Culbreath: The slugfestWritten by Matt 'Shaggy' Culbreath | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve been trying to put into words what we watched Thursday night without using the typical cliches and, for the life of me, I can’t.
The Division III State Championship game between Central Catholic and Athens was a slugfest. A neck-and-neck race. A back-and-forth affair. A heavyweight bout. All those cliches we hear thrown about in regards to a Week 3 game that doesn’t mean a whole lot should be reserved so that they could apply to Thursday’s night masterpiece.
And yes, I’d be saying that even if the Irish lost.
The good news is they pulled it off: a 56-52 victory over the previously unbeaten Bulldogs to give Central Catholic its third title in school history, and second state crown in the last three years.
It was a classic pass vs. rush matchup between the two schools. The Irish had made their bread and butter in the trenches, with QB Marcus Winters and running backs Michael Warren and Tre’Von Wade each having over 1,000 rushing yards coming into the title game.
For Athens, the star was Joe Burrow, the quarterback who earlier this week was named Ohio’s Mr. Football, who is already committed to playing for Ohio State next year, and who came in with just under 4,000 yards passing, 57 touchdowns and only one pick.
So it was just about right that this game was punch after punch after punch. Just when it seemed like Central Catholic had the momentum, Burrow would find the right receiver on third and long to keep the Dogs going. Just when Athens looked like they were about to open things up, the Irish defense brought down an interception.
And so when the Bulldogs took 52-49 lead with under three minutes left, the Irish had the destiny in their own hands, and they had to fight for every inch — converting on three separate fourth downs, including a 4th-and-1 from the 7-yard line, where Winters would run it in himself for the go-ahead score with 15 seconds left on the clock.
A perfect end? It doesn’t get much better. You make that the game winning touchdown as time expired, and I’d say it was almost too cheesy. In a game that felt like the last team with the ball was going to win it, the Irish managed to score with too little time on the clock for Mr. Football to make anything of it.
Winters, Warren and Wade got it done, Coach Greg Dempsey gets his third trophy, and Northwest Ohio tastes success yet again.
Matt “Shaggy” Culbreath is sports director for 1370 WSPD.