LIMA — Lima Senior goes from the frying pan to the fire.
After dropping a gut-wrenching 19-17 decision to Springfield last week, the Spartans had little time to dwell on the loss because Toledo Central Catholic, the No. 2 team in Division III, awaits Division II Lima Senior on Friday night.
In the last two years, the game between these two teams has produced some exciting football and Spartan head coach Andre Griffin expects more of the same this time around. In 2016, Central Catholic edged Lima Senior 35-34.
“They are going to be fired up against us especially because of last year,” Griffin said. “They are going to be ready to go. They won by one but they know they can’t take us lightly. Our guys are excited again to bounce back. I think they have confidence because of last year we just have to flip it (the score). Ill take a one-point win.”
The Irish, who are the four-time defending Three Rivers Athletic league champions, come into the game with a 3-0 mark and impressive wins over Bishop Hartley (35-16) and King High School (21-13) out of Detroit. Toledo Central Catholic defeated Canada Football Academy (23-8) last week.
Even though Toledo Central Catholic lost last year’s Mr. Football running back Chris Warren to graduation, the Irish bring back a wealth of talent on both sides of the ball.
“They are going to challenge us with the run, and they can go over the top,” Griffin said.
TCC running back Devon Rivers is the Irish’s primary runner. He ran for more than 140 yards against Bishop Hartley.
Griffin said the Irish defense is better than it was last year.
“Their defense is a lot better than their offense,” Griffin said. “Their offense was really good last year and their defense was suspect. This year I think it has flipped-flopped. Their offense is getting better and they have a lot of good players on that team.”
Irish cornerback Sean Blue is the cornerstone of the defense. The talented senior is also a threat on the offense.
“Their d-line is big again,” Griffin said. “They are quick and they keep everything in front of them so we really have to scheme them up and be patient. This could be another low scoring game.”
Griffin added that you have to take what the defense gives you and Lima Senior which had a rough outing offensively last week will need to regroup in order to produce against the Irish defense.
The Spartans, in particular the offense, will have to come up with a better outing after managing 182 yards of total offense against a strong Springfield defense.
Spartan quarterback Adrine Mitchell, who opened the season with two big outings, was limited to 117 yards passing and two interceptions and gained no yards on the ground.
Springfield stuffed the Spartans running game, limiting Lima Senior to 65 yards on the ground. Spartan running back Xavier Nichols was limited to 67 yards on 11 carries. The large majority of those yards came on a 35-yard touchdown run.
“We knew going in it was going to be hard to run against Springfield,” Griffin said. “We changed it up at the halftime and we broke some plays. In the second half we ran better so if we can build on that and keep adjusting we will be OK.”
Griffin praised the defense for its effort against Springfield and probably needs a similar outing against TCC. Despite giving up 412 total yards, the opportunistic Spartans forced four fumbles and two interceptions against Springfield..
“The defense played really well,” Griffin said. “They were running us over a little bit but we played with great effort and we had six turnovers.”
Griffin added that he was proud of the team effort against a strong Division I squad in Springfield.
“We were close but no cigar and hopefully we can start winning these close games,” Griffin said. “We are still making progress and we have to keep on focusing on the positive.”
Griffin said the loss to Springfield was disappointing but the team has to continue to focus on the big picture and that includes a shot at the TRAC title and a possible playoff berth.
“This is the first week of the true season,” Griffin said. “If you can get through the TRAC all your goals are still attainable.”
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on twitter @JoseNogueras1