By Gary R. Rasberry
Week 12 of the high school football season and the second round of the state football playoffs still has all five of the Grand Lake Area teams in the playoffs after big wins for all the area teams last weekend.
On Friday, the three MAC schools in Division IV and VI play for the chance at the regional final next week.
One matchup, at Lima Stadium, brings a rematch of last year's D-IV regional final where Coldwater and Delta return to the scene of the Cavaliers' abrupt end to the season.
Also on Friday, Versailles travels to Troy Memorial Stadium to face Kenton Ridge and New Bremen, which shined last week in winning its first-ever playoff game, plays top-seeded Mechanicsburg in the Division IV regional semi at Alexander Stadium/Purk Field in Piqua.
Delta vs. Coldwater
Coldwater lost just twice last year -- in the regular season by two points to eventual champ Versailles, and then to the Panthers at Lima Stadium, also by two points.
Cavalier faithful will not have a hard time remembering Delta from last season. Several of the key players from last season's team are back as the Panthers return 12 letterwinners from last season.
The Panthers, 9-2, won last week 56-20 over Urbana. Coach Mike Vicars has turned around the program from 1-9 in 1999 to last year making the state semis.
Delta -- Coldwater has been undersized on the defensive line all season with the average player going 175 pounds.
Compared to Delta, the Cavs' D-line will be giant size. The three inside men for the Panthers average 151.7 pounds. Nose guard Jared Evans is just 5-2 and 125 pounds, while tackles Jameson Moss is 5-5 and 170 pounds and Ryan Gombash is 5-9 and 160. All three are tough, though, having each placed at the Division III state wrestling tournament last year, with Moss winning the 145-pound crown. Their lack of size has been made up for by their speed as the three have combined for 311/2 sacks this season.
Offensively, the Panthers like to run the ball, having totaled 2,811 yards this season on the ground and averaged 255.5 yards per game. When Delta passes, it's done efficiently.
Quarterback Ryan Vicars, the son of the coach, has 13 touchdown passes and 810 yards on just 37-of-66 passing (56.1 percent). Vicars threw for 163 yards and had several big passes to set up the winning score with 19 seconds left last
Delta must be able to break keep the Cavalier defense in check and not allow the linebackers of the Cavaliers to take control of the game to be successful.
Who to Watch: Nate Kmic #11, senior tailback.
Kmic was first team All-District last season and is on pace for the same in 2004. Kmic leads the team with 1,575 yards rushing and 32 touchdowns this season. The 5-9, 185 pound senior is also a threat to catch the ball, having made 10 catches for 240 yards and four scores. Kmic's 10-yard run won the game for Delta last season.
Coldwater -- The Cavaliers had no trouble with the offense last week as they posted their fourth shutout of the season with a 35-0 win over Avon.
Steve Borger threw for 272 yards and four touchdowns in his first breakout game of the season. The passing game might be the way to get past the Panthers. Delta gives up an average of 121.5 yards per game through the air, but have defensed it well with Kmic snagging five interceptions this season. Coldwater did have 118 yards rushing last week, with most of it coming with the game well in hand.
The Coldwater offensive line will need to keep the trio of Moss, Evans and Gombash in check and allow Borger and the skill players to get in control of the game.
Defensively, the key to Delta is to keep Kmic in check. Last week, the Cavaliers held run-strong Avon to just 66 yards on 41 carries with leading rusher Bob LaRosa out with injury. If Kmic is slowed down and the passing game is forced to turn things up, the Cavalier secondary -- one of the fastest in the area -- could take over the game.
Who to Watch: Kyle Schoenherr #22, senior wide receiver.
In offense that features a lot of receivers to throw to, Schoenherr got a chance to shine on Friday. Making just three catches, Schoenherr tallied 100 yards and one touchdown in the win. Opposing defense have trouble enough with the Cavaliers having six players with 190 or more receiving yards, overlooking one of the receivers is a problem.
New Bremen vs. Mechanicsburg
The Cardinals are coming off a overwhelming performance in their first playoff game in 16 years. The 500 yards rushing -- on just 41 carries for an average of 12.2 yards per carry -- shattered the school record as New Bremen put away Troy Christian with their ground game.
Mechanicsburg brings more of a balanced game than Troy Christian, who threw the ball often during the season.
New Bremen -- The Cardinals made sure that this playoff run would not end like their first in 1988. That year New Bremen lost in the playoff opener against Minster.
The win puts the team in a unique position of being the team to beat in Week 12. With a record performance last week, the Cardinals will need to get focused and ready for a good Mechanicsburg team.
The Indians like to run and the Cardinals have been decent in run defense in allowing just 129.7 yards per game. The Cardinals have given up 1353 passing yards this season. After seeing a big performance from Josh McGraner last week, the Cardinals will need to be wary if the Indians decide to air it out.
Who to Watch: Alex Leugers #12, senior quarterback.
One play, a faked handoff to fullback Jeff Thobe into a bootleg, proved costly for Troy Christian and allowed Leugers to rush for 158 yards on four carries and touchdown runs of 38, 55 and 59 yards.
Leugers only completed one pass last week, but Mechanicsburg will need to be wary. Completing nearly 55 percent of his passes on the season, Leugers has the capability to throw.
Mechanicsburg -- The Indians are used to playing a MAC team sometime in the playoffs, having faced Marion in 2000 and 2002, losing by a combined score of 90-6.
This year the Indians have a good mix of throwing and passing out of the Power-I formation installed this season. The team rushed for 2,148 yards in the regular season and has added 995 passing yards.
This season, Mechanicsburg has been able to stop the run, allowing just 1,136 yards during the regular season. Mechanicsburg has not likely seen a team that puts up the numbers like New Bremen, though.
Passing wise, the Indians go with junior quarterback Joel Bostick, who threw for nearly 1,000 yards in the regular season. The passing attack worked in beating Mississinawa Valley last week. New Bremen had some trouble with the pass as the Eagles threw for 230 yards last week.
Depth could be a concern as just 45 players, 18 being freshman, suit up. The Cardinals had the numbers advantage last week against Troy Christian and wore the Eagles down. That could be a concern this week.
Who to Watch: David Webb #32, sophomore running back.
Webb leads the team in rushing, tallying 908 yards and seven touchdowns in the regular season. Webb averages 5.7 yard per carry for the Indians.
Versailles vs. Kenton Ridge
The Tigers started things out well in the postseason, beating Clinton-Massie handily for the second straight season.
Now the team faces a Kenton Ridge squad that is enjoying the splendor of the post season for the first time after winning a first-ever outright league title.
The Tigers and Cougars have met before, playing a home-and-home series in the 1999 and 2000 season. Versailles won both meetings with scores of 35-0 and 34-30 in the two years before Versailles joined the MAC.
Versailles -- The modus operandi for the Tigers through the years has been to run as much as possible and pass when needed.
With the running game bottled somewhat last week, the Tigers threw and kept throwing. Tony McNeilan threw for 193 yards and a touchdown last week. The run was still there for 149 yards as the Tigers scored four times on the rush.
Kenton Ridge is stingy in giving up the yards, allowing just 929 rushing and 862 passing in the regular season. The team has allowed just 87 points all season, counting the 6-0 shutout of Carlisle last week in the playoffs.
Versailles will need to take control of the game right away and then use the running game to keep the Cougars from getting chances to score.
Who to Watch: Curtis Wourms #37, junior running back.
Wourms' speed has been a key part of the Tigers' attack this season. In addition to leading the rushing last week with 44 yards, Wourms made three catches for 87 yards last week, including a fourth-quarter catch for a 13-yard score to put the nail in the coffin for the Falcons.
Kenton Ridge -- The Cougars won the Central Buckeye Conference Mad River Division this season, the first outright title in school history.
Second-year coach Joel Marratta, a Kenton Ridge alum, has the team playing well all season and brings one of the most potent offenses and stingiest defenses to Friday's game.
The Cougars like to run the ball as much as possible, but quarterback Matt Brumfield has thrown for 1,282 yards and 14 touchdowns this season to a number of targets.
Defensively, the Cougars will rely on linebacker Brandon Downs to control the inside game. Downs, at 6-1 and 225 pounds, also is a goal line threat, scoring 12 touchdowns to lead the team this season.
Who to Watch: Zach Brumfield #28, senior running back.
The twin brother of quarterback Matt, Brumfield leads an strong group of runners with 683 yards rushing and eight touchdowns this season. Brumfield also is a threat to hurt teams with defense, starting at defensive back.