Shortly after Friday’s big win over Toledo Central Catholic, Avon football coach Mike Elder correctly predicted the Eagles would be playing Akron Archbishop Hoban in Friday’s Division II state semifinals.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association made it official Sunday when it released all the semifinal pairings.
It’s a repeat of last year’s semifinal right down to the venue. Hoban (13-0), the top-ranked Division II team in the final Associated Press poll, and Avon (12-1), ranked No. 8, will face off at Brunswick Auto Mart Stadium, where the Knights beat Avon 30-6 in last season’s semifinals.
Hoban has won 26 straight games. It’ll be the third unbeaten team the Eagles have faced in the playoffs. Third-ranked Massillon (13-0) plays sixth-ranked Cincinnati Winton Woods (12-1) in the other semifinal.
Avon earned a rematch with Hoban thanks to a 35-28 win over fourth-ranked Anthony Wayne and a 37-22 win over No. 2 Toledo Central Catholic.
Hoban is after its fourth straight state championship under six-year coach Tim Tyrrell. The Knights beat Winton Woods 42-14 for last year’s D-II title after winning the D-III championship the previous two years.
“They’re one of the best — if not the best — teams in the state of Ohio,” Avon coach Mike Elder said Sunday. “And, I think nationally, they’d be one of the top teams. When it comes to players and personnel, they can line up and just bully people and that’s what they do in a sense of being faster, stronger than the opponents. It’s nothing fancy. They just line up and believe their kids are better than your kids and push people around.”
Hoban is loaded with Division I college recruits. Nolan Rumler, a 6-foot-4, 290-pound senior tackle, is Michigan-bound. Caden Clark, a 6-3, 257-pound junior tight end, is headed to Alabama. Junior tailback/linebacker DeaMonte Trayanum is mulling offers from Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan. And they aren’t alone.
“There’s probably at least 10 to 12 players on that football team,” Elder said of the Knights’ D-I prospects.
Elder knows his team is facing a daunting task this week. The Knights have beaten everyone on their schedule by double-digits since a 21-14 win over St. Ignatius on opening night. They’ve outscored their playoff opponents, 142-13.
“They’re pretty good,” Elder said of the Knights. “Their defense is physical and fast. They feast off negative plays and turnovers. There’s never been a better collection of players on a team we’ve faced or played against.”
That said, Avon plans to show up Friday. Last year’s final score may not indicate it but the Eagles actually outplayed Hoban in the first half last.
The Eagles led 6-3 but it could have been more. An interception stopped Avon’s opening drive and the return set up a Hoban field goal. Avon’s defense stopped Hoban near midfield later in the half but the punt accidently touched an Eagles player, setting up the Knights with an easy score.
Through the first half, Hoban gained just 69 yards but held a 10-6 lead.
“We moved the ball but turned it over in the red zone,” Elder said. “We needed to have the lead at halftime. In the second half, they stopped spreading it out and just lined up in their I-formation and handed the ball to their best player — Trayanium. He’s only a junior and has offers from everybody in the country.”
Trayanium scored twice in the second half as Hoban took control of the game but Avon had more first downs (18-12) and more total yards (327-245).
“We’re going to have a great game plan,” Elder said. “We know what we need to do. We’ll be creative on how we go about doing it. It’s just a matter of executing it. If we play a pretty good game and hope they make some mistakes … if that happens, hopefully, our goal is to be around in the fourth quarter with a chance.”
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