Fire Up Monday (No. 5) – State Championship Edition

WE DID IT! THE EAGLES ARE THE 2018 OHSAA DIVISION 1 STATE CHAMPIONS! The Eagles secured the title with a 24-10 victory over Cincinnati Colerain, an undefeated and No. 8 ranked team in the country. Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton produced an incredible environment for the state final. The St. Eds fan base was able to fill up a majority of the home seating; the gold-out student section showed out and filled a whole section!

Coming into the game, the Eagles were underdogs according to several high school sports experts. With Colerain’s 14-0 record, it must have been tough to pick a 10-3 St. Edward team. However, the Eagles’ record was deceiving, as two of those losses came in Weeks 1 and 2 by a total of 4 points to arguably the best teams in the states of Ohio and Michigan at the time. The record was advantageous to the Eagles because it likely caused outsiders to immediately doubt the Eagles without actually knowing how good they are. The Eagles played arguably the toughest schedule in all of Northeast Ohio, if not the whole state. In addition, the playoff path for the Eagles was extremely challenging, as the Eagles had to beat St. Ignatius, Euclid, Mentor, and Olentangy Liberty, just to earn the right to play Colerain, the best of them all.

The tough opponents conditioned the Eagles with adversity; by the state championship game, the Eagles knew how to handle and overcome adversity, which helped them to win the game. Of their 14 games heading into the state championship, Colerain had 8 running clocks, which meant they won by a margin of 30 points or more; they dominated nearly every one of their opponents and had the lead for nearly the whole season. The reason for this is the effective triple-option that they ran on offense; no team could figure out how to stop it, and it completely tore apart most teams’ defenses. Throughout practice last week, the Eagle defense worked hard with Coach Pappas and watched a ton of film so that they could learn how to shut down Colerain’s powerful offense.

Things seemed to feel normal for the Cardinals when they returned the opening kickoff into St. Eds territory. They then drove all the way down to the five, where Caden Kolesar, the Eagles’ First Team All-State safety stripped the ball that Daylan Jernigan recovered. This play was crucial, as it started to bring Colerain out of their game; they were used to scoring early and often. The Eagles were unable to get much production on offense through the first quarter and a half. Colerain eventually scored on a rare pass play in the middle of the second quarter. They had the lead; things were normal for them. Now they could control the pace of the game and continue to shut out the Eagle offense. “Not so fast,” said the Eagles. The Cardinals got the ball back after an Eagle punt but threw an interception to Daylan Jernigan, who earned his second turnover belt of the night. This play was the spark that the Eagles needed.

On the following possession, Garrett Dzuro threw a deep pass to Quintel Kent, a Second Team All-Ohio wide receiver, which set up the Eagles in the red zone. Jordan Castleberry, a Third Team All-Ohio running back, then ran in a short touchdown with about two minutes remaining in the first half. Gianluca Russo split the uprights with a game-tying extra point, and the Eagles erased Colerain’s lead just like that.

Colerain returned the following kickoff deep into Eagle territory, which set them up for a field goal as time expired in the half. The Cardinals led the Eagles 10-7 at the break. However, the Eagles had a fresh sense of confidence after that quick turnaround late in the second quarter. They realized that they were able to get things going on offense, and the defense was continuing to get better at stopping the triple-option.

The Eagles received the ball at the start of the second half. They drove right down the field, which set up Russo for a game-tying field goal attempt. After a slew of penalties on the kicks, Russo made his fourth attempt to even the game once again. Colerain had only been leading in all of the second halves they had played before, so being tied in the championship game was not a normal feeling for them. A sense of urgency appeared to show, as Colerain began to pass the ball more frequently, which is something they did not normally do. The Eagles’ pass coverage and pass rush were very effective against Colerain, and they forced Colerain to punt the ball away.

Later in the third quarter, Dzuro threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Kent to take a 17-10 lead. The Eagle defense continued to step up, as they held Colerain to only 17 yards of offense in the whole second half. Midway through the fourth quarter, Quintel Kent caught a 19-yard touchdown to take a two-touchdown lead.

With a score of 24-10, Colerain had to respond right away; it seems like they were about to do just that when their star running back scored a 60-yard touchdown on the first play of their drive. Luckily for the Eagles, the referees declared that he had stepped out of bounds. With a stout Eagle defense, Colerain was then forced to punt; the Eagles were able to take out a large part of the clock on their offensive drive. However, Colerain did not give up on defense; they forced the Eagles to give the ball back. Colerain moved the ball to the Eagle 5 yard line, where the Eagle defense forced Colerain to turn it over on downs. From there, Dzuro kneed the ball and burned out the rest of the clock.

The celebration ensued after the Eagle upset victory. Screaming, hugging, and tears of joy filled the field that the players had rushed. The student section was in a state of absolute bedlam (see video here). What a win this was for the whole community! It was so great to see all of the players, coaches, students, alumni, and fans come together and win a state championship, which is the third championship in five years. If you missed the game, check out a video recap here. The Eagles finished the season as the No. 9 team in the nation and the top team in Ohio, according to MaxPreps. With a 1.9% chance to win the championship, according to statistician Drew Pasteur, the Eagles proved many wrong with their spectacular postseason run. Way to go Eagles! The whole community is so proud of the football team, especially the players of the Class of 2019.



~ Jack Loesch ‘19