Calvert at St. Paul will have playoff feel — again

Mark Hazelwood • Sep 5, 2018 at 8:00 PM

NORWALK — No, the state playoffs haven’t come early.

But it’s sure going to feel like it Friday night at Whitney Field.

One year removed from matching up in Week 3 — and again in the second round of the playoffs — visiting Tiffin Calvert (2-0) and host St. Paul (2-0) is again shaping up as that kind of matchup this week.

And everyone involves knows it.

“We consider this a playoff-type game in Week 3,” St. Paul coach John Livengood said. “Calvert has a great tradition as a consistent playoff team throughout the years. We’ve played each other for a long time minus a short break recently, but even going back to the mid to late 90s when Toby Hammond was there, those were really good, tight football games between us.”

The Senecas have outscored Monroeville and Danville by a combined 98-48 margin. Meanwhile, the Flyers have outscored St. Mary Central Catholic and St. Joseph by a combined 79-6 margin.

Last season, a 23-7 win at Calvert on Sept. 8 was St. Paul’s second-closest margin of 13 wins en route to a Division VII state semifinal appearance. When the two teams met in the second round in Week 12 at Fremont, the Flyers steamrolled in the rematch with a 45-7 win.

There is no secret where to start in prepping for Calvert. Senior running back Austin Jones (6-foot-2, 190) is back after rushing for 1,980 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2017. St. Paul limited him to 56 yards in the regular season meeting, and 90 yards in the playoff encounter — 56 yards of which came on Calvert’s lone TD in that game.

Jones is again off to a similar start with 371 yards and 6 TDs in the Senecas’ two victories.

“They have no shortage of athletes, and that starts with Austin Jones,” Livengood said. “Just watching him the last two weeks and how he has performed, he is a threat every time he touches the ball — which we knew from last year.”

Senior quarterback Trent Cooper (5-10, 175) is also a threat. In a 39-21 win over Danville last week, he threw a TD pass to Jones and ran for 68 yards and two scores. Aaron Rombach (5-10, 150) added a 31-yard TD run and finished with 59 yards on five carries — all of which came in the second half.

"Cooper actually played against us last year in the regular season because of an injury," Livengood said. "So we got to see him a little bit, and he’s another great athlete that is a tremendous run threat in addition to his passing ability. If he breaks the edge on us, he is just like Jones with great speed.

"They don’t often do it, but when they get into a two-back set, Rombach is an excellent running back with a lot of speed," he added. "As far as the passing game goes, Nic Somodi (6-0, 165) is probably their biggest threat — they like to throw the long ball. They have skilled athletes everywhere."

Across the front, Calvert is led by a four-year starter at right guard in Luke Brickner (5-10, 290). Livengood also mentioned sophomore Josh Gase (6-0, 260) as a standout lineman on both sides of the ball.

On defense, senior Josh Recker (6-1, 215) is another familiar name at inside linebacker.

"He's started at least three years, and that's a name that you know," Livengood said. "But they have good players everywhere who are very well-coached."

The Senecas are coached by Steve Reser, a 1995 Calvert who left Gibsonburg after eight successful seasons and a 50-33 record. Reser replaced Todd Fox, who went across town in the Maple City to coach Norwalk High School.

"If you didn’t know there was a change in coaching staffs, you would think it was the same," LIvengood said. "They are running the same type of offense and very similar on defense."

The Flyers, winners of 29 straight regular season games and 53 of their last 57 since 2012, are coming off a 42-0 win over visiting Fremont St. Joseph Central Catholic.

It took the St. Paul offense a little bit to get going (14-0 halftime lead), but the defense more than kept things in check. The Crimson Streaks had just 35 yards of offense on 25 snaps midway through the third quarter.

Through two weeks, the St. Paul defense has allowed 303 yards on 93 plays (3.3 average) with one touchdown — scored on a 73-yard run by SMCC on Aug. 25.

In last week's win, QB Jake Griffin was 16-of-23 passing for 249 yards and 3 TDs, with Eric Crabbs catching six passes for 96 yards and two of the scores. Cam Caizzo ran 14 times for 170 yards and a TD, and Noah Good added 57 yards on seven attempts.

"The defense played really well," Livengood said of his team. "Offensively, once we were able to adjust to some of the things they were doing front-wise, I thought we performed well. We were able to get the ball rolling in running the ball in the second half. It was a little sporadic in the first half, but in particular in the third quarter we got things moving.

"Special teams also played real well, but there are still things we need to improve on," he added. "We’re going to continue to work on our fundamentals and get better each week — and we’re going to have to that very fast this week.”

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