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Balanced St. Paul offense pours it on in first-round rout

Mark Hazelwood • Updated Nov 4, 2017 at 12:06 AM

NORWALK — Wayne Trace had a pretty good idea what was coming.

The Raiders were going to need a near-perfect performance after making a near three-hour trip to face Division VII Associated Press poll champion St. Paul.

But instead, the Flyers (11-0) scored early and often and never looked back in a 52-13 win in the first round of the Region 26 playoffs at Whitney Field.

St. Paul will rematch against Tiffin Calvert (8-3) at 7:30 p.m. next Friday at a site to be determined on Sunday. The Flyers topped the Senecas, 23-7, in Tiffin on Sept. 8.

St. Paul totaled 383 yards and six touchdowns in the first half alone, with Thane Crabbs rushing for three touchdowns and catching three more to tie a program record with six TDs in a single game.

Quarterback Nick Lukasko was 15-of-21 passing for 239 yards and the 3 TDs to Crabbs — all in the first half.

“They are a high-caliber team with an excellent coach and nice players,” Wayne Trace coach Mike Speice said. “We knew what we were in for, and we didn’t play a perfect game that we needed.

“Credit to St. Paul and their coaching staff and kids,” he added. “They were prepared and were the better team tonight.”

Lukasko coverted a pair of third-down passes to Crabbs on the opening series of the game — the last an 8-yard TD pass at the 8:42 mark of the first quarter. Joey Catalano kicked the first of seven extra points for a 7-0 lead.

Crabbs added a 58-yard touchdown run and Catalano kicked a 34-yard field goal — his seventh of the season — to extend the lead to 17-0 after one quarter.

Crabbs added a 28-yard touchdown run to the left side off a nice block by Aiden Fisher. Then after a Wayne Trace (6-5) punt, he caught a 28-yard scoring pass from Lukasko and this time followed a block from Kurt Maxwell to reach the end zone.

That pushed the lead out to 31-0 — and on the ensuing Wayne Trace possession, its punter took a low snap a the 1 and his knee hit the ground. That gave the Flyers the ball at the Trace 1, and Crabbs punched it in the next play for a 38-0 lead with 5:22 left in the first half.

The Raiders did answer with a 42-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Speice to Jake Kuhn on a third-and-6 with 52 seconds left in the half.

But that proved too much time.

The Flyers moved the ball down the field in just 38 seconds, with Lukasko finishing the drive 5-of-6 for 74 yards — the last a 5-yard TD pass to Crabbs with just 11 seconds left in the half for a 45-7 lead.

“We were able to get the run game going early on, and we changed some things up — as they had 10 in the box within two yards of the line of scrimmage,” St. Paul coach John Livengood said. “We had to find some things to open up, and Nick did a great job finding his receivers, and they were able to take short gains and turn them into long gains.”

In the second half, each team traded scores in the third quarter, with the Flyers getting a 1-yard TD run by Noah Good with 3:57 left in the third quarter.

Trevor Speice was 17-of-38 passing for 210 yards with the two TD strikes, but he was also sacked six times (five in the first half) and threw an interception.

“We felt like we needed to get pressure on him and shorten the amount of time he had to pass,” Livengood said. “He has great escapability and we worked in practice on collapsing the pocket around him. I thought our kids did a nice job with that and our secondary for the most part did a nice job with that. It’s a tough offense to stop and our defense did a nice job.”

Crabbs ran 12 times for 138 yards and caught seven passes for 111 yards. Paul Pearce had four catches for 55 yards, and Catalano had a pair for 57 yards — as Lukasko completed his 15 passes to five different receivers.

As for the rematch with Tiffin Calvert, Livengood said no matter what — the Flyers will have to turn it up another notch.

“We’ll continue to take it one week at a time no matter who are opponent is,” he said. “And as we go on, we know we have to continue to raise our level. It was a physical game tonight and I expect it will be even more physical next week.”

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