Next man up.
Lima Central Catholic has heard that phrase quite a bit this year and the Thunderbirds will need it once again as they must replace the team’s top rusher Shawn Thomas after he was injured in the regional quarterfinal win over Sycamore Mohawk last week.
Losing a talent like Thomas is tough but LCC head coach Scott Palte said it will take others to fill the void left behind as the Thunderbirds prepare for their Division VII regional semifinal game against Crestview Friday night
“He is an unbelievable kid and a great person and I feel bad for him but he is out there every day trying to help coach this week and just a great young man,” Palte said. “We have always tried to keep that in our program (next man up) because of the quaratine issues. We practice hard and develop that in our program and every kid knows you can be called on. Our guys have that mentality and are used to filling in when they are needed. I suspect whover is going to play is going to play well.”
That is not to say the cupboard is bare at LCC. Far from it. The Thunderbirds still have Rossy Moore who has rushed for 100 yards or more in five different games this year, a talented offensive line and young runners ready to make their mark such as Quintel Peoples.
Peoples showed off some his skills last week with a 75-yard kickoff return and then some exciting runs while filling in for Thomas in the final three quarters.
Thunderbird fans also got a glimpse of some of that hidden talent when LCC displayed some of its passing game. Quarterback Evan Unruh was effective in the passing game, throwing for 126 yards and finding receivers Travis Hoyles who made some big catches.
“We have a lot of skilled players that can play for some football teams,” Palte said. “Now they are going to get their chances. They are real excited and I think they are going to play well.”
Palte added that Hoyles had a career game last week as the sure handed receiver hauled in four catches for 66 yards and a touchdown.
“Anytime you can be multi-dimensional it opens up the playbook and it is good for us,” Palte added.
The LCC defense also shined against Mohawk producing five interceptions and five sacks and the LCC head coach is looking for the same. However, he knows Crestview comes out at you straight ahead with a physical running game.
“They run hard. Their line is big,” Palte said. “They have really gotten better throughout the year and they are going to be really physical and try to pound and have we have our work cut out for us.”
Knights on a roll
CONVOY – When Crestview started the season, Knights head coach Jared Owens admitted his team wasn’t ready to play both physically and mentally and he takes full responsibility.
But since week five, the Knights had turned things around and more than ready as they are riding a four-game winning streak including two impressive postseason wins.
Owens said the turnaround actually began when Crestview lost a 38-31 decision to Columbus Grove in the Northwest Conference tournament.
“We started getting better and we played Grove tough and were driving on the last play but came up short,” Owens said. “When we beat Spencerville the second time we knew we could play with the better teams.”
After beating the Bearcats, the Knights won their first postseason game 69-7 over North Baltimore and then followed it up with a 50-13 win over Tiffin Calvert. In a third meeting against Spencerville last week, Crestview posted a hard fought 41-28 victory to advance.
“Our guys are feeling really good and felt they earned those victories,” Owens said. “Any time you can beat a quality team like a Chris Sommers coached Spencerville team you are doing something right.”
One thing the Knights have been doing is running the ball, featuring Brody Brecht and Logan Geradot, In the first two playoff games, Brecht amassed 518 yards and four touchdowns and against Spencerville Geradot rushed for 175 yads and one touchdown and Brecht added two scores.
Owens said that is a credit to the offensive line.
“It all starts up front,” Owens said. “We place an emphasis on our line play and have gotten better as a team throughout the year.”
The same holds true for the defense and it also starts up front. Crestview has given up 48 points in three postseason games with 28 of those coming against Spencerville.
Crestview will need all things to be working when they face LCC.
“LCC hurts you a lot of ways,” Owens said. “They are strong in all three phases of the game and are very athletic and can beat you on offense, defense and special teams.”
Owens said stopping the potent LCC running game is priority No. 1. Even though the Thunderbirds are without the services of Thomas, LCC still has the fleet-footed Moore and Peoples who is also a breakaway threat.
Moore has gained more than 100 yards in five games this year including 115 yards against Mohawk last week and Peoples had 77 yards but also returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the game.
Crestview can’t just sit on the LCC running game. Unruh proved against Mohawk that he is more than capable of airing the ball out to a number of talented receivers who also have speed to burn.
Owens said that perhaps their biggest defense will be keeping their offense on the field.
“We definitely want to be physical and play fundamental time possession football,” Owens said. “Defensively we want to get them in third and long situations and create some turnovers.”