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Another big-time matchup for St. Paul

Mark Hazelwood • Oct 17, 2019 at 6:00 PM

NORWALK — It may be somewhat common at this point, but it never gets old.

It's late October and the St. Paul football team is in a huge Firelands Conference game that also carries significant playoff computer points. That part has become fairly regular for the Flyers under John Livengood, as they've won 79 percent of their games and been to the state playoffs 20 times in the last 24 seasons.

But when a player decides to go out for football at St. Paul — it's also what they sign up for.

"That's where you want to be, and what you want to put yourself in position for — to play in a meaningful game like this toward the end of the season," Livengood said of Saturday's 7 p.m. game vs. Western Reserve at Whitney Field in Norwalk.

The Roughriders come into the game at 6-1 overall (4-0) FC and third in the Division VI Region 22 computer ratings. The Flyers are unbeaten (7-0, 4-0) and second in Div. VII Region 26, and are also ranked fourth in the latest Associated Press state poll.

"We've played several meaningful games this season, but Western has put themselves in position as well and now we have a big one this week," Livengood said. "We're playing for a conference championship and playoff points late in the season ... we're fortunate to be in this position, as is Western Reserve."

The Roughriders are averaging 31 points and 413 yards per game. Western is led by running back Cody Benesh, who has 214 attempts for 1,538 yards and 21 TDs — both which lead the FC. He also has 11 catches for 259 yards (23.5 average) and a TD out of the backfield.

Jude Muenz is 70-of-119 passing for 871 yards and 5 TDs at QB, with JJ Weisenberger catching 26 passes for 334 yards and 2 TDs.

"You have to start with an explosive running back in Benesh," Livengood said. "Not only is he fast, but he's a physical runner as well. That is your focal point on their offense, but you can't completely focus on him because Muenz does a great job passing and running the ball. They keep you honest with the things he does."

Livengood also mentioned Cory Hipp (nine catches, 82 yards, TD) and Nate Perkins as those who command the attention of a defense.

"They've got some great athletes at the receiver positions with Hipp, Weisenberger and Perkins," he said. "And also a huge tight end in Luke Wyers (6-feet-5, 235) ... they've got a number of kids who can hurt you."

Western's offensive line includes Dayne Braden (6-3,275), Wes Breedlove (5-9, 220), Dalton Webb (6-1, 280) and Aiden Markley (6-3, 220) along with Wyers up front.

"Huge and physical ... this team isn't just big, they are physical," Livengood said. "There is a lot of talent on the field for them."

Western allows 132.9 yards and 20.2 points per game on defense. Benesh leads the team in tackles (56), while Dalton Webb (34 tackles, six sacks) and Dayne Braden (34 tackles, five sacks) anchor the front.

"Defensively, it's the same type of thing because it's a lot of the same kids," Livengood said. "Add in Dean Lunsford (5-6, 220) in on defensive line and they are really big. Tyler Ramage is active, and guys like Wyers and Breedlove make things tough.

"Then those same skill kids who are explosive on offense are also in the secondary for them on defense," he added. "They've got a lot of really good players out there, and they are very well-coached. They've put themselves in a real good position to play in a championship game."

Livengood also noted it's evident how quickly Stevenson has put things together at Western. The 'Riders were 2-8 in his first year in 2018, but have just one loss — a 34-27 setback vs. Edison (5-2) on Sept. 14 — so far this season.

"I cannot say enough about the job Ty has done and really pulled it together there," he said. "You can see the direction he is leading the program. You can tell there is a lot of attention to paid to details and fundamentals, and you can see that evolving when watching them on film throughout the season. He is doing a great job."

The Flyers enter Saturday's game averaging 39.4 points and 323 yards per game while limiting opponents to 123.6 yards and just 3.7 points per game.

Running backs Cam Caizzo (731 yards, 9 TDs) and Justin Butler (545 yards, 12 TDs) are the 1-2 punch for the Flyers, while quarterback Myron Stoll is 22-of-38 passing for 348 yards and 5 TDs while rushing for 219 yards and four touchdowns.

The only points allowed this season by St. Paul is a single touchdown in its four FC games against Plymouth, Crestview, Mapleton and South Central. The Flyers are led on defense by linebackers Will Stieber (70 tackles, two sacks, three fumble recoveries) and Butler (50 tackles, two sacks).

Ben Meyer adds 32 tackles and five sacks; Lars Livengood has 22 tackles with four interceptions, while kicker Tyler Perkins is 37-of-39 on extra points and has a field goal (37 yards).

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