St. Paul ran 73 times for 421 yards and scored on seven of eight possessions in a 45-7 blowout win over Tiffin Calvert in Friday’s Division VII Region 26 second-round game at Don Paul Stadium in Fremont.
The Associated Press poll champion Flyers (12-0) advance to a regional championship for the 13th time in program history when they face Pandora-Gilboa (10-2) at a site to be determined next Friday.
Friday’s game against the Senecas (8-4) was won up front, and it was over essentially from the start.
“I think the big thing was, Calvert’s offensive and defensive lines is awesome — and a lot of it came down to how well we were able to play up front,” St. Paul coach John Livengood said. “Our kids did a pretty good job with that, and I thought our backs ran hard and got things going for us.”
St. Paul took the opening kickoff and covered 65 yards in 10 plays with Thane Crabbs scoring the first of his four touchdowns on an 8-yard run. Crabbs has scored 10 touchdowns in two playoff victories so far.
The first of six Joey Catalano extra points put the Flyers up 7-0 at the 8:36 mark of the first quarter. The Senecas managed one first down on the ensuing drive, but were forced to punt.
Starting from their own 21, the Flyers covered 79 yards in 15 plays — 14 of which were runs by Crabbs, Noah Good and Cam Caizzo. The last was a 1-yard run by Crabbs with 1:32 left in the first quarter for a 14-0 lead.
St. Paul was forced to punt on its third possession, and it was the only time in the game it did so.
But in the meantime, the Flyer defense swarmed the Senecas in the first half. Calvert was limited to 79 yards in the two quarters and just four first downs — which included one on the final play of the half when it was already down 28-0.
“Defensively, we got some early stops and were able to continue drives and get some scores to get the momentum going in the first half,” Livengood said.
St. Paul added touchdown drives of 60 and 80 yards, capped by an 8-yard run by Good at the 4:19 mark, and another 1-yard score by Crabbs with 37 seconds left in the half.
Calvert coach Todd Fox said the script played out in the worst possible way in the first half for the Senecas.
“We knew going in, you can’t let them get any momentum — and they took the momentum right from the start,” Fox said. “Hats off to them, and our goal for them now is to win the state championship. That is a great team.”
On the third play of the second half, standout running back Austin Jones scored on a 56-yard run for the Senecas to make it a 28-7 deficit.
But aside from that run, Jones ran 11 times for 34 yards to finish with 90 yards for the game. He had ran for 1,894 yards and 28 TDs entering the game, and was averaging over 250 yards and 4 TDs per game over the last seven wins for Calvert.
“Nothing different, just used our base defense really,” Livengood said of defending Jones, who was also held to 56 yards in the 23-7 win in Tiffin on Sept. 8. “We had to get off blocks, but thing is with Jones and (Park) Hemminger in there, his ability to run and pass, you couldn’t just focus on Jones. Our kids did a nice job with our technique and base defense.”
Catalano added a 23-yard field goal at the 5:09 mark of the third quarter to extend the lead to 31-7, then Lukasko intercepted his second pass on defense to set up a 55-yard scoring drive. Crabbs got his last score from a yard out on the first play of the fourth quarter for a 38-7 lead.
Lukasko then finished the game off with a QB sneak from a yard out on fourth-and-goal with 4:15 left to close out the scoring.
Good ran 33 times for 187 yards for St. Paul, while Crabbs ran 29 times for 149 yards. Caizzo added 62 yards on nine attempts, and Lukasko ran twice for 23 yards. Through the air, Lukasko was 4-of-5 passing for 64 yards, with Paul Pearce catching two passes for 57 yards.
Hemminger was limited to 9-of-19 passing for 97 yards and 2 INTs for the Senecas.
“We said all week long, their offense is what it is, and it’s always great,” Fox said. “But this team is different because their defense is phenomenal, and they showed it again tonight. Coach Livengood and his staff does an outstanding job and we just have to give them the credit and send off our seniors.”
Friday’s win was also the 11th time St. Paul rematched with a team it had beat in the regular season. The Flyers are now 9-2 in those games.
“It’s a good win, but we’ll continue to take it one game at a time,” Livengood said.