What Marvin Lewis had to say day after loss to Jaguars

Published: Monday, November 06, 2017 @ 6:10 PM


            JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 05: Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis looks out to the field in the first half of their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on November 5, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Logan Bowles/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 05: Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis looks out to the field in the first half of their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on November 5, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Logan Bowles/Getty Images)

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis hinted at personnel changes and updated the injury status of a couple of players during his Monday afternoon press conference.

Initial comments …

“Going back to yesterday, we failed to do a very good job. On offense, (we struggled with) making first downs. I felt that after the football game yesterday. When you look at it, we had some positive plays, but we didn’t convert the two early third downs. We lost those opportunities. We had field position in the first half, which was good, but we were unable to maintain it and sustain it. Defensively, we were putting them on long fields even when we had to punt. We put them on long fields, but we weren’t able to hold-serve back there. … You couple (those things) with the breakdowns we had — both on third down defensively, and some of the things on offense — it wasn’t a very good day. Then we had the breakdown in the punt coverage for the touchdown to start the fourth quarter, which basically put us out of the game at that point. It’s hard; we have to play better. We have to look at how we’re doing things, who we’re doing it with, and see what the best way to come out of this is.”

After the coordinator change, you said that the next change of jobs would be with the players. Is everything on the table as far as that is concerned?

“(Evaluating players) doesn’t change. It’s not like (we don’t do it) every week. We just have to make sure we are being effective with the people we have — that they can play and execute as best they can.”

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So is your focus on how you’re doing it rather than who’s doing it?

“It’s a combination. But if we aren’t getting things done and executing properly, then (we ask), ‘Is there someone else who can do it better?’”

Do you feel that there are players on this roster who haven’t gotten much playing time that could contribute?

“I don’t know that, but we’ll just have to see.”

At what point before the game did Jeremy Hill tweak his ankle that kept him out of the game?

“It happened on Saturday.”

And with Jake Fisher, did he get food poisoning? Or what happened?

“No, he just wasn’t feeling well. He’s (dealt with this) as we’ve been going through the season. It’s something that the doctors are monitoring very closely. Yesterday they thought they needed to pull him from the game and run some tests, so they took him to the hospital to run tests.”

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Is this something that could be potentially serious?

“It’s not as serious as I would think it is. Yet, it took him out of the game yesterday.”

Have you heard anything from the league as far as a possible discipline for A.J. Green?

“No.”

Would they tell you if he wasn’t suspended?

“No.”

They would just keep you wondering?

“No, I don’t wonder. You wonder — I don’t have to wonder (laughs). That’s what you do. You like to wonder, in fact (laughs). When you wake up in the morning, you love to wonder (laughs).”

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But you have to game-plan though, right? How do you game-plan if you don’t know if you will have a player or not?

“If something were to happen, it would occur very quickly.”

Are you disappointed that A.J. took himself out of the game?

“Yes, and he is too. He’s disappointed and he apologized for his actions. I think he said that to you guys, which I wasn’t aware of.”

How concerning is the number of negative plays the offense has amassed? How do you stop that?

“I think you look at why it occurred, and I think that’s most important. The overall effect is — yes — we had some negative plays. But (we need) the ‘why,’ and it’s all fixable. We have to fix it. Whether it be the point of attack — wherever we are — whether it’s blocking, or running, throwing, catching, etc. We can’t have the negative plays, whether we have an assignment responsibility, miscommunication or (something else). We’re in close football games, and every one of those plays has an effect on the overall outcome — particularly in the field position, but no question on the overall outcome.”

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Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor mentioned that he was disappointed in the outcome, considering that the practices leading up to the game went well. Do you agree that it was a good week of practice last week?

“I thought that there were some things that were improved (upon) as far as what we were trying to do heading into the game. But we come away as productive as we would’ve liked because of small miscues and (other) things, and we have to do better.”

A couple of veterans on both sides of the ball talked about the will to win. Is that concerning?

“That’s something players love to do (laughs). I’m the one has all the passion (laughs). It’s what should happen all the time. We played a very physical game and guys put things out there, and we didn’t play well enough.”

Do you feel like there is a lack of passion, or a lack of will or ‘want-to’ on this team?

“I don’t.”

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We are at the midpoint of the season. What do you see that makes you believe that there’s a run left in them?

“We’ve got enough ability to get it done, but we got to go do it. They’re going to work. We just need to continue to work smarter, play smarter, and eliminate the errors and the things that occur that we (have to overcome) in the scope of the game. We just need to get on the right track. We have to make things happen.”

Are you still evaluating where this team is?

“I don’t think so. We lost a football game yesterday. We have to come back and get back in order.”

Three weeks in a row, there have been special teams plays that have swung the games, which is uncharacteristic …

“It has been. Those are things you can’t let occur. We always like to make game-changing plays on the other side, but we’ve had three plays in three weeks where we’ve got to do a better job. No. 1, we have to get a good punt and get the ball where we need it, and then we need to get down and cover it, and free ourselves, and make sure we make a play on the ball.”

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Hypothetically, could John Ross play 80 percent of the snaps on Sunday, from a health stand point?

“Yeah (laughs).”

Would you bring him in for the sole purpose of creating a spark for this team?

“You guys ask this same question every week. John has had three weeks of practice now. Let’s let him practice and lets get him comfortable playing football again before we put him back in there. When he knows what to do and how to do it all the time, and when he can play productively, then he’ll play fast, he’ll play with confidence. But he wouldn’t be very confident (right now). Each day, he gets more confident with playing football. He hasn’t been playing football. That’s the thing. You have to (practice) 11-on-11 enough to be comfortable with it.”

Do you see John Ross getting better every day at practice?

“Oh yeah, there’s no question he becomes more comfortable. What he’s has to do is take what he practicing one-on-one and be able to play it 11-on-11. The more reps and time he has against the defense every day in practice and the more he’s part of the offense, those are good things, because he has to gain that confidence. It was three weeks ago, that every time he went on the ground, everybody held their breath. You’re going to get knocked down in football, and you’ve got to get up, go back to the huddle and do it again. He’s not made of glass — he’s not going to break every time he falls down —yet he’s got to practice football and continue to do it.”

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Is John Ross’ path headed where you can see him contributing this season?

“Oh, I hope so. Yes.”

So, you can’t play fast if you’re not confident …

“You have to know what to do, make the proper adjustments, and so on. Even when he was in the game two weeks ago, he’s moving in one speed, while everyone else is moving in another. You got to get used to playing.”

Are you confident that K Randy Bullock will play on Sunday?

“I was confident in him last Sunday, but it didn’t work out very well.”

Was it still a question this past Sunday morning, before the game?

“Yes.”

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Can you afford to carry two kickers?

“If need be, but I hope to get it figured out one way or another.”

When you made that decision to waive a player, why Derron Smith?

“It wouldn’t be proper or fitting to explain anything in here that way.”

Is he someone you hope passes through waivers?

“We do.”

With how much the offense is struggling, it is more than disappointing that A.J. Green took himself out of the game …

“I think he was very forthright with you and I am going to leave it at that. I don’t need to expound on it any more.”

Prep football: ‘Heartbreaking’ loss for Madison in D-V state semifinal

Published: Friday, November 24, 2017 @ 10:11 PM
Updated: Saturday, November 25, 2017 @ 2:10 AM


            Evan Crim (34) is among the Madison defenders making life difficult for Wheelersburg quarterback Trent Salyers during Friday night’s Division V state semifinal at Herrnstein Field in Chillicothe. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Evan Crim (34) is among the Madison defenders making life difficult for Wheelersburg quarterback Trent Salyers during Friday night’s Division V state semifinal at Herrnstein Field in Chillicothe. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

The finality was brutal for a Madison High School football team that made history this season.

The Mohawks couldn’t close the deal on a trip to the Division V state championship game, completing their first-ever playoff appearance by squandering a 10-0 lead in the last 14 minutes and falling to Wheelersburg 15-10 in a state semifinal Friday night at Chillicothe’s Herrnstein Field.

“It’s just heartbreaking,” said junior nose guard Max Evans, part of a Madison defense that limited the potent Pirates to 182 total yards. “We made it this far. I didn’t like when people called it a Cinderella story. We knew what we were doing the whole time.

“All good things come to an end, and we played a great team. I don’t think we regret anything. All the guys left everything on the field, and I think we’re all really proud of what we’ve done.”

The Mohawks (11-3) were limited to 122 yards on the ground — they entered the contest averaging 364.5 — as their 10-game winning streak came to an end.

Wheelersburg (14-0) will go after its second state championship next Friday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, facing Pemberville Eastwood (14-0) at 3 p.m.

“We came up short. I don’t have a snazzy cliche for you … I wish I did,” Madison coach Steve Poff said. “My kids fought hard, and you have to face the fact that we played a really, really good team. That was the best team that we had played all year. I feel like we played them better than anybody else has all year. They’re a class act, from the coach to each one of their players and staff members and fans.

“You’re upset about what happened tonight, but so many good feelings and so many positives came out of this. We came a long way from 1-2. I’m just proud of my kids and the way they respond to things and the effort they put in. There’s worse tragedies in the world than losing a high school football game. We’re going to take our 30 days and get back in the weight room and get better.”

Cameron Svarda ran 17 times for 53 yards and Tyler Baumgartner added 32 yards on 10 carries for the Mohawks. Quarterback Mason Whiteman had a 1-yard touchdown run with 0.4 seconds left in the first half to give his team a 7-0 lead at the break.

That TD was set up by a Whiteman interception, and teammate Evan Crim also picked off Pirates quarterback Trent Salyers on the third play of the third quarter. Madison gained possession at the WHS 6, but had to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Graham Reich.

The Mohawks’ Levi McMonigle recovered his third fumble in the last three games on Wheelersburg’s next possession, but the Pirates kept it a 10-point game when Evan Dahm intercepted a Whiteman pass.

Wheelersburg turned a Madison fumble into a 22-yard field goal by Jalen Miller with 1:50 left in the third stanza, and the Pirates got a 17-yard touchdown pass from Trent Salyers to Justin Salyers just over three minutes later.

Whiteman had boomed a 62-yard punt from deep in his own territory, but a penalty forced Madison to replay the down, and Whiteman couldn’t handle the punt snap and got stopped short on a run for the first down. The Pirates missed the extra point and still trailed 10-9, but they went ahead for good on Xander Carmichael’s 2-yard TD run with 7:09 left.

The Mohawks’ last three possessions ended with a fake punt that failed to produce a first down and two interceptions. Reid Davis threw those picks after Whiteman moved to wide receiver — Whiteman came off the field holding his arm early in the fourth period, and Poff conceded that he was hurt.

“He was, but he’s also dynamic out there catching the ball, so it was a combination of things,” Poff said of inserting Davis at QB. “Mason’s a tough kid. I don’t have the words to tell you what he means to our team.”

Tanner Holden picked off Davis with 1:33 remaining, and Cole Lowery’s interception with 7.5 seconds left sealed the win for Wheelersburg.

“What a way to go out and earn a victory tonight,” Pirates coach Rob Woodward said. “Hats off to Madison. They did an outstanding job of taking away some things we wanted to do.

“We didn’t help ourselves. We dropped some balls, which is uncharacteristic of us. That’s why you have two sides of the ball and you have four quarters to play. Our kids stayed after it and kept fighting.”

Trent Salyers was 11 of 21 for 128 yards for the Pirates. Wheelersburg managed just 54 rushing yards, led by Dominic Reyes (nine carries, 21 yards).

Carmichael, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker and tight end, ran seven times for 20 yards in the second half. The numbers weren’t huge, but they were important to the Pirates’ late surge.

“That’s just a great defensive game right there,” Carmichael said. “We didn’t need to change our defense at halftime because we were doing just fine. It was just bad field position in the first half, and in the second half we finally got the field position we wanted.

“We knew they were a tough, hard-nosed team, so we prepared all week by just grinding and grinding. All we had to do was stop the run.”

Penalties stung the Mohawks all night long. They were flagged 11 times for illegal procedure, and Poff said it had nothing to do with the raucous fans that packed the house.

“That was their defense mimicking our snap count,” Poff said. “Great job by them. If the referees don’t call it, it’s legal. I’m not trying to take one thing away from Wheelersburg. They earned it.”

Poff thought he hurt his team with some of the calls he made, especially in the second half. Evans felt Madison relaxed a bit after taking the 10-0 lead.

“We almost thought we had it in the bag or something,” Evans said. “Momentum is a crazy thing, and the penalties really didn’t help us. Things just swung their way in the final two quarters.”

Evans and Cole Pelgen had sacks for the Mohawks. Offensively, Davis was 1 of 4 through the air for 4 yards (on a completion to Whiteman) and Whiteman was 0 of 3.

Poff said he wasn’t surprised by Madison’s postseason run.

“I knew the sky was the limit,” he said. “I thought that we would dictate how we went with our play and our physicality and our attitude and our effort. Really, the kids probably played good enough to win tonight. The responsibility falls on me to lead guys through that, and I came up short. I feel terrible about it. I’m going to work on that and try to get better.”

Wheelersburg has been to the playoffs 29 times, but the Pirates are headed to the state finals for just the second time. They won the Division IV title in 1989.

“I am so psyched,” Woodward said. “It’s something I’ve dreamed of since I got into coaching, and our players have been working towards it. When you believe in something and you work hard for it, good things happen. That’s what I told our kids tonight before we took the field, and they continued to work hard and good things happened.”

Madison 0-7-3-0—10

Wheelersburg 0-0-3-12—15

M: Mason Whiteman 1 run (Graham Reich kick)

M: Reich 28 field goal

W: Jalen Miller 22 field goal

W: Justin Salyers 17 pass from Trent Salyers (Kick failed)

W: Xander Carmichael 2 run (Run failed)

UCLA beats Cal, attains bowl eligibility: 3 things we learned

Published: Saturday, November 25, 2017 @ 2:10 AM

Friday night presented a rare combination: A play-in game for what is likely to be the Independence Bowl, and Pac-12 After Dark. Both Cal and UCLA entered with 5-6 records, meaning one more win would push the victor into bowl eligibility. Prior to the game, information sheets for the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. were being handed out, making the contest essentially a battle for the December 27 bowl.

And after J.J. Molson’s 37-yard field goal went through the uprights with four seconds on the clock, putting UCLA up 30-27, it was the Bruins who punched their tickets to Shreveport.

Three things we learned:

UCLA may have had its last game with Josh Rosen

Late in the first half, Josh Rosen took a hard hit, taking both an intentional grounding penalty and enough contact to knock him out of the rest of the game. At the time, Rosen was picking apart the Cal defense at his will, completing 13 of 18 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns. He was essentially just a standard Rosen to Jordan Lasley completion away from breaking Brett Hundley’s school record for passing yards in a single season.

It wasn’t to be. Rosen, whose injury has not yet been specified, came out of the locker room in street clothes, replaced at quarterback by Devon Modster, the freshman who started his first game in a Nov. 3 loss to Utah.

While the extent of the injury is unknown, it’s possible that Rosen skips the Independence Bowl, which is UCLA’s likely landing spot on December 27 in Shreveport, La. It has become common practice for projected top draft picks to sit out of their respective bowl games, and Rosen, whose career has been marred by injury, certainly fits that mold.

Jordan Lasley will catch the ball no matter who’s throwing

There may be no receiver hotter than Jordan Lasley right now. In a 28-23 loss to USC last week, Lasley hauled in 10 catches for 204 yards and three touchdowns, earning the respect from former Trojan cornerback Adoree’ Jackson.

If any were wondering if Lasley was simply the product of a brilliant quarterback, Friday night put that to rest. Rosen found Lasley in the end zone before the first half, marking the receiver’s third straight game with a touchdown and his fifth in the past three games.

Even when it wasn’t Rosen throwing to him, but Modster, Lasley delivered. He finished with 12 catches for 227 yards and a touchdown. In doing so, he became the first Bruin in history to record three 10-catch games in a season.

UCLA’s defense continues to mature

The Bruin defense is far from perfect, but the defense that took the field on Friday night was markedly better than the one that let up 45 in the first half of the season to Texas A&M.

Yes, Cal was able to move the ball. On eight straight possessions, it drove into Bruin territory, and UCLA once again allowed more than 200 yards on the ground, struggling to contain Cal running back Patrick Laird, who ran for 178 yards on 32 carries.

But what UCLA did was limit Cal’s touchdowns. Even if the Bears were perpetually in UCLA territory, they weren’t finishing there.

Michigan State-UConn: Recap, score, analysis for PK80 Invitational game (November 24, 2017)

Published: Friday, November 24, 2017 @ 11:20 PM

No. 4 Michigan State (4-1) sprinted past UConn (4-1) in the second half Saturday for a 77-57 win in the PK80 Invitational Victory Bracket semifinals in Portland, Ore.

Point guard Cassius Winston led the way with a career-high 28 points on 12 of 15 shooting, with 23 coming in the second half. Jaren Jackson Jr. had 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Nick Ward added 11 and 9. Miles Bridges posted 6 points and 8 rebounds in his return from a sprained ankle.

Michigan State will take on North Carolina next in the Victory Bracket championship game at 8:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Michigan State-UConn recap

Michigan State 67, UConn 53 (H2, 4:10): Some sort of switch flipped, and Cassius Winston took over. He hit Tillman on the pick-and-roll, and other than that, he did it all himself. He scored 12 points in just over four minutes, capping off a ridiculous run with a wild over-the-head layup.

Michigan State 47, UConn 40 (H2, 11:46): The Huskies wouldn’t go away. Michigan State did not allow many easy shots in the half-court, but UConn took the chances it got and made them count. As Jalen Adams cooled, Terry Larrier began to heat up.

Michigan State 43, UConn 33 (H2, 15:50): Michigan State started the half on a tear offensively. Nick Ward sprinted down the court for a layup on one possession, then banked in a hook shot with the foul on the next. Cassius Winston continued to look for his jumper in transition, and Jaren Jackson Jr. pulled down an offensive rebound before going right back up for a ferocious dunk. If not for a defensive lapse, the Spartans could have been leading by 13.

Michigan State 28, UConn 27 (H1, 0:00): At the end of the half, Michigan State held a one-point lead but saw arguably its three best players (Cassius Winston, Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr.) all saddled with a pair of fouls. The Spartans shot just 32.4 percent from the field, but they also held UConn to 29.6 percent. Josh Langford had 7 points to lead the way.

Michigan State 26, UConn 21 (H1, 4:07): Michigan State showed that if it could score consistently, it would win this game. Against UConn’s freewheeling offensive style predicated on a lot of one-on-one action, the Huskies had a tough time finding open shots.

Michigan State 20, UConn 19 (H1, 7:35): Shooting is contagious, and Michigan State finally caught the bug. Josh Langford hit from outside, then Cassius Winston found his jumper in transition, then Jaren Jackson Jr. banked in a long ball.

UConn 10, Michigan State 9 (H1, 11:52): Michigan State couldn’t connection in transition, in the half-court, from the 3-point line or from in the paint. Nothing was falling. The Spartans started 4 of 17 from the field. Fortunately for them, their defense forced UConn into a 4 for 14 start.

Michigan State 6, UConn 5 (H1, 16:00): The story of the first four minutes wasn’t Jaren Jackson Jr.’s put-back dunk or a bunch of missed layups. It was Miles Bridges entering the game, for one, and then immediately being slapped with a foul on a poor call as he reeled in an offensive rebound.

Michigan State 0, UConn 0 (H1, 20:00): On his pregame show, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said he expected Miles Bridges to play. The sophomore wouldn’t start, though. The starters for Michigan State: Cassius Winston, Josh Langford, Matt McQuaid, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Nick Ward.

Michigan State-UConn basketball: Game time, information

Michigan State and UConn play at 9 p.m. PT/12 a.m. ET on Friday, Nov. 24/Saturday, Nov. 25.

Time: 9 p.m. PT/12 a.m. ET

Date: Friday, Nov. 24/Saturday, Nov. 25

Location: Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Portland, Ore.

How can I watch the Michigan State-UConn basketball game online?

Michigan State and UConn will be broadcast on ESPN.  WatchESPN will have the live stream. You can also stream the game from your  Android or  iOS device.

Kevin Brown and Sean Farnham will be on the call.

How can I listen to the Michigan State-UConn basketball game on the radio?

Michigan State and UConn can be heard over the 38-affiliate  Spartan Sports Network, including flagship stations WMMQ-FM (94.9)/WJIM-AM (1240) in Lansing and WJR-AM (760) in Detroit.

Will Tieman and Matt Steigenga will have the call.

Michigan State-UConn basketball preview

Michigan State won without sophomore star Miles Bridges on Thursday night. He warmed up and looked mobile after suffering a sprained ankle last Sunday, but coach Tom Izzo took no chances. Will he play against UConn? It remains to be seen.

Having him, obviously, would provide a big boost. UConn’s leading scorer, Terry Larrier, is a 6-foot-8 wing who shoots 43.8 percent from beyond the arc. Bridges would match up nicely against him.

Behind Larrier, the Huskies have four other double-digit scorers. All four are guards standing 6-3 or shorter. Cassius Winston, Josh Langford and the Michigan State backcourt will have their hands full.

The Spartans have a clear size advantage and will likely try to use it. They got 13 points from 6-11 freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. and 8 from sophomore big man Nick Ward on Thursday. Look for them to get the ball inside more often against UConn, especially if the Huskies don’t zone up.

UConn hits the glass hard, so the Spartans, who have tended to try to outjump teams instead of getting physical, need to put a body on someone with every shot.

And once the ball is reeled in, Michigan State should push. The Spartans have traditionally been at their best, and were again on Thursday, when they get out on the break and try to score before the defense is set. On such a short layoff, it will be interesting to see if they have the energy to run like they did against DePaul.

High School Football Playoffs: Trotwood-Madison headed back to Division III state-title game

Published: Friday, November 24, 2017 @ 9:31 PM
Updated: Saturday, November 25, 2017 @ 1:51 AM

Trotwood’s Kennedy Coates (left), James Parker and Taron Britt came up big in a 16-7 defeat of Toledo Central Catholic in a D-III high school football state semifinal at Piqua on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

That state-championship meltdown that ended Trotwood-Madison’s football season last year? Fuel for a burning inner fire.

“It’s unbelievable to come out with a win,” Rams standout linebacker James Parker said following an as-yet season-defining 16-7 defeat of postseason rival Toledo Central Catholic on Friday at Alexander Stadium. “But at the end of the day our objective since Day 1 has been to finish. That’s what we have to do.”

»CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVE: 4 area teams advance to state football finals

»MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Trotwood-Madison focused on the positive

»BACK TOGETHER AGAIN: Trotwood and TCC

»HISTORIC REMATCH: Marion Local KO’s Coldwater

»IT’S A FIRST: Doesn’t get any better than Marion Local vs. Coldwater

»MAC REMATCH? Marion Local, Coldwater would meet again

»GWOC LOSS: Second head football coach resigns

»IT’S AN HONOR: Area players, coaches earn Southwest District status

»MIKE AND MARC: The boys talk playoff football

»STATE POLL CHAMPS: Trotwood-Madison, Marion Local No. 1 in football

»RELATED: Top 7 all-time, Dayton-area football players

»LET’S GET TECHNICAL: Instant replay assists teams

That’s a direct reference to what Trotwood couldn’t do in 2016 after being mashed by Akron Archbishop Hoban 30-0 in a Division III state title mismatch. But the Rams have qualified for a do-over after knocking out the Irish in yet another state semi.

Trotwood (14-0) will look to complete a perfect season against Dresden Tri-Valley (13-1). That will be the last of seven state title games at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1 at Canton’s new Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Tri-Valley, located near Zanesville, defeated Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary 24-6 in the other D-III state semi at Perry.

Trotwood's Jalen Watson (11) closes on TCC's Jase Bowen. Trotwood-Madison defeated Toledo Central Catholic 16-7 in a D-III high school football state semifinal at Piqua on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF( )

Joining Trotwood in advancing to title games are area teams Clinton-Massie (D-IV) and Midwest Athletic Conference members Marion Local (D-VI) and Minster (D-VII).

This was the fourth straight season Trotwood and TCC were matched in a state semi. This relatively new playoff rivalry started in the 2012 D-II state title game, an Irish win.

Last season Trotwood shocked TCC 36-0, which set up the Rams’ disappointing fall of not finishing in the title game. Nothing like that high-scoring mismatch was expected in this title-like bout. Instead, it was a defensive slugfest that all but negated two great offenses.

Trotwood benefitted the most, turning two blocked punts into nine points for a slim lead. Then the Rams’ hammer struck. Mostly contained throughout, standout senior Rams running back Ra’veion Hargrove zig-zagged 77 yards through the heart of the Irish defense to seal the stunning win with less than five minutes remaining.

Trotwood’s Ra’veion Hargrove (bottom with ball) draws a crowd. Trotwood-Madison defeated Toledo Central Catholic 16-7 in a D-III high school football state semifinal at Piqua on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

“You shut him down, you shut him down and you shut him down, then he hits one,” veteran TCC coach Greg Dempsey said. “It’s just bad timing. You miss a play and they make you pay for it. That’s what good teams do.”

Unlike the bulk of its blowout wins, Trotwood had a game-deciding assist from its punt-rush unit. First, Kennedy Coates swatted an Irish punt into the end zone, where Taron Britt fell on the ball with inches to spare from the back end. That drew the teams even at 7-all in the first quarter.

Incredibly, Trotwood blocked another punt, although it was more like a miss fire into the Rams’ defensive front and never had a chance to go airborne. This time the ball tantalizingly caromed through the end zone just ahead of the diving Rams. The resulting safety put Trotwood up 9-7 in the third quarter.

Trotwood's Jayvanare Nelloms (21) and teammates get defensive. Trotwood-Madison defeated Toledo Central Catholic 16-7 in a D-III high school football state semifinal at Piqua on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF( )

The teams traded penalties, missed passes, interceptions and botched series until Hargrove stunned the Irish with his long strike.

Trotwood sensed a blocked punt was doable after viewing video of the Irish.

“We noticed (the TCC punter) rolls to the right and does that rugby thing,” Trotwood coach Jeff Graham said. “We said when we get that opportunity that’s where we’ve got to hold our hat to make that difference in the game.”

Hargrove had 127 yards rushing, pushing his season total to 2,127. The Trotwood defense was just as magnificent as the 2016 blowout, holding TCC to 21 yards rushing (45 carries) and 91 yards of total offense.

That defensive might was also costly. Rams sophomore corner Sam Anderson was removed on a stretcher afterward as a precaution and will undergo concussion protocol. The Rams’ postgame team huddle also prematurely ended due to a player’s asthma attack.

“It was an ugly game and sometimes it happens that way,” said Graham, shrugging. “You gotta give it up for these seniors. They’ve been here and they don’t panic in this situation.”

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