­ing bumped down by 42-0 loss to vis­it­ing Whit­mer in a game that de­cided the Three Rivers Ath­letic Con­fer­ence cham­pi­on­ship on Oct. 26.

Most of the sea­son the Ir­ish have been viewed across Ohio as a solid state-ti­tle con­tender and, since the hum­bling Whit­mer de­feat, they have done lit­tle to change those opin­ions. They are the high­est ranked team still alive in the D-II play­offs.

Cen­tral has jumped out to big half­time leads in each of its first three play­off games, and drill­ing Graf­ton Mid­view (50-7), Mans­field Madi­son (45-7), and 2011 state run­ner-up Avon (42-14). In the first halves of those games, the Ir­ish out­scored the three foes 99-14.

“You’re al­ways fear­ful of any­thing dis­rupt­ing a rhythm when you’ve got things roll­ing,” Demp­sey said. “But I think the kids have been re­ally good this week. The look in their eyes says they re­ally want to get to the state cham­pi­on­ship game very badly, as I know Aurora does.

“It’s been a good in­tense week, and I’m ex­pect­ing the kids to come out with the same pas­sion and look in their eyes they had the last three weeks.”

In Aurora, the Ir­ish will face a team ca­pa­ble of slow­ing some of the Ir­ish mo­men­tum with a proven ball-con­trol of­fense keyed by an ef­fec­tive rush­ing at­tack.

“They’re a very good foot­ball team with some good run­ning backs and a very good quar­ter­back,” Demp­sey said of Aurora. “Their skill guys are good-sized kids. One back [Zach Quinn] is 6-4, 210 pounds, and their quar­ter­back is 6-2, 190, and he’s a phys­i­cal run­ner.

“They’re very pa­tient and good at what they do. They’re go­ing to pound the ball, play de­fense, and try to win a close game.”

The top rusher for the Green­men, Quinn has car­ried 130 times for 1,022 yards and scored 15 touch­downs. Aurora quar­ter­back George Bol­las is the No. 2 rusher with 124 car­ries for 952 yards and 15 TDs, and has com­pleted 66 of his 116 passes for 1,248 yards and 13 TDs with just three in­ter­cep­tions.

A third back, Jake McVay has rushed 91 times for 785 yards and scored 12 TDs, and the top re­ceiver for the Green­men is 6-3, 175-pound Jake Czer­win­ski (24 catches, 381 yards, 3 TDs).

“They can con­sume large chunks of time and keep your of­fense off the field,” Demp­sey said. “They can con­trol the tempo of a game.”

On de­fense, Aurora is led in tack­les by 6-3, 215-pound Alex Smierciak (114), fol­lowed by Nate Sotka (99), Quinn (82), and Brett Rodgers (81).

Smierciak also has five in­ter­cep­tions, and has caught 12 passes for 368 yards and four TDs.

“On de­fense, they may give up some yards, but they don’t give up big plays,” Demp­sey said. “Hope­fully we can hit them with a cou­ple big plays and cause them to get un­com­fort­able on de­fense.”

Aurora, which won a D-II state cham­pi­on­ship in 2008, ad­vanced to this state semi­fi­nal with re­gional wins over New Phil­a­del­phia (35-32), Kent Roosevelt (27-13), and Char­don (34-14).

Through 13 games, Cen­tral and Aurora are al­most mir­ror im­ages statis­ti­cally on of­fense. The Ir­ish av­er­age 280.6 yards rush­ing and 114.3 pass­ing per game, and the Green­men 277.9 on the ground and 115.5 through the air.

Cen­tral is out­scor­ing foes 45.9 to 16.5 per game, Aurora 39.9 to 14.8.

The Ir­ish are trig­gered by 6-4, 205-pound ju­nior quar­ter­back DeShone Kizer, who is 96-of-149 pass­ing for 1,463 yards and 17 TDs with one in­ter­cep­tion. He has rushed 52 times for 408 yards and eight TDs.

The top rusher is se­nior back Amir Edwards, who has car­ried 210 times for 1,501 yards and scored 26 TDs. Juniors Paul Moses (79 rushes, 587 yards, 13 TDs) and Cedric Gray (66 rushes, 384 yards, 5 TDs) add depth to the ground game.

Kizer’s top tar­gets are ju­nior slot back Der­ich Wei­land (32 catches, 476 yards, 9 to­tal TDs) and 6-5, 250-pound tight end Keith Tow­bridge (22 catches, 305 yards, 6 TDs).

Cen­tral’s de­fense is an­chored up front by 6-0, 305-pound tackle Jon Per­rin (51 tack­les, 12 for losses) and Tow­bridge (39 tack­les, 10 TFL) at and end.

Chris Green (77 tack­les) and Ian But­ler (53 tack­les, 11 TFL) high­light the line­back­ing corps, and Ohio State-bound Jayme Thomp­son (44 tack­les, 2 in­ter­cep­tion-re­turn TDs) and Joe Sol­o­mon (29 tack­les, 4 INTs) lead the sec­ond­ary.

“Keys for us will be get­ting them to have some three-and-outs on of­fense, put­ting points on the board early to try to make them play a game they don’t want to play, and win­ning the turn­over bat­tles,” Demp­sey said.

“It’s a big deal for us to try to make them un­com­fort­able, and do things they don’t want to do when they don’t want to do them.

“With a great ball-con­trol team, you have to make them feel like they can’t play their game any­more.”

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

Click to comment

Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit qui in ea voluptate velit esse quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum qui dolorem?

Temporibus autem quibusdam et aut officiis debitis aut rerum necessitatibus saepe eveniet.

Copyright © 2018 Toledo Blade

To Top

Fetching stories…