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Trojans embrace challenge of St. Paul

Mark Hazelwood • Updated Oct 12, 2017 at 3:07 AM

First-year coach Corey Fickiesen had watched his South Central football team lose the first three Firelands Conference games by an average of 30 points.

But last Friday, his team was faced with the prospect of losing a heartbreaker. Western Reserver was just a few feet from a touchdown as time expired — but it was the Trojans coming up with the stop to preserve a 27-24 win.

“It was quite the game,” Fickiesen said. “Our guys continued to battle through some things. We had some special teams problems early in the game and we gave up 10 points just off our punt team. But we were able to keep battling to the last play and were able to get the one stop we needed. It was a huge win for us.”

The reward for improving to 3-4 overall (1-3 FC)? A trip to Norwalk on a Saturday to face the No. 2 ranked team in the Division VII Associated Press poll — a team the Trojans haven’t beaten in nearly 30 years: St. Paul (7-0, 4-0).

And from Fickiesen’s perspective, that’s a good thing.

“No matter what year or week, when you play St. Paul, it’s a challenge,” he said. “But that’s a good thing I think, honestly. You have the opportunity in your conference every year to play a team that is usually state-ranked and usually makes a run in the playoffs. And you get to see that.

“A lot of teams in the state don’t get to play an opponent that good on a yearly basis, so we kind of get to see what it’s going to take in the future if we want to get there,” Fickiesen added. “Obviously Coach (John) Livengood does an amazing job and has for a very long time, and what they have is what we’re trying to get to.”

Adding to the challenge, the Flyers are coming off a 31-20 win at Mapleton that saw them trail in the third quarter, 20-17. It was the first time in 27 quarters of play in 2017 that St. Paul had trailed in a game.

Fickiesen knows the Flyers will be looking to come out extremely sharp — but says that’s not unexpected no matter what happened last week.

“The win for last week helps us a little bit, but I think honestly with St. Paul, they just are who they are,” he said. “Whether they were down last week or up 30, they are going to come out and play the same way they always do. That consistency factor is why they continue to be so good. We’re going to attack it like it’s another game, play as hard as we possibly can and see where we end up.”

Meanwhile, Livengood sees a South Central team that has steadily improved.

“They looked good against Western, and they are a team that is really buying in to the new system,” he said. “They run an offense very similar to Mapleton’s, and they have a QB in Evan Legg who is doing a great job as a sophomore.

“He plays well, is an accurate passer and has some big play kids like Ben Lamoreaux, a hard-nosed back with Tycen Cooper — and they will run some Wildcat stuff with those two,” Livengood added. “It seems like they are playing physical on defense and are a team that is improving each week.”

Livengood noted last week’s tight game at Mapleton had a lot to do with the Mounties.

“Mapleton is a well-coached team that is continuing to get better, and their All-Ohio quarterback (Logan Pharmer) played like one,” he said. “They had good schemes and good designs, so I think the credit starts there. At the same time, we didn’t play very well and there were a lot of mistakes we made and areas we need to improve.

“I felt like Mapleton dominated the line of scrimmage and their skilled kids played very well in space, and we were not very aggressive, defensively,” Livengood added. “So we have a lot of areas we need to improve upon in the next few days.”

Thane Crabbs paces a powerful St. Paul rushing attack with 466 yards and 7 TDs, while close behind is Cam Caizzo (393 yards, 6 TDs) and Noah Good (372 yards, 5 TDs).

QB Nick Lukasko is 48-of-68 for 1,060 yards with 11 TDs and one interception. Paul Pearce has 12 catches for 207 yards and 2 TDs, and Joey Catalano adds 10 catches for 278 yards and 2 TDs.

For South Central, Legg is 81-of-143 passing for 1,153 yards with 9 TDs and 4 INTs. Cooper has ran 45 times for 209 yards and 3 TDs, while Lamoreaux adds 128 yards and 4 TDs and leads the team in receiving with 29 catches for 432 yards and 3 TDs.

And while Fickiesen believes the Trojans have bought in to his system, there is still plenty of progress to be made.

“We’re not where we need to be obviously, but I think they’re seeing that it’s possible, that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “We can continue to talk about it, but the kids need to see it. I think that helps with the buy in part. But we’re going to continue to keep fighting, we’ve got three more weeks left, and this one is obviously a big one.”

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