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Another big matchup awaits St. Paul-Calvert series

Mark Hazelwood • Sep 11, 2019 at 9:15 PM

TIFFIN — On the surface, it’s just a non-conference game.

And with it being the third week, it’s the final non-league tuneup before conference play begins next week.

But the St. Paul-Tiffin Calvert matchup hasn’t felt that way in a long time for either side. The Flyers (2-0) and Senecas (1-1) renew the rivalry at 7 p.m. Friday at National Field at Frost-Kalnow Stadium in Tiffin.

The two teams started playing annually in 1992, with the exception of a one-year break because of scheduling conflicts in 2015. In the 26 seasons the two programs have met, the Flyers have been in the playoffs 20 times, and the Senecas 13 times.

That’s included two playoff matchups, won by Calvert in 2012 and by St. Paul in 2017. The regular season matchups have included overtime and last-second finishes.

And it’s worth noting that last season’s 33-14 win by the Senecas in Norwalk also snapped a 29-game regular season winning streak by the Flyers. It’s the lone regular season loss for St. Paul dating back to Week 3 of the 2015 season.

“No question about it, we’ve treated this as a playoff-type game since we’ve started playing them,” St. Paul coach John Livengood said. “In terms of us facing another team that is usually in the playoffs. It’s a team that is well-coached and very athletic that does things really well.

“Calvert always has explosive athletes and good size, and this is no exception,” he added. “It’s always a very competitive, back-and-forth game for four quarters. We know if we don’t play our best, we’ll get knocked off. Which for us was just last year. That kind of got away from us, especially in the fourth quarter.”

In that loss last season, the Flyers were stopped twice inside the 5-yard line on fourth-and-goal plays. Gone from the last several meetings is standout running back Austin Jones. However, the Senecas still have plenty of weapons to deal with.

Calvert opened the season with a 31-7 win at Monroeville on Aug. 30, but fell in a tight game last week, 13-9, at Bucyrus Wynford.

Junior quarterback Jack Shultz (5-10, 150) is 26-of-47 passing for 349 yards and three touchdowns, while also rushing 25 times for 117 yards and a TD. Aaron Rombach has shifted from receiver to running back, where he’s ran 29 times for 163 yards.

Receivers Nick Seifert (12 catches, 179 yards, TD) and Mitch Nielsen (10 catches, 138 yards, TD) bring a good balance on the edge.

Meanwhile, the Senecas go 185 pounds, 240, 245, 240 and 185 in size along the offensive line.

“A very good team with good size inside,” Livengood said. “Vinny Volp (LT/DE) is one of the better linemen we’ll see … very impressed with the way he blocks and the tenacity with how he plays on defense.

“Rombach is an explosive player who has the ability to make people miss, but runs with a lot of power, too,” he added. “Schulz is also their safety and is an athletic kid with good speed and does a nice job on zone keeps and things of that nature. Two really good go-to receivers in Neilson and Seifert. They like to isolate Seifert one-on-one, and Neilson is all over the place.”

On defense, Shultz has 14 tackles and an interception, and Volp and lineman Parker Beard have combined for 27 tackles in two games. Rombach adds 12 tackles and an interception as a linebacker.

Despite the 1-1 record, the Senecas have allowed just one touchdown in each of their two games.

“Defensively they are very strong,” Livengood said. “We saw them live at Monroeville and on film against Wynford — and they played well in both those games. Just real good size and speed in a good scheme. You can tell they are well-coached.”

St. Paul enters Friday having outscored its two opponents by a combined 104-0. Visiting Northgate (Pa.) was no match in a 55-0 win on Aug. 31, while the Flyers also had no trouble in a 49-0 win last Friday at Fremont St. Joseph.

The Flyers have already rushed 81 times for 659 yards and 10 TDs in the two wins. Senior Cam Caizzo leads the way with 262 yards and 4 TDs on just 22 attempts (11.9 average). Classmate Justin Butler adds 125 yards and 4 TDs on 15 attempts (8.3).

Myron Stoll has attempted just nine passes, but has completed four of them for 77 yards and a TD. He adds 54 yards rushing on eight attempts.

The defensive numbers have been just as impressive. The Flyers have allowed 157 net yards (78.5 average) and 10 first downs in eight quarters. Butler has 16 tackles and two sacks, while Will Stieber has 15 tackles, a sack and an interception.

All that being said, Livengood cautioned that won’t matter much on Friday against the Senecas.

“Things are never as good or bad as you think they are,” he said. “Some of the mistakes you think you’re making aren’t as bad as you think in the moment once you get to review the film. But, sometimes the good things also aren’t quite as good as you think. There is a lot of fundamental things we have to continue to improve on.”

Livengood cited the interior line play on both sides of the ball, as well as big plays in special teams as the key highlights so far through two games.

“All three phases are contributing to our scoring and we have two shutouts,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of things really well, but if we look at things fundamentally there are a lot of areas for improvement. We’ll continue to game plan and focus on the opponent and do the things we do to put us in position to be successful.

“But all that being said, we have to continue to work on ourselves and those fundamental things that will help us as we go,” Livengood added.

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