November 27, 2011

St. Ignatius, Pickerington Central gain Ohio final

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to and follow him on Twitter.

We guess it only makes sense.

In an Ohio season filled with parity and unpredictability, it only figures that the Division I final to determine the state's top team would be played by two schools that started the year a combined 3-3.

September efforts - or failures - are yesterday's news.

Cleveland (Ohio) St. Ignatius and Pickerington (Ohio) Central earned their trips to the big game the old-fashioned way. Or maybe just the Ohio way.

With defense.

Both controlled their opponents in what can be considered upsets - at least according to the rankings.

But this season, anything goes.

The state has had a dozen or so schools ranked, but none have grabbed hold of the top spot.

Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward and Cincinnati (Ohio) Moeller both advanced into the RivalsHigh Top 20, but neither could make it to the state semis.

Mentor (Ohio) High and Toledo (Ohio) Whitmer each took over the top spot in the state late in the season, but each was almost immediately upset.

Parity or unpredictability? We'll let you decide.

For now, a look at the semifinals:

No. 73 St. Ignatius 17, No. 37 Whitmer 6

When Whitmer's Jody Webb ran for a 90-yard score on the third play of the third quarter, Toledo (Ohio) Whitmer appeared to be right back in the game.

After all, following a mistake-filled first half, Whitmer seemed ready to make a charge.

St. Ignatius had other ideas.

First, it stopped Whitmer's two-point attempt. Then, it went on a long scoring drive of its own, increasing the lead to 17-6 when Eric Williams threw his second TD pass of the game, a 12-yarder to Tim McCoy.

From there, the defense took over, repeatedly stopping a Whitmer offense that came into the game averaging 44 points per game. It left with five turnovers - and its first loss of season.

St. Ignatius' defense, which gave up 38 points in a Week Three loss to Mentor, hasn't yielded more than 20 in a game since.

Because of it, the school now has a chance at its 11th state title.

  • RivalsHigh take: It takes defense and being battle-tested to win the Ohio Division I tournament and St. Ignatius has proved to have both so far. The Wildcats have had solid game plans every week to slow the opposition and Coach Kyle and his staff should be receiving plenty of praise for that. This isn't a team that wows you, but a look at the win column is impressive.

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

    No. 79 Pickerington Central 14, No. 65 St. Xavier 7

    Fourth-down, fourth-quarter plays can change a game. They sure did in this one.

    With the score tied, 7-7, St. Xavier failed to convert on a fourth-and-2 on the Pickerington Central 25 yard line early in the fourth quarter. Pickerington Central then marched 75 yards for the game-winning score, converting a fourth-and-4 along the way.

    Because of it, Pickerington Central has a chance for its first state title.

    That hardly seemed possible on Labor Day weekend, when Pickerington Central was plundered by this same St. Xavier team, 38-21, to fall to 0-2.

    On that day, the defense gave up 156 yards and four TDs to St. X running back Conor Hundley. On this one, Pickerington Central held Hundley to just 51 yards - including just 1 when he needed 2 on that fateful fourth-down play.

  • RivalsHigh take: The first game between these two was going in a similar fashion until a lightning delay changed the complexion and St. X came out of the gates firing. This match-up, there were no such theatrics as Pickerington Central clamped down. The defense for Pickerington Central has really come to the party during this playoff run.

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

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