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Published: Saturday, 9/22/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Commentary

Irish defense should take a bow too

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

Those were not two bad defenses on display Friday night at Gallagher Stadium. Wait. Let's rephrase that. Those weren't two terrible defenses. Wait. Let's try again. Those weren't the two worst high school defenses in the English-speaking world.

The offense on display in the Central Catholic-Findlay game, at least for a half, was otherworldly.

The Irish had 393 yards of offense and 42 points at halftime. The Three Rivers Athletic Conference foes combined for 617 yards and 69 points. Then the bands played.

The defensive coordinators adjourned to the locker rooms and screamed bloody murder, Findlay's Brad Burrows more loudly, I'm guessing, than Central's Nick Toth. The Irish, after all, had a 15-point lead, and Toth tore out all his hair long ago.

So, of course, the third quarter was scoreless. Go figure.

Central did start a 98-yard march and finished it with a five-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter.

That sealed it as the Irish scored a 56-27 romp on a rainy night behind a running game that almost defied description and, frankly, belief. Three Central rushers -- Amir Edwards, Paul Moses, and Cedric Gray -- all finished with more than 100 yards. Heck, Edwards had 176 of his 220 yards and all four of his touchdowns before halftime.

The state's No. 1-ranked Division II team came in averaging 51.5 points through four games and managed to better that against a previously unbeaten, state-ranked D-I team.

Findlay was averaging 56.5 points and came up far short, so maybe the Central defense, which had two takeaways and a big-time goal-line stand in the second half, deserves far more credit than we may have suggested. Actually, there's no maybe about it.

The Irish defense changed looks right up to the snap, disguised blitzes and coverages, and, at least after the half, frustrated a Findlay offense that returned 10 starters from a team that dominated the Irish 31-7 a year ago.

"You know, you have to be nuts to be a defensive coordinator these days," Toth said. "The offenses you see now are really something. And Findlay is the real deal. That's a real offense with all its kids back. Actually, I thought we played pretty solid the whole game. We just didn't execute as well early. All we told the guys was to settle down, execute what we'd practiced, and we'd be fine."

The Irish had been practicing Friday night's game plan for a long time, but hadn't been forced to trot it out through the first month of the season.

This was the night to spring it. Findlay spreads formations and plays what Toth calls a look-see offense. Or is it see-look? The Trojans see what the defense appears ready to give them, looks to the sideline for a late play call, and snaps the ball.

"So our strategy was to move around a lot and wait until the snap to get into our defense," Toth said. "We've spent a lot of time on it. We showed different blitzes, different coverages, tried to keep them guessing. I thought our kids were really, really good."

The second-half shutout certainly was something special. Joe Solomon, the senior strong safety, had a big interception, Jayme Thompson recovered a Findlay fumble, and Central's mobile linebackers, headed by Chris Green in the middle, made the three-man front effective.

Everybody is going to look at the 56 points and the lights-out offensive ground performance and figure that was the story of Central's big win.

It was certainly a very big story.

It's not the only reason the top-ranked Irish are unbeaten and looking awfully good at the midway point of the season.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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