Red Tornadoes blank Jays
ALMEDIA - There was a time when the reputation of Mount Carmel football was so intimidating that the turning point in many games for the Red Tornadoes came when their bus arrivied for a game.
Those times are mostly gone as opponents have raised the level of their programs over the years to the point where they welcome the opportunity to knock off the Tornadoes. Clearly, that was the way Central Columbia played Friday in the District 4 Class AA quarterfinals, playing the visiting Tornadoes even for a half and remaining within striking distance through three quarters.
Mount Carmel then dug down and came through the way one would expect of a defending district champion, breaking a scoreless tie with 3:24 left in the third quarter and pulling away for a 17-0 victory. Although the Tornadoes (7-4) entered the tournament as the No. 7 seed, coach Carm DeFrancesco said they believed they could make a run at another title if their defense came around.
Against the Blue Jays (7-4), who also lost on their home field in Week 6 to the Tornadoes in a 34-14 shootout, the defense came around. That defense, a balanced offense that got two, 1-yard touchdown runs by quarterback Zach Wasilewski and a 23-yard field goal by Rob Varano was more than enough for the Tornadoes.
Luke Klingerman helped the Tornadoes control the ball with a 65-29 advantage in plays by rushing 32 times for 131 yards. Wasilewski completed 7-of-12 passes for 75 yards, including four to Varano for 47.
Mount Carmel also pulled a surprise by allowing 6-foot-4, 265-pound tight end Eric Joraskie to play fullback. His blocking led the way for several key first-down runs by Klingerman, and he carried six times for 35 yards.
"Our defensive coaches put together a solid game plan and our kids performed," DeFrancesco said. "Some expected this to be high scoring, but it's why you play the games.
"We knew they would play us a lot tougher the second time, and it's tough to beat a team two times in a season. Joraskie had been telling the coaches he had played fullback in midget football, and it's like, well everyone plays fullback in the midgets.
"Still, we started to fool around with some things in practice, mostly using him as a blocker, and we decided to let him run the ball a little bit. One thing we have with this team is that the players and coaches are very receptive to trying something new."
Central, which returned to the playoffs for the first time in eight years, but ended the season on a three-game losing streak, was unable to run early and then looked to pass almost exclusively after falling behind. Quarterback Jordan Thivierge completed 7-19 passes for 112 yards, but two of the completions were to Dylan Hine for 85 yards.
Meanwhile, the Jays were limited to a net of 2 yards on 10 rushes, including a sack of Thivierge and a team loss of minus-4 yards that resulted in a lost fumble. Their only scoring threat came on a 58-yard reception by Hine to the 15 on the game's second play, but they gave the ball up on a punt after being set back by a 15-yard penalty.
"Listen, we weren't going to run the ball against their inside three up front, and Joraskie is just one heck of a football player," Central coach Jason Hippenstiel said. "We shot ourselves in the foot when we had a chance to do something, and that team is just going to keep coming at your."
Mount Carmel scored on its second possession of the second half, getting a 33-yard run to the 23 by Bobby Beierschmitt on first down. A 10-yard pass from Wasilewski to Joraskie moved the ball to the 15, and after Wasilewski got 3 yards on fourth-and-1, he scored four plays later to complete a nine-play, 56 yard drive.
Midway through the fourth quarter the Tornadoes took possession at the Central 38 after a 23-yard punt and moved the ball to the 5. On fourth-and-goal, Varano kicked his 23-yard field goal with 6:34 left.
Danny Lesko intercepted the ball at the 35 on Central's first play after the field goal and returned the ball 12 yards to the 23. Six plays later, Wasilewski capped the drive with his second quarterback keeper.
"All I can say is that at halftime this team found the heart of a champion and played that way in the second half," DeFrancesco said. "It's like we told these guys, they're the district champs until someone beats them."