MANSFIELD — The Tygers know exactly what awaits Friday in Clyde — and they are looking forward to the challenge.
Fourth-seeded Mansfield Senior (10-2) will bus to Clyde’s Bishop Stadium for a regional semifinal showdown with top-seeded Toledo Central Catholic (12-0). The Fighting Irish won a Division II state title last fall before dropping to Division III this year.
The Irish have won 27 straight games dating to Week 1 of the 2022 season, a 23-20 loss to Division I powerhouse and reigning state champion Lakewood St. Edward.
TCC won the Central Division title in the rugged 32-school Detroit Catholic League, the largest Catholic high school athletic league in the country, and captured this year’s Ohio Division III poll championship.
TCC is making its 25th overall playoff appearance and 20th straight under legendary coach Greg Dempsey. The Fighting Irish boss picked up his 250th win in last week’s closer-than-expected 41-26 win over No. 9 seed Defiance.
In addition to the 2022 state title, TCC won it all in 2005, 2012 and 2014 and was state runner-up in 2015.
As impressive as Central Catholic’s résumé is, Senior High can’t wait to take a swing at the champ.
The Tygers looked the part of title contender in last week’s 55-21 win at Rocky River in a game originally scheduled to be played at Arlin Field. The game was moved because of security concerns, according to school officials.
How good were the Tygers against the Pirates?
Senior High scored on its first eight possessions before finally punting on its final possession of the game. The Tygers piled up a season-high 517 yards on 50 plays, averaging 10.3 yards per play.
Quarterback Duke Reese enjoyed a career night, completing 12-of-13 passes for 157 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 121 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries. He was lifted after three quarters.
“We played together as brothers and got it done,” said Reese, who has thrown for 1,597 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushed for 684 yards and seven scores. “The guys were looking to me and I felt like I had to come out and get us going.”
The rangy 6-foot-4 Reese was one of three Tygers to rush for more than 100 yards. Zyion Brown led the way with 124 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Jamier Petty added 103 yards and a score on eight carries as Senior High rushed for 360 yards as a team.
“The offensive line struggled some during the (regular) season, but we came out here and played with heart,” senior tackle and captain Ahmaan Thomas said. “We played for our city.”
Reese completed passes to four different receivers.
Amarr Davis caught six passes for 67 yards and became Senior High’s career leader in touchdown receptions. He hauled in a 26-yarder, his 21st career TD grab, in the second quarter.
“I feel like we need to play like that every week,” said Davis, who already owns Mansfield Senior’s career marks for receptions and receiving yards. “If we come out and play like we did (against Rocky River) we’re going to be hard to beat.”
Meanwhile, Toledo Central Catholic had its hands full with Defiance. The 26 points allowed were the most by a TCC opponent all season.
The Fighting Irish returned the opening kickoff 65 yards for a touchdown and, after Defiance scored to tie the game, returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for another special teams score.
Running back Tyler Morgan, who had the 97-yard kickoff return, rushed for a season-high 139 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries. Quarterback Terry Collins completed 14-of-17 passes for 147 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown to Lavell Stokes.
TCC’s strength is its offensive line. Senior Marc Nave (6-foot-5, 315) has 23 Division I offers, including one from Ohio State. Fellow interior offensive lineman Elijah Williams (6-2, 297) is committed to Kent State, while three-star athlete Jaylen Watson (5-11, 175) has verbally committed to Iowa.
“We know what’s out there and we’re looking forward to it,” said Thomas, who has offers from Marshall and Kent State. “That is what the playoffs are about, facing challenges.
“I’m sure they will play better and we’re going to have to play better, too.”