After losing nine straight times to Central Catholic, including a 60-0 pounding last Oct. 19, has St. Francis de Sales improved rapidly enough to make the Irish-Knights football rivalry suddenly relevant again?
That question will be answered in a key Three Rivers Athletic Conference game today at Gallagher Stadium, where the Irish (5-0, 2-0) host the resurgent Knights (4-1, 2-0) with first place on the line.
“They’re a very good football team with a dynamic offense and an aggressive defense,” Central coach Greg Dempsey said. “They’re playing with a great amount of confidence, as well they should be.”
In his second year as head coach, Chris Hedden has the Knights headed in the right direction, having beaten preseason Northern Lakes League favorite Southview (21-18) and rival St. John’s Jesuit (30-13).
“We haven’t talked about last year at all,” Hedden said of the 60-0 loss. “I don’t think this year has anything to do with what happened last year. It’s all about what our seniors have done this year and what our leadership on the team has done.”
Dempsey is sold on St. Francis.
“This is is going to be an old-school Central Catholic-St. Francis rivalry game where anything could happen,” he said.
The Irish are led by quarterback DeShone Kizer (1,050 passing yards, 9 touchdowns), backs Tre’Von Wade (84 rushes, 603 yards, 5 TDs) and Paul Moses (36 rushes, 217 yards, 3 TDs), and receiver Jermiah Braswell (16 catches, 304 yards, 4 TDs).
St. Francis quarterback David Nees (657 passing yards, 4 TDs; 7 rushing TDs), back Lamar Carswell (815 rushing yards, 7 TDs), and receiver Andrew Bonfiglio (24 catches, 372 yards, 5 TDs) lead the Knights’ offense.
In two other crucial games today, Perrysburg (3-2, 2-0) travels to Southview (3-2, 2-0) in an NLL showdown, and ninth-ranked Wauseon (5-0, 3-0) goes to third-ranked Bryan (5-0, 3-0) in a game with major Northwest Ohio Athletic League and Division IV playoff ramifications.
Perrysburg beat Southview 23-16 last season, but had dropped nine of the prior 10 meetings with the Cougars.
“Every year Southview presents problems because of their team speed, and they’ve got two or three of their fastest guys ever right now,” Yellow Jackets coach Matt Kregel said. “They have [J.J.] Pinckney and [Nate] Hall and other guys who can fly.
“We don’t have those kinds of guys, so we have to scheme to defend that. You can’t just match up man-to-man and hope your guys run with them.”
Southview QB Griffin McDonald (817 passing yards, 8 TDs), wideout Pinckney (22 catches, 385 yards, 7 TDs), and back Keith Gilmore (395 rushing yards) are the top offensive producers.
Perrysburg is led by QB Gus Dimmerling (758 passing yards, 6 TDs; 397 rushing yards, 4 TDs), back Kadin Llewellyn (242 rushing yard), and tight end Nate Patterson (16 catches, 214 yards).
“We have to play good, aggressive football on defense, we can’t turn the ball over on offense, and we have to execute,” Southview coach Jim Mayzes said.
After Wauseon beat Bryan five straight times from 2004-08, the Golden Bears have won the past four, including 34-17 last year.
The Indians’ top offensive threats are QB Ty Suntken (597 passing yards, 7 TDs; 522 rushing yards, 7 TDs), back Axel Bueter (770 rushing yards, 11 TDs), and receiver Kris Boysel (15 catches, 272 yards, 6 TDs).
“Our execution is going to be pretty important,” Bryan coach Kevin Kline said. “They’re a very physical team, and we’re going to have to match their toughness.”
Bryan is paced by QB Austin Schimmoeller (907 passing yards, 13 TDs; 300 rushing yards, 10 TDs), back Daniel Pendergrast (537 rushing yards, 8 TDs), and receiver Brandon Poncsak (13 catches, 250 yards, 4 TDs).
“They’ve got athletes all over the field,” Wauseon coach Travis Cooper said of Bryan. “One of our biggest concerns will be trying to limit the big plays, and we’ve got to sustain drives on our offense because their defense is pretty stout too. We’re going to have to play a flawless game.”