Rust. What rust.
Despite being off since Oct. 2 that included a first round bye and a forfeit in the second round of the playoffs, Lima Central Catholic looked like a team still in top form after the Thunderbirds dominated Sycamore Mohawk 53-20 in the Division VII quarterfinal Friday night.
With the win, LCC will face Crestview next Friday in the regional semifinals.
After its first possession where LCC went three and out, the Thunderbirds scored on its next three possessions to go up 20-0 in the first quarter. Then after giving up a Mohawk touchdown, one of the rare T-Bird defensive letdowns on the night, LCC scored 11 seconds later when Quintel Peoples ran the ensuing kick-off 75 yards for a touchdown.
LCC made this a running clock at halftime and outscoring Mohawk 13-0 in the second quarter to go up 39-8 at halftime.
“I thought we came out a little step slow,” LCC head coach Scott Palte said. “I think it took a couple drives for our guys to get used to get to the speed again but our guys played really well from that point on. We executed well and we ran hard. We were able to get the passing game going and our defense was super aggressive and made a ton of plays.”
The potent Thunderbird offense was on full display and only played three quarters.
Even though LCC has one of the best running games, Palte showed the Thunderbirds can also do it through the air.
On the ground with Rossy Moore spearheading the running game, gaining 118 yards and scoring three touchdowns on 15 carries
The one bleak spot for Thunderbirds was an injury to senior standout Shaun Thomas who went out of the game in the first half.
However, Peoples filled that void left by Thomas as the fleet-footed junior amassed 77 yards and added a second touchdown in addition to the one he had on special teams.
“Those guys (Moore and Peoples) are really athletic and they block for each other,” Palte said. “They both ran really hard and played really well. I am very proud of them.”
Palte added the Peoples doesn’t get the carries because of Thomas and Moore when called upon delivered.
“He was ready to play and he was focused and he took advantage of his opportunity and that is all we can ask him to do,” Palte said.
But perhaps the biggest surprise was the passing of quarterback Evan Unruh who finished the night going 10 for 15 for 122 yards and two touchdowns.
Palte said during the down time, the Thunderbirds, knowing it will take more than this their running game to advance, worked on their passing game.
“We thought it was kind of sluggish and we mixed up some routes and did some things different to help our receivers and our protection for quarterback and I thought our receivers made some really good plays,” Palte said. They are some really good athletes and we have to give them a chance to make more plays and not be so run dominate.
The Thunderbird defense was also ready to play as they shut down the Mohawk offense, in particular the running game that was so effective against Pandora-Gilboa last week. Warrior running back Mason Danner, who had 250 yards against the Rockets, was limited to 12 yards on six carries through three quarters.
LCC finished the game with five sacks and five interceptions .
“We came out aggressive and wanted to force them into third and long and make them through because the Danner kid is a heck of a running back and is a load,” Palte said. “We put an emphasis on winning first down and make them throw and think we are better with our athletic guys in the secondary.”