CLYDE — If Toledo Central Catholic fans were a little tired of hearing the public address announcer proclaim yet another play by Avon’s Mark Steinmetz during Friday’s Division II regional final at Clyde High School, who could blame them?
“I think this might be my best game I’ve played in high school,” Steinmetz said.
That’s saying something for the talented Steinmetz, but he was the one making plays all night long on both sides of the ball in the Eagles’ 37-22 win over the unbeaten Fighting Irish, the top seed in the region and the No. 2-ranked team in the state in Division II.
Steinmetz, a 6-foot, 185-pound linebacker/tailback, practically never left the field in helping Avon make it to the state semifinals for the second year in a row.
And he didn’t waste any time making his presence felt.
Steinmetz and defensive end Jack Roesch threw Central Catholic’s highly regarded quarterback, Troy Durden, for a 3-yard loss on the first play from scrimmage.
Two plays later, Central was looking at fourth-and-15 when Steinmetz broke through the line and blocked Jase Bowen’s rugby-style punt to effectively get the Eagles off on the right foot.
“Our defensive staff is tremendous,” Steinmetz said of the Eagles’ game plan. “We knew the quarterback liked to run the ball. We knew they had No. 4 (Bowen). We had to key on those players. We knew if we shut them down, we’d get the win.”
“We knew we had to have that quiet confidence,” said Roesch, who recovered a fumble to stop one of Toledo’s third-quarter drives. “We know they’re a good team and we had to come out and smack ’em in the mouth. I don’t think they’d played anyone like Avon before.”
Of course, it only seemed like Steinmetz made every tackle for Avon. He certainly had lots of help as the Eagles had Central Catholic reeling for the first time all year when they broke in front 23-0 following Ryan Maloy’s 75-yard touchdown run on a simple quarterback draw.
“That was huge,” Steinmetz said. “With a team that great … they’ve got D-I players all around. Great momentum push like that. It was huge.”
Steinmetz recovered a fumble and kept the heat on the elusive Durden enough to keep the Eagles in the lead.
But he didn’t just do his heavy lifting on defense. When Avon needed him most on offense, he came through with some huge runs while filling in for injured starter Nick Perusek, racking up 94 tough yards on 31 carries.
Joey Lance gave him a couple needed breathers while picking up 38 yards on eight carries. Maloy, who had two huge touchdown runs, led the way on the ground with 151 yards.
“I don’t know how people around this community — they don’t know how lucky they are to see a kid like him play on Friday nights,” Avon coach Mike Elder said of Steinmetz. “He’s everything a high school player should be. He’s our sparkplug. He’s fun to be around in practice. He makes coaching fun.”
Avon rushed for 300 yards against the Irish, who came into Friday’s game giving up just over 50 a game. But thanks to Steinmetz’s tough running style, Maloy was able to find some holes in a Central Catholic defense that had given up only 63 points all year before Avon scored 30 in the first half.
“It’s no secret he’s a stud,” Maloy said of Steinmetz. “He came in and had a good week of practice. Our line blocked for him and if gets a little bit of space or a little bit of a hole, he’s not going to go down easy and he fights for extra yards. He covers the ball and played amazing.”
“They were physical, they like to blitz,” Steinmetz said of the Irish. “They like to come downhill hard. Our offensive line was just giving us gaps. They always do. They’re the best O-line in the state.”
Steinmetz bulled his way behind that line to seal the win on a 4-yard TD run with 2:04 to play. Avon burned all but those two minutes of the fourth quarter with a clutch 62-yard, 19-play marathon drive. The Eagles converted a pair of fourth downs on the drive, one coming when Maloy drew the Irish offsides with a hard count.
“Mark has the best motor around,” Roesch said. “He’s one of the best athletes and he showed that (Friday). He brought the extra juice. He makes great plays for us all the time.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.