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Chagrin Falls (12-0) did what it was expected to do last F
No. 1 Chagrin Falls Tigers (12-0) vs.
No. 6 St. Vincent-St. Mary Fighting Irish (10-2)
By TONY LANGE
Chagrin Falls (12-0) did what it was expected to do last Friday night-win.
The top-seeded Tigers knew heading into November that they would be the favorites to claim the Division III Region 9 title. This Friday at 7:30 p.m., they will have their chance to prove that theory true.
The Tigers will travel to Bedford's Stewart Field to take on the under-ranked St. Vincent-St. Mary Fighting Irish (10-2).
Despite being the sixth-seeded team in Region 9, St. Vincent-St. Mary is no underdog. The Fighting Irish had been ranked third among all Division III teams in Ohio before losing to Cardinal Mooney in week eight of the regular season.
Entering their matchup against Chagrin Falls, the Irish are coming off a 31-14 victory against second-seeded Lake Catholic.
Off the injured list for that game, the Irish welcomed the returns of star wide receiver Jordan Hargrove, a 6-foot, 180-pound senior, and star fullback/defensive back Matt Matuska, a 6-foot, 185-pound senior.
Hargrove caught a 63-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and a 7-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Matuska's 31-yard touchdown run in the third quarter put the Irish up 21-0. It appeared those two hadn't missed a beat.
The Irish complete their triple-threat offense with 6-3, 200-pound senior quarterback Kevin Besser who was 15 of 24 tossing the pigskin for 287 yards last week. He did, however, throw two interceptions and was sacked four times by Lake Catholic's blitz.
While the Irish offense averages 37.6 points per game this season, the Chagrin Falls defense allows just 13.2 points per game.
To beat St. Vincent-St. Mary, the Tigers will have to limit their penalties and take advantage of all their opportunities. First-and-15 situations and missed field goals just won't cut it this week.
During Chagrin Falls' 24-6 triumph against Ravenna (9-3) last Friday, the Tigers had five penalties for 40 yards in the first half, including a called back touchdown and two missed field goals-a 37-yarder and 45-yarder.
Chagrin Falls' senior linebacker Andrew Winkelman said those slipups were the locker room focus at halftime.
"We knew we had the lead, but we knew we didn't play to our full potential yet," Winkelman said. "In the second half, we knew we wanted to come out and cut out the penalties and keep things up on defense."
Despite the Fighting Irish's high-scoring reputation, Chagrin Falls' senior nose tackle Wes Kenyon said St. Vincent-St. Mary is just another team to check off the to-do list.
"We'll take it one week at a time and go through another week of practice and do everything we can to prepare for them," he said. "Our coaches do the best job and we'll be ready for them."
While the Irish have four state championships, this will be their first regional title game in nine years.
Meanwhile, the Tigers will be fighting for their third consecutive regional championship. Their last two were in Division IV Region 13.
Chagrin Falls' senior safety Everett Dishong said it's obviously exciting to be in a position for another title.
"It's a great legacy we've got going and we just want to continue it," he said. "So, we're excited and we're going to work hard for it."
TONY'S TAKE: The Tigers win by a touchdown.
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