The Division VII Associated Press poll champion Flyers (11-0) will rematch with Tiffin Calvert (8-3) in a Region 26 second-round game at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Don Paul Stadium in Fremont.
The Senecas — in the playoffs for a seventh straight season — are known to be a team that pulls out many different looks to throw off their opponent under head coach Todd Fox.
“They throw a lot at you front-wise,” St. Paul coach John Livengood said. “It’s a 4-2-5 defense, but they will show you all sorts of different looks to prepare for.
“That’s a challenge for us, that you have to be able to recognize that,” he added. “And on special teams they are a team that likes to run trick plays. They give you a lot to prepare for.”
In a 23-7 win at Tiffin over the Senecas in Week 3, the Flyers controlled most of the way. They led 13-0 entering the fourth quarter, when Calvert scored a touchdown on the first play to cut the deficit to 13-7.
However, a touchdown run by Thane Crabbs and a field goal from Joey Catalano closed out the scoring. St. Paul ran 42 times for 174 yards and a TD, while Nick Lukasko was 6-of-9 for 155 yards and a TD.
St. Paul limited the Senecas to 106 yards rushing on 39 attempts (2.9 average), while backup QB Mitch Neilsen was 5-of-16 passing for 88 yards with a TD and an interception.
But that was then and this is now.
Austin Jones — limited to 56 yards and 19 attempts in the first meeting — has been the main cog behind the Senecas turnaround from 1-3 to seven straight wins.
During the seven-game winning streak, Jones has ran 172 times for 1,764 yards and 28 touchdowns — good for an average of 25 carries for 252 yards and 4 TDs per game.
“Jones is obviously running the ball very well for them,” Livengood said. “He’s really picked it up toward the end of the season, but he ran well against us the first time as well — so we knew how good he was back then.”
Park Hemminger, Calvert’s quarterback a year ago, is now healthy and back in the lineup after missing the third and fourth games of the season. In nine games, he is 94-of-167 for 1,452 yards with 14 TDs and just three interceptions.
“He has a quick release and is an accurate thrower, and is good running the option,” Livengood said of Hemminger. “They run the ball more with him in there from the QB position, not just the option, but counter and zone read stuff.
“That adds a bit of a dimension to their offense — and their line play was good then and it’s good now on both sides,” he added. “They have good receivers, and Zach Conn (22 catches, 317 yards, 3 TDs) is alway the one who stands out. He’s a great athlete and goes out and makes plays.”
St. Paul opened the playoffs last week with a sound 52-13 win over visiting Haviland Wayne Trace. Running back Thane Crabbs ran 11 times for 138 yards with 3 TDs, and caught seven passes for 111 yards and three more touchdowns as he tied the single-game record for TDs.
Lukasko was 15-of-21 passing for 240 yards and the three TD passes. The Flyers limited the Raiders to -23 yards rushing on 19 attempts, while quarterback Trevor Speice was 22-of-41 passing for 243 yards with 2 TDs and an interception.
“The kids were able to execute the game plan,” Livengood said. “We mixed things up front-wise and with our coverage. We were able to get pressure with three and sometimes with extra pressure, and keeping Speice corralled wasn’t an easy thing.
“For the most part, our defensive line did a good job with that, and then our coverage downfield was very good,” he added. “Sometimes those sacks were from pressure but other times they were coverage sacks as well. It was a team effort, not just one aspect of it dominating, so that was nice to see.”
Friday’s game will mark the 11th time St. Paul has rematched in the playoffs with a team from the regular season. The Flyers are 8-2 in those games, though one of the losses was to the Senecas in the first round in 2012.