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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Week 12 Preview - Orrvile Red Riders vs Elyria Catholic Panthers

Who:  #2 Elyria Catholic Panthers (10-1) vs #3 Orrville Red Riders (8-3)
What:  An OHSAA Division IV, Region 14 Semifinal
Where:  Medina High School - Ken Dukes Stadium (map here, they will be charging $2 for parking also)
When:  Friday November 12, 2010, 7:30pm

All-Time Series:  Elyria Catholic leads 1-0
Last Meeting:  Elyria Catholic 14, Orrville 13.  1984 Division III State Semifinal.  My 1984 playoff lookback including the original game article is here.

Playoff History:  Orrville has qualified for the state playoffs 21 times.  Their playoff record is 26-19 with one state championship (1998).  Elyria Catholic has 14 appearances, their record is 16-10 with 3 state titles (1976, 1983, 1984).

Coaches: Ben Malbasa is in his 4th season as Panther coach, this is his 2nd playoff appearance. His record is 31-11, including a 1-1 record in the playoffs. Doug Davault is 40-17 in his 5th year as Orrville head coach. He's 5-2 in 3 playoff appearances.

Radio: Wooster's 104.5 WQKT will broadcast the game on-air and online at WEOL 930 AM will also carry the game. Their website is here, can't really tell if they'll be webcasting, but I'm guessing so.

Other Region 14 Game: In the other semifinal, #4 Genoa takes on #1 Clear Fork at Tiffin. Both teams run the ball almost exclusively so this game should take about 90 minutes to play. It may be over by the time the Orrville game is at halftime.

In a rematch from the 1984 Division 3 playoffs...two of northeast Ohio's most accomplished programs will meet on the field for only the second time.  The winner gets a berth in the regional title game.  It's preview time...and for this week, I've asked a special guest to handle the Elyria Catholic side of things.  Read on for all the wonderment. 

Looking Back
So...the obligatory parochial school, like death and taxes, stands in the way of the 2010 Orrville Red Riders and a deep playoff run. This time, it's the Panthers of Elyria Catholic, a team the Riders have only played one time, and lost 14-13 in the 1984 Division III state semifinal.
In what may have been the most talented Orrville team ever (Jack Leeder, Tom Bolyard, Keith Denson, Tom Moore, etc), the Riders couldn't get past the Panthers despite holding all-state running back Al McKinney to just 68 yards. It was Orrville's 3rd playoff appearance, and the 3rd time they were eliminated by a parochial school. The 4th would come next year in the state finals to Columbus DeSales.

Looking Ahead
All that history stuff is nice, it's what tradition is made of, but this game will be decided by the players on the field.  Both sides boast plenty of talent and game changers.  Elyria Catholic will look to senior QB Danny Reaser to lead the way, as they have all season.

According to this link at the OHSAA, Reaser has the 3rd most passing yards in the entire state, now with 3249 yards (295 per game) after week 11.  He completes 58% of his passes and averages nearly 36 attempts (and 20 completions) per game.  Here's his ScoutingOhio link to see him in action.  Note the other passers on that OHSAA link.  Northwest's Nick Riley, Triway's Derek Carmichael and Ashland's Marcus Fuller.  Orrville has faced all three, so what Elyria shows us won't be anything groundbreaking.

Reaser's two favorite targets are seniors Zach Rogers (75 receptions for 1328 yards) and Conor Voreis (56 for 769).  Rogers reminds me of Sam Miller in his ability to break the big play.

Elyria Catholic can run the ball as well, just enough that you have to respect it, but their bread & butter is the pass.

Special Guest
Real excited about this one....I was looking at EC's football website (link) and was looking at pictures from their first round win over Huron when I noticed a picture of a guy speaking to the team prior to the game.  He was holding up an "Elyria Catholic 1984 State Champs" jacket.  Here's the picture (Scroll down).  The jacket intrigued me, but the guy's face looked familiar.  Then it hit was Bob Frantz.  This guy....

He hosts a radio talk show on Cleveland's WTAM 1100 AM, does a Browns pre-game radio show and hosts a show called "Warrant Unit" (it's basically America's Most Wanted - Cleveland) on 19ActionNews.

I knew he was an EC grad, but figured if he was holding up a state champs jacket, he probably played on that team.  So I e-mailed him, asking if he would mind contributing to this preview.  He obviously knew the power this blog holds, and the negative karma it would bring the Panthers if he didn't participate (obviously joking, it was my incessant nagging that sealed the deal).  He obliged and answered all my pertinent questions on this game.

Here's his thoughts....and remembrances about the 1-point win Panther win from back in 1984.
TOPIC: What do the Panthers do well?
Well, it's no secret that EC is a great passing team. Reaser is as poised as they come. Doesn't get rattled. And they have a fleet of receivers...not just Rogers. Vorhies, Baker, Graham...all have been big-play guys. And they run the ball better than most teams with spread offenses do.
TOPIC: Padua beat EC in week 7 (41-23).  What did they do well that no one else could?  I think Padua beat them up front as much as anything else. Bigger school, bigger kids, tough matchup. The EC defense has indeed been challenged a lot, but some of those numbers are deceiving. They're not dominant, but very scrappy.

TOPIC: The 1984 Elyria Catholic/Orrville game.  As for the '84 game, I remember it well. Orrville was easily the toughest team we played in our back-to-back title years. They designed their entire defensive game plan on stopping Al McKinney, who was the best RB in the state. I can't blame them, but they had absolutely no plan on how to deal with Ron Traut, who was by far the best athlete on that field. 

He was our best player, all-around, despite McKinney's 49 TD's and 2400 yards. Traut was a slot-back on offense, which in our offense was primarily a blocking back for the tailback...but when we kept giving him the ball as the first man through, they had no idea how to defend it. If they would've actually kept more guys inside to stop him, McKinney would have broken free outside.

Incidentally, our all-state offensive guard/defensive lineman, Geoff Poyle, played at Indiana with Bolyard.

TOPIC: Your thoughts on Friday night.  I expect a down-to-the-wire finish Friday long as EC can contain Orrville's running game, and Orrville can cover some of EC's playmakers.  If one team or the other gets hot, it could be over more quickly...but I don't expect that.  I think whomever turns the ball over the least wins this one.
So, so cool.  Thanks Bob for helping out.  Give his show a listen some night, usually on 7pm to midnight during the week.  It's real good radio.  Can talk sports, politics, local issues..even entertainment.  Very informative.

What Orrville HAS to do well
The Orrville defense will have to come up big against a spread team once again, and I think they have the athletes to at least match Elyria Catholic.  Orrville's junior speedster Stewart Turner will no-doubt match up with EC's Zach Rogers, so it may come down to which of Reaser's secondary options can make plays, or which Orrville DB (other than Turner) can make stops. 

Maybe we'll see a little gimmick defense from the Riders too.  Maybe not like Clear Fork did against Ashland in dropping all eleven defenders into pass coverage, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it in obvious passing situations.  The key will be putting pressure on Reaser and hurrying his throws.  Pressure will need to come from the front three of Derek Graber, Trevor White and Sam Reusser and some combination of linebackers Max Pirman, Matt Davis, Cody Rice and Mason Monheim.  I don't think we can rush 7 guys and live to tell about it.  We'll need to blitz smartly and guard against the big play.

On offense, I think there are two approaches....spread it out and try to out-athlete them (a bad idea, in my opinion), or line up in the 'I' formation and run right at them....picking our spots in the passing game.  We've said all year that the success of this team will be based on our run game and our defense, and I think we need to stick to that philosophy and prove that this week.  When we've made mistakes on offense, they've usually hurt us in terms of turnovers leading to points.  That CAN'T happen this week.  Lower the risk a little bit and keep the ball on the ground. 

Let's be honest...if anything we have equal talent.  We're not going to win this game by just having better athletes.  We're going to need better playcalling, better execution...and probably a little luck.

If I'm the coach...which I'm so thankful I'm not...I run right at them with Tre Simpson, Mason Monheim, Matt Davis & Stew Turner.  Give Tre 20 carries and spread out another 20 carries between the other three.  That should take care of 2/3 of our plays.  Pick your spots passing...look for Max over the middle and the opportunistic deep ball to Drew & Stew.  I also think this is a night where secondary receivers like Cody Rice and Dylan Lemmon can have an impact.  Let's not "save" anything for next week, because there wont be one if we can't throw all our weapons at this team.

Projections & Thoughts says Orrville by 10...which I find pretty laughable. says Orrville by 3.

I think this is a tossup if anything, maybe with a slight favorite to EC.  I think EC is just as good as Ashland and we lost by 14 to the Arrows.  I think the gameplan on defense should be the exact same as the Ashland matchup.  I think strength of schedule favors Orrville, but really, that doesn't matter much.  We are used to playing teams bigger than us, so that will help.

We'll need to be excellent across the board if we're to win this game.  Need to be the more physical team from the line to the defensive backs.  Need to show the Panthers that they're in for a fight.  Get after Reaser and make him make a throw before he wants to.  On offense, run the ball and control the clock.  That may be the best defense against their offense.  And for the love of silly penalties.

Elyria Catholic is a very good team...of coach Ben Malbasa's 10 regular season losses in his time at EC, only 2 of them came to non-playoff teams.  When they do lose a game, it's to other good ball clubs.  That speaks to the talent at that school, and the preparation they get from the coaching staff.  I think Orrville is a good team capable of beating them, but it has to be shown on the field.

If recent history has told us anything....get ready for another heartstopper.  But if it means a win...I'm sure that will be ok.

Hope to see a big(ger) contingent of Orrville fans trek to Medina this week.  For the second week of November, can't ask for nicer not too many excuses.  I wrote earlier in the week about some of our magic in week 12 games.  I have a feeling this might be another. 

Let's get some revenge for 1984 and  punch our ticket to the regional final.

Go Red!!  Beat EC.

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