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Tigers roar into state football semifinals
Tigers roar into state football semifinals
By TONY LANGE
Before the opening kickoff, the home-side stands rumbled as Akron Manchester fans stamped their feet and waived mini black and red pom-poms. After the kickoff, however, it was the Chagrin Falls fans making all the noise.
The second-seeded Tigers routed top-seeded Manchester 37-14 last Friday night in a Division IV regional championship matchup at Boliantz Stadium in Macedonia.
Chagrin Falls (12-1) advances to play Orville (10-3) at Medina High School's Ken Dukes Stadium in the state semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Heading into the game against previously undefeated Manchester, the Associated Press' second-ranked team, the Tigers watched more film than usual, while coming up with a game plan. They executed early and often.
Before the favored Panthers could record a first down, the Tigers gained 226 yards and took an early 20-0 lead at the 4:40 mark in the first quarter.
Successful first quarters compensate the coaches and players for their weeklong preparations, head coach Mark Iammarino said.
"You have a plan all week-long," he said. "You research the team, you prepare and when you come out and score three quick ones it makes you feel like it validates your plan."
To defeat the Panthers, the Tigers, who were 12th in the final AP poll, knew they had to throw the ball and get it to the outsides, Iammarino said.
Senior quarterback Tim Porter did just that.
In the first half, he completed 10 of 13 passes to six receivers for 289 yards and propelled Chagrin Falls to a 28-0 halftime lead.
Porter had a night that any coach would want his senior quarterback to have in a regional championship game, Iammarino said.
"This game called for us to be able to throw the ball. They played seven men in the box," he said. "We were successful because Timmy stepped up and really did a great job."
Porter had two 70-plus yard touchdown passes in the first quarter.
The first was a 74-yarder to sophomore Bradley Munday to put Chagrin Falls up 13-0 after an extra-point kick. Munday finished with four catches for 123 yards. He added another 43 yards rushing the ball on four carries, including a 28-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Porter's second big pass was a 66-yarder to Anthony DeCamillo to give the Tigers a 20-0 advantage. It came on the same play that the Tigers ran during their first series when Porter tossed a quick pass to Spencer Diedrich for a 10-yard gain. During the touchdown play, however, the Panthers bit on Diedrich and Porter found DeCamillo on the outside.
Coming into the game, DeCamillo wasn't sure he would be able to play after suffering an ankle sprain from the previous week.
"I wanted to do everything I could to play. I wanted to do everything I could to help the team and just getting that touchdown was just," DeCamillo said. "That just put icing on the cake for me and for the team."
Iammarino said, "He really gutted it up. That's great courage on his behalf to get out and at least give us a quarter worth."
Also delivering for the Tigers was Kurt Vidmer. He carried the ball two yards into the end zone to cap off Chagrin Falls' 10-play, four-minute, 76-yard opening drive. The Tigers failed on the two-conversion attempt.
Vidmer found the end zone again in the second quarter during a one-yard carry. The Tigers converted the two-point conversion with a pass from Tommy Iammarino to Andrew Winkelman.
Vidmer said he gives all the credit to sophomore Jack Campbell, who led the Tigers with 12 carries for 53 yards.
Vidmer plays full time on the defensive side of the ball and is the go-to guy for short yardage in the red zone.
"I'll also give all the credit to the offensive linemen, the 'hoggies,'" Vidmer said. "They blow off defenders real good and usually I have no one to run through or maybe one guy and that's what I pride myself on being able to do."
One of the hoggies leading the offensive line is senior center Alex Forbes. Every play starts with his snap. If there is not a good exchange between him and the quarterback, then there is not a good exchange between the quarterback and the running back, he said.
"It'll mess up the whole play, so I practice a lot and I make sure I perfect that, and I like to lead the line out there," Forbes said. "Manchester was here for a reason. Their guys aren't the biggest by any means, but they're extremely quick. Basically, I had to have some athletic ability as well as keep up with them with what they were doing."
After trailing 35-0 and failing to convert four fourth-down attempts, Manchester got on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter.
With a sack and several tackles for a loss, Winkelman, a full-time linebacker, said the defense was well prepared.
"Coach (Jeff) Decker, our defensive coordinator, does a great job mixing it up," Winkelman said. "We come from all angles on different downs, so as an offense, it's hard to predict us. We change a lot of things up but we're really consistent as a big hitting team."
The Panthers looked to gain some momentum on the Tigers' defense in the third quarter when they were third-and-goal on the one-yard line. They ran twice and got stuffed twice.
"We all get in the huddle and we know the situation. We buckle down and take care of business and get our offense back on the field," Winkelman said. "It just knocks the wind out of them. They're on the one, they can't get in. It just takes away all their hope."
Other notable plays included Billy Cale's onside-kick recovery and Diedrich's interception when he tipped the ball in the air, landed on his back, kept the ball from landing by kicking with his leg and caught it while on the ground.
Also playing a major role was Michael Hageman, who had four catches for 83 yards.
DeCamillo had something to say about the victory.
"With this game, we proved to everyone in our region and everyone in Division IV of Ohio that we're here to play and we're just as good as last year," he said. "We've got the same goal. We want a state championship."
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