Monday, July 22, 2024

Beachwood seeks first playoff win against top-seeded Canton Central Catholic

A 21-20 overtime win against Cuyahoga Heights back on Oct. 18 didn’t clinch a playoff spot for the Beachwood football team, but it did put the Bison in good position to qualify for the post-season for a second straight season and the third time in school history.

The Bison dropped their final two regular season contests to finish at 5-5 but they had beaten enough quality opponents to earn the No. 8 seed in Division V, Region 15. On Saturday, they’ll play top-seeded Canton Central Catholic at Lowell Klinefelter Field.

“We’re definitely excited about it,” said Beachwood coach Mike Gibbons, who has guided the Bison to playoff appearances in his first two seasons at the school. “It’s a great accomplishment to be in the post-season and the kids and the coaches are really excited about it. It’s a special honor anytime you can get into the playoffs and we’re happy to have the opportunity to go out and compete against a very good team.”

While the Bison seek their first post-season victory, Canton Central Catholic is 16-9 in 11 total playoff appearances. The Crusaders won state titles in 1988 and 2000 and reached the state semifinals in 1977. Their last playoff appearance was in 2011.

The Crusaders finished 10-0 against a slate of mostly upper division teams. They finished 3-0 against Division I teams, 2-0 against Division II, Division III and Division IV squads and 1-0 against Division VI opponents.

They also won the Division V AP state title.

Central Catholic’s success starts with Jake Boccuti under center. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior has completed 73-of-116 passes for 1,172 yards and 13 touchdowns to just two interceptions. He also has rushed for 626 yards on 124 carries and scored 10 times.

“They have a really good quarterback and they like to spread it out on offense,” Gibbons said. “They have good size up front. That quarterback is definitely a dual-threat. He can run the ball and throw the ball. Defensively, that will be a huge challenge to try and contain him and limit his big plays.”

Junior running back Justin Ditty has rushed for 603 yards on 111 carries and has scored 10 touchdowns.

Boccuti’s favorite targets are senior Jimmy Russell and junior John Colangelo. Russell caught 30 passes for 453 yards and four scores in the regular season while Colangelo hauled in 24 passes for 412 yards and five touchdowns.

The Crusaders might be even better on defense.

Central Catholic outscored its opponents 338-96 and forced 22 turnovers. The Crusaders finished the regular season +15 in turnover margin.

“Their defense is very impressive,” Gibbons said. “They don’t really do a whole lot. They just run to the ball extremely well and they don’t make a lot of mistakes. They’re just really solid and have a big defensive line and their middle linebacker is 6-foot-4, 220 pounds.”

Colangelo leads the team with four interceptions. Senior defensive backs Emerson Bracken, Noah Totor and sophomore linebacker Griffin Baumoel each have two of Central Catholic’s 15 interceptions. Totor returned both of his interceptions for touchdowns and Baumoel and senior DB Nick Boron each have a pick-6.

Gibbons hopes his team speed provides a challenge the Crusaders haven’t seen all season.

“That’s the one thing I’ve been telling the kids, I don’t know if they have seen our overall team speed this year,” he said. “In our backfield and with our receivers and secondary and linebackers, one of the things we do well on defense is run to the ball on the perimeter. I think we have a couple weapons that maybe they haven’t seen yet this year. Hopefully those guys will come out and make some big plays for us.”

Despite the challenge of playing on the road against the top seed in the region, Gibbons said he and his coaching staff aren’t approaching this game any differently than they have any other game.

It comes down to preparation and execution and if the Bison can clean up the self-inflicted wounds of the past he believes they have a good shot of extending their season.

“We’re just going to try to keep everything as normal as possible,” he said. “It’s a big game, but we’re treating it like it’s any other game. Our goal is to win it and we’re just doing our best to prepare for this week and try to limit our mistakes. That’s been our Achilles heel all season.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.

Steve Hare
Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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