Second-ranked Central Catholic treated its offensive possessions Friday night as if they were handling hot potatoes in their Division III football playoff opener against visiting Defiance.
The Fighting Irish (11-0) had the ball 11 times in the first half — never longer than 88 seconds — and scored seven touchdowns to take a 49-7 halftime lead en route to a 69-14 regional quarterfinal victory at Gallagher Stadium.
Central quarterback DeShone Kizer was 11 of 16 passing for 318 yards and four touchdowns, and backs Tre’Von Wade and Paul Moses, and receiver Dayton Copeland-Lee all scored two TDs as the Irish (11-0) outgained the Bulldogs 630-227 in total offense.
“We definitely have some quick-strike potential, and the kids did a great job of executing the calls,” Central Catholic coach Greg Dempsey said. “They were bringing some pressure at us, so we had to go to the perimeter and deep. We tried to hit some big plays, and we did.”
The opening drive was no indication of what would follow for the Irish, as Kizer’s pass to Derich Weiland was ripped away for an interception by the Bulldogs’ Colton Relyea.
That was about the last thing that didn’t work Central’s way in the game.
They got the ball back after a punt by Defiance (6-5), and promptly scored four plays later on a two-yard run by Moses (eight carries, 47 yards) just 2:17 into the game.
“Our offense really clicked tonight,” Kizer said. “We started off the first play of the game with an interception, and you look to the sideline and see if anyone’s heads are down.
“But everyone was up and ready to go, and we came back out and started firing from there.”
Central was forced to punt on its third possession, but needed just one play on the fourth to score again, this time on Kizer’s 70-yard bomb to Copeland-Lee with 3:17 left in the first quarter.
Defiance answered with a six-play, 59-yard scoring drive, with quarterback Will Batt scoring one a one-yard sneak with 47.3 seconds left in the first quarter.
But, the Irish responded with a 35-0 second quarter, and the Bulldogs created little resistance.
Moses had another two-yard TD run, Kizer hit Copeland-Lee (three catches, 119 yards) for a 34-yard score, Wade (six carries, 64 yards) ran for TDs from 15 and 44 yards, and Kizer capped the first-half scoring parade on a 76-yard strike to Jermiah Braswell.
“Defiance is a team that likes to see your formation before they call their defense, so we made sure we had our tempo up and going,” Kizer said. “We were running plays within five seconds after the whistle blew. It was very successful. That’s why we were able to put up so many points so fast.”
Kizer played one second-half series before he and many of the Irish starters went to the bench for the night.
That possession ended on a 43-yard TD pass to Marcus Winters for a 56-7 lead just 1:47 into the third quarter.
Irish backup running back Jordan Parker (12 carries, 70 yards) added a 29-yard TD run, and after Batt hit Trey Guilliam on a 27-yard scoring pass for Defaince, Charles Smith closed the game’s scoring for Central on a 16-yard run with 2:04 left in the third quarter.
Batt was 15 of 37 passing for 232 yards and two interceptions, and the Bulldogs’ 20 rushing attempts netted minus-five yards.
“Our tackling was terrible, but they had a lot to do with that,” Defiance coach Jerry Buti said. “We had too many turnovers [four] and the pressure on our quarterback was intense.
“Those guys [Irish] are a class act. That’s the type of team you want to have, and the type of coach you want to have. They could’ve run that score up unbelievably. We played their JVs almost the whole second half. I give them a lot of credit, and I hope they win the state.”
It was the 16th consecutive victory for Central, which won last season’s Division II state title.