Prep football: ’Noles ousted
ZANESVILLE – Monroe Central thought they had a good gameplan in place to slow down explosive Columbus Bishop Ready on Friday night.
But what looked good on paper didn’t come to fruition at Zanesville’s Sulsburger Stadium when the two teams hit the field for an Ohio Division VI, Region 21 semifinal.
The Silver Knights scored on their first six possessions, didn’t punt until the third quarter and turned a three-point contest into a blowout by scoring 35 unanswered points in posting a 45-14 triumph over the Seminoles.
Ready moves on to face Newark Catholic for the regional crown next Friday night. The Green Wave topped top seed Lucasville Valley, 35-21, also Friday night.
“They’re an outstanding football team,” Monroe Central head coach Jay Circosta said of Ready after watching his squad finish 8-4. “We knew that going in.
“It boils down to you have to be able to realize it’s not so much the Xs and Os, but the Jimmies and the Joes. And they had the Jimmies and the Joes more than we did.
“I’m proud of our kids. They played hard and never backed down.”
In the end, the Silver Knights (11-1) were simply too much for the Noles.
“We really felt good about how we started,” Ready head coach Joel Cutler said.
“Defensively, they made some passes on us early and our kids made some adjustments.
But their kids played extremely hard and they’re well-coached. It makes it easy for me when our kids executed the gameplan well.”
Akili Taylor rushed for 136 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries for the Silver Knights. Nickolas Chapman added a pair of scores.
“They simply had more (Friday),” Circosta said.
Ready took the opening kickoff and marched right down the field. A 48-yard screen pass from Matt Yoho to Alex Eblin keyed the drive that eventually saw the Silver Knights get inside the Seminoles’ 10.
But Monroe Central’s defense tightened up and forced Ready to kick a field goal, which Aiden Dulin converted from 29-yards out for a 3-0 lead.
The Seminoles started their offensive night well. Quarterback Curtis Nixon hit Levi Brown with an 8-yard pass on the first play of the night. Nixon followed that up with runs of two and five yards.
Then, on their own 44, Nixon completed a pass to Bryan Duffy. Duffy reached midfield when he had the ball stripped and Ready recovered.
Two plays later, Taylor scored his first Td of the night and Ready led 10-0.
“We were up against a good team,” Circosta said. “It’s a team that many feel could go all the way. They have some good athletes and when those athletes got into the open space they were hard to tackle.”
The Seminoles were undaunted.
On the second play of its ensuing drive, Nixon hit Chase Carothers over the middle for a 38-yard gain.
Four consecutive plays of positive yardage set Monroe Central up inside the Ready 20.
Later in the drive, faced with a third-and-8, Nixon found Brown for an 11-yard gain to the 11. Two plays later, Nixon connected with Gavin Morton for a 9-yard touchdown as the first-quarter clock expired. Tanner Potts’ extra point made the score 10-7.
“We put together a nice drive there near the beginning,” Circosta said. “I think it got there attention a little bit.”
From there, the Silver Knights scored 38 straight points. And, many times, they did it with the big play.
Such was the case on there ensuing drive where Ready registered four plays of 10 yards or more, culminating with Chapman’s 1-yard run that upped the lead to 17-7 early in the second.
Following a Monroe Central punt, it only took Ready five plays to score. His time it was Taylor’s turn again as he scampered 34 yards for his second TD of the game. The third of Dulin’s six PAT’s made the score 24-7.
The Silver Knights registered a passing TD on its next drive when Yoho hooked up with Kelly Culbertson on a screen pass that resulted in a 32-tard score that increased the bulge to 31-7.
The short, but effective drives continued for Ready in the second half.
On their first possession, Taylor capped a four-play effort with his final TD, a 15-yard jaunt that helped make the score 38-7.
Monroe Central tacked on the final score of the game in the fourth quarter when Brown ran the ball in from three yards out. He finished with 41 yards rushing on nine carries.
Nixon, in his final prep contest, threw for 144 yards and completed passes to six different receivers.
“I’m proud of the seniors,” Circosta said. “And, as any coach will tell you, you’ll go as far as your seniors lead you. I thought they did a good job of setting a good example all year long.”
That year started with an 0-2 start.
“I told my kids that they’ll have an opportunity to reflect on all the good things that happened this season,” he said. “We came back to win a PVC title and end up 7-3 and earn a playoff berth. They weren’t just satisfied to get in they took that second step.
‘It’s kind of a bitter pill to swallow, but unless you win a state championship this is how it has to end.
“They were just a better football team than us.”