Monday, March 27, 2023

Cuyahoga Heights powers past Central Catholic

CUYAHOGA HEIGHTS–The question was, who was going to drop first from exhaustion, the entire roster for Tuscarawas Central Catholic or Cuyahoga Heights running back Brayden DiSanza?

Seeded eighth with a 5-5 record in this Division VII, Region 25 playoff matchup, Central Catholic arrived at Cuyahoga Heights Saturday with 21 players on its roster but only 17 dressed. Of those 17 players, only three weighed more than 185 pounds.

Contrast that with Cuyahoga Heights, which had more than twice as many players in uniform and three times as many who weighed more than 185 pounds. Obviously, the Redskins had a huge advantage in size and depth, and in the end it was DiSanza and his teammates who remained standing, as the senior carried the ball 38 times for 242 yards and two touchdowns as Cuyahoga Heights literally overpowered the Saints, 43-13.

“We just came out and played a great game,” DiSanza said. “That’s the bottom line.”

Top-seeded Cuyahoga Heights moves on to face East Canton, which rolled past Ashtabula St. John, 53-13. The site for the regional semifinal game will be released by the Ohio High School Athletic Association on Sunday.

How did the Redskins do it?

“We let our big boys do the work,” said tackle Jordan Krucek, one of just six seniors on the Cuyahoga Heights roster.

In fact, the word “big” was heard often from the Cuyahoga Heights bench, as the coaches often yelled out the term to designate the personnel and formation that was being utilized. As one could guess, the “big” set looked more like a rugby scrum than anything else—no wideouts, multiple tight ends, and the biggest linemen they had. All would just muscle their opponent out of the way, allowing DiSanza to have his way.

“It was really fun going out there and playing my hardest,” DiSanza said. “The holes were wide open, but sometimes they weren’t, so I was just giving it my all, fighting for every yard I could get. That’s probably my career best.”

Believe it or not, DiSanza only rushed for 38 yards on six carries after halftime, all in the third quarter. That leaves an eye-popping 32 carries for 204 yards in the first half.

“I wasn’t tired at all,” he said. “Sometimes on the first drive I get a little gassed, but then I settle in and I’m fine. But I wasn’t tired at all tonight.”

Cuyahoga Heights Coach Al Martin is known for figuring out what the opponent is doing and then exploiting it. The game plan became very clear on the first drive of the game, as DiSanza ran the ball five consecutive times before the Redskins turned the ball over on downs. The next possession was an 11-play touchdown drive that saw DiSanza carry the ball nine times, including his 19-yard TD scamper.

“That was kind of the game plan, but we kind of just go with the flow, whatever they give us, whatever they come out in,” DiSanza said. “Coach Martin’s a great coach. He’ll adjust to anything. We just kind of just did what we did, and that’s pretty much it.”

The Saints came back to tie the score at 7-7 on the very next possession, but that would be all they could muster until the final minute of the game. Sandwiched between Central Catholic’s two scores was 35 unanswered points by Cuyahoga Heights–another TD run by DiSanza of six yards, a one-yard sneak by quarterback Sam Shafer, a four-yard pass from Shafer to Kyle Polack, an 18-yard pass from Shafer to Alex Studniarz, and a one-yard run by Austin Knaack.

“Our line just molded together really well tonight,” Krucek said. “We had the size difference up front in our favor and we utilized that. We had some great blocks that allowed Brayden to go and run around for all those yards he had.”

Shafer completed 7 of 11 passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns.

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