November 20, 2011

Toledo Whitmer heads list of Final Four in Ohio

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

Now that the Ohio Division I playoffs - arguably the deepest in all of the land - are set with a Final Four ...

Now that some familiar rivals have settled their differences in regional finals (St. Xavier gets the nod over Moeller in Region 4; Pickerington Central put one on Hilliard Davidson in Region 3) ...

Now that Ohio seemingly is no longer closer to determining its top team in a season of parity (or is it imperfection?) ...

Only one question remains: What about Whitmer?

The Toledo school, which usually doesn't draw the same amount of attention as the state's other perennial powers, did what it does best Saturday in its Region 2 final against Wadsworth: Win.

In dominating fashion.

Its 37-0 victory - complete on both sides of the ball - was another example of why the Panthers are the last remaining unbeaten Division I team in the state at 13-0. Why they may remain the only Ohio school in the first 50 of this week's RivalsHigh 100. And why they should be considered the favorite to win the state title.

It's the second straight trip to the Final Four for this team. But if you listen to Whitmer coach Joe Palka, you'll know it's not their final destination.

"Our kids have their eye on a pretty big prize," Whitmer coach Joe Palka told the Toledo Blade.

"I almost think they're afraid of failure. So, they continue to work hard. We had a great defensive plan, and we did what we needed to do. Our team just keeps getting better, and it's a tribute to our kids."

You want offense? Whitmer has it. It rolled to a 23-0 first-half lead to put the game way.

Defense? How about shutting down Wadsworth star running back Jack Snowball, who entered the game with 2,504 yards rushing and 32 TDs but left it with just 90 more (despite 30 carries).

Is it any wonder the team has outscored its three playoff opponents, 94-6?

Next up for Whitmer is St. Ignatius, which beat Mentor in the Region 1 final. The winner of that game will play the winner of St. Xavier and Pickerington Central in the state final.

Here's a look at how those four advanced Saturday:

No. 46 Whitmer 37, Wadsworth 0

Hard to imagine there was a turning point in a 37-0 game, but there may have been one moment - or two plays - that settled this one.

After Whitmer took a 7-0 lead on a Jody Webb 1-yard run, Wadsworth was looking to get back in the game and went for it on a 4th-and-3 from the Whitmer 23.

The school went to star back Jack Snowball, who was stopped 1-yard short - on a spot Wadsworth folks felt was a bit off. On the next play, Webb burst through a hole and went 79 yards for a game-changing touchdown.

Whitmer added a field goal and a 54-yard interception return for a score by Mark Myers before the half was through. Webb finished with 155 yards on 22 carries.

  • RivalsHigh take: The concerns of Whitmer's regular-season schedule have been put to rest with its dominant performances the last two weeks. With potentially two more games to play, the rankings evaluation is not final but a spot inside the final RivalsHigh 100 may now be cemented.

    For more, check out this report in the Toledo Blade.

    Pickerington Central 24, No. 50 Hilliard Davidson 0

    In a battle that seems to happen every year - the teams have met in the past four playoffs - Pickerington Central got the edge in this one, using a balanced attack to triumph.

    Pickerington got on the board first with an 8-yard acrobatic catch from Roger Lewis in the second quarter, then added a field goal before half. It put the game away with a 6-yard TD run by Billy Eakins and interception return for a score by Adam Clopton.

    Eakins finished the game with 154 yards on 19 carries, easily winning the running back battle against Hilliard Davidson's Alex Mickley, who was held to 50 yards. Davidson, in fact, was held to just five first downs.

    The game had an ugly ending as Hilliard Davidson coach Brian White and a senior player were ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct.

  • RivalsHigh take: Like Whitmer, Hilliard Davidson entered the playoffs with some serious questions about its strength of schedule. Unlike Whitmer, those were proven to be solid concerns. Pickerington Central is peaking at the right time and has proven to be a tough out. The defense played well in the win and that will be a key next week in a rematch with St. Xavier.

    For more, check out this report in the Columbus Dispatch.

    No. 83 St. Ignatius, 23, No. 65 Mentor 17

    St. Ignatius used a dominating rushing performance by Tim McVey (38 carries for 160 yards), but needed a key defensive play and a third-down passing play to hold off a determined Mentor squad.

    Mentor, trailing 16-10, was driving for a potential go-ahead score when it lost a fumble on the St. Ignatius 16.

    St. Ignatius responded with a long touchdown drive to move ahead 23-10. Then, after Mentor pulled to 23-17, it ran out the clock with a long game-clinching drive that featured a 17-yard pass play on a third-and-16 from quarterback Erik Williams.

    Williams finished 10-for-23 for 121 yards and two touchdowns as St. Ignatius improved to 11-2.

  • RivalsHigh take: St. Ignatius took a lot of lumps last season and its growth as a program has been the better for it. The defensive group is strong and Coach Kyle is doing a great job game-planning each week. This game being as low scoring as it was became a compliment to both teams as Mentor had been giving up (and scoring) a lot of points. This was a solid football game all around.

    For more, check out this report in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

    No. 85 St. Xavier 35, No. 84 Moeller 21

    Two up-and-down teams played a top-notch back-and-forth rematch.

    Moeller took a 7-0 lead before St. Xavier scored three straight times to go ahead, 21-7, at halftime. Moeller responded in the second half, getting two third-quarter scores to tie the game at 21-21 going into the fourth quarter.

    St. Xavier then took control in the final minutes. It got a 39-yard touchdown run from Conor Hundley to take the lead with 3:39 left, then - with Moeller driving - put it away with a 66-yard interception return for a score by Nathan Gerbus.

    Hundley finished with 135 yards and two rushing touchdowns on 23 carries. He also had a touchdown reception.

    St. Xavier improved to 10-3. Moeller, which defeated St. X, 27-24, in September, finished the season at 9-4.

  • RivalsHigh take: Many in Ohio will say that this is a typical Moeller collapse. After starting the season hot, the Crusaders limped to a finish. While the evidence may indicate there is some truth to that, Moeller played good football the last two weeks but ran into a now-healthy St. Xavier squad. The Bombers are pushing forward at the right time of the season and could be playing for a state championship again.

    For more, check out this report in the Cincinnati Enquirer.



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