TIFFIN – Clyde football coach Ryan Carter will tell you his team is the heavy underdog entering its Division III, Region 8 championship game Friday night.
Toledo Central Catholic coach Greg Dempsey, however, maintains the Fliers are the favorite, not his Fighting Irish.
The gamesmanship has already begun.
The Fliers and Irish meet for the second year in a row with a berth in the state semifinal on the line. While Clyde knocked off then-defending Division II state champion Central Catholic a year ago, 42-41, Carter firmly believes the Fliers have their work cut out for them to repeat the upset.
“Their program is one of the better programs in the state of Ohio,” Carter said. “They have some very skilled athletes and they do things very well. Last year I think they kind of looked at us like just ‘Little Ol’ Clyde.’ I don’t think they’re going to overlook us again, if they did last year.”
Dempsey, on the other hand, believes the fact Clyde got the better of Central Catholic a year ago, makes the Fliers the favorite.
“It was definitely perceived as an upset by most, but not by me,” Dempsey said. “I can tell you this year, if someone had to be underdog, it’d have to be us because they beat us last year. We’re trying to show up and play and have the best chance to win and move to the Final Four.”
Regardless of who is the favorite and the underdog, much has changed for both teams in the last 12 months.
Gone is Central Catholic quarterback DeShone Kizer – now playing for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame – and an offense that leaned heavily on the pass. Now Central Catholic boasts a backfield of a multi-headed running attack. Running backs Michael Warren (1,700 yards), Tre’Von Wade (nearly 1,600 yards) and quarterback Marcus Winters (1,650 total yards).
“The line and the backs are very talented kids,” Dempsey said. “We knew we were going to have to run the ball this year. Having a running quarterback is something new for us since we went to the spread offense but it’s been a nice weapon.”
The Fighting Irish pose a difference challenge for Clyde than last week’s opponent, Norwalk. In that game, which Clyde won 35-24, the Fliers knew they needed to stop Truckers star running back Breck Turner to have a chance to win. This week, Clyde has several players it needs to keep tabs on in the opposing backfield.
“The quarterback was a wide receiver last year, they moved him to quarterback and he’s and athletic kid who keeps it a lot and runs it a lot,” Carter said. “Tre’von Wade is a great runner. Very fast. The other part people overlook, because those kids get the credit, is their offensive line is huge, they move really well.”
Clyde will present a different look for Central Catholic from a year ago as well.
“They definitely have an emphasis on throwing the football this year,” Dempsey said. “They’re very good at it, they’re very good at running their offense, running the spread, they have dynamic play-makers on offense.”
The Flier passing game is led by quarterback Austin Baker (2,387 yards, 31 touchdowns, two interceptions) and receiver Eric Wiseman (54 receptions, 1,162 yards, 18 touchdowns).
Regardless of who is and is not the underdog, Baker said the Fliers know they won’t be able to sneak up on the Fighting Irish and surprise them again.
“They’re probably going to come out harder in the first minutes (than last year),” Baker said. “If we can hold them off, I think we’ll be ok. They’re going to come out hard.”
IF YOU GO
Who: Clyde (10-2 overall) vs. Toledo Central Catholic (10-2).
What: Division III, Region 8 championship game; Winner to face the winner of Wapakoneta (12-0) vs. Trotwood-Madison (11-1) next week in the state semifinal.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Where: Lake High School
Online: Live updates at http://www.thenews-messenger.com.