State-ranked Flyers look for 20th straight win over New London in FC opener

Mark Hazelwood • Updated Sep 13, 2017 at 10:42 PM

Two big wins in Week 3 sets the stage for Friday’s Firelands Conference opener when St. Paul travels to Recreation Park to face New London.

The Flyers (3-0) — ranked No. 7 in the first Division VII Associated Press state poll — are coming off a 23-7 win at Tiffin Calvert, a quality program that has given St. Paul fits over the years.

“It was a hard fought game, and I’m real proud of the kids for a quality win over a very good team,” St. Paul coach John Livengood said. “Coming out of there with the win is a good thing. It’s always tough to coach against Todd Fox and win over there.”

Meanwhile, the Wildcats (1-2) got in the win column for the first time last week, blasting visiting Wellington by a 34-8 final score.

“I was proud of our guys. They’re starting to figure things out and performed to their potential,” New London coach Brad Pickens said. “We have guys on our team who are starting to believe in themselves and it was awesome to see them take advantage of the opportunities Wellington gave them. We didn’t do that those first two weeks, but last week the the kids really took charge. It’s definitely something to build on for the rest of the season.”

The Flyers have outscored St. Mary Central Catholic, Fremont St. Joseph and Calvert by a combined 109-14 score (36-5 average).

“I think we’re moving in the right direction,” Livengood said. “We have played some good teams in scrimmages and in non-conference that challenged us in different ways — and the kids continued to improve.

“We’re making good progress, but are a little banged up right now losing Eli Meyer, one of our best players and a senior captain (foot injury),” he added. “That’s a tough thing. That’s something we have to overcome. There are other kids banged up, we’re trying to get them healthy and back. Things are going well … we’re where we want to be.”

In the win over the Dukes, senior quarterback Dane Matthews threw for 62 yards and two touchdowns while also running for 52 yards and two touchdowns. He connected with Spencer Hall for TD passes of 7 and 8 yards, respectively.

Norbert Sword added 82 yards rushing for the Wildcats. He’s ran for 128 yards on 32 attempts.

“Their offense runs through their QB, and Dane has excellent quickness and is an accurate passer,” Livengood said of the ‘Cats. “He is the type of kid who can take a broken play and turn it into big yardage with his speed. They’ve got some speed in the backfield with power backs like Sword, Derek Smith and Josh Hess.

“It’s a team with good speed and really good size up front,” he added. “And Justin Marshall is a real good two-way player for them on the line. They’re probably one of biggest teams we’ll see this year.”

Meanwhile, the Flyers again continue to pile up the yardage with their powerful rushing attack. Though he will be out an extended period, Meyer has ran 37 times for 250 yards and 6 TDs, while Noah Good adds 174 yards and 2 TDs on 34 attempts. As a whole, St. Paul has ran 139 times for 772 yards (5.6 average) with 10 TDs.

Through the air, Nick Lukasko is 17-of-25 passing for 422 yards and 3 TDs.

“What they do is what they’ve been doing for 25-plus years,” Pickens said. “And I’m not going to downplay what they do this year, but what our kids have to overcome is the stigma of St. Paul — because of what they have been able to do in that time.

“What they do well is they believe in what they’re gonna do,” he added. “They are disciplined. Whatever John wants them to do, they do, and they play so hard. It’s easily the most physical team in our conference, and year in and year out, they believe they are supposed to win games.”

So how does Pickens convince his kids of their ability to play with the Flyers on Friday? New London is looking for its first win vs. St. Paul since a 21-20 win in Norwalk back in 1998.

“We have to start the game 100 percent believing what we do and do it to the best of our abilities,” he said. “We have to believe we can do our job, all 11 guys, and do it as hard as we can. Now, this is an opponent that will be a great battle. We can’t take any plays off. We need to start the game with an aggression and physicality.”

Also of note in last week’s win over the Senecas, Livengood improved his career coaching record to 250-67 — all in 27-plus seasons at St. Paul. In that span, the Flyers have won 18 FC titles and made 18 playoff appearances with seven regional championships and five appearances in the state title game, including the Div. VI title in 2009.

“I’ve been lucky enough to coach a lot of great athletes and have had great assistant coaches over the years,” Livengood said. “It’s something that looking back, I realize how lucky I’ve been to have so many kids work so hard with the dedication and time given to the program that allows that to take place.

“But the only number that is important to me is three, which is our third win in three games,” he added.

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