Entering Week 10, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary had to beat perennial power Youngstown Ursuline just to reach the Division III playoffs.
A month later, the Fighting Irish (12-2) are looking to add state championship No. 5 to the trophy case when it faces Bellevue at 11 a.m. Saturday at Fawcett Stadium in Canton.
“Our theme has been taking care of ourselves,” SVSM coach Dan Boarman said. "We’re a good team if we play to our capabilities with discipline and focus. If we do those things, we re a team to beat, and that s how we have to continue to play.
“After our loss to Massillon (Week 9) we pointed out the mistakes we made. We gave them opportunities that we shouldn’t have. They’ve taken it to heart, and that’s how they’ve played the last four weeks.
In four playoff wins, the Irish have outscored opponents 185-57 (46-14 average score).
“As we go on, I’ve been really impressed with all aspects of our game,” Boarman said. “Offense, defense, special teams and we’re a team to be reckoned with playing like this.We’vehadsomebig time contributors to our victories.
“It’s hard to pick any one area that has stood out, and to win a state title you need them all.”
The Irish are led by quarterback Clayton Uecker, who has completed 172 of 275 pass attempts for 2,856 yards with 30 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He has thrown to a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Jordan Hargrove and Fransohn Bickley.
Running back Parris Campbell has also emerged for the Irish, as he scored four times and ran for 147 yards in the team’s semifinal 48-13 win over Dover.
Offensively, the Irish rolled up 490 yards, 346 on the ground. They turned the ball over twice but were rescued by the defense.
“Clayton was injured most of last season and has come a long way for being a relatively inexperienced quarterback,” Boarman said. “He has been able to utilize all our skill, and we needed someone at that position to do that.
“Last week we did what we had to do and took what they gave us, and were successful running the ball. We re able to do both, which has been a key to our offensive success.”
Boarman said Hargrove and Bickley make the offense go, however.
“They offer not one guy who you can double team, that’s the biggest thing with those two,” he said. “We can split these two guys out and put a defense on an island at times. They’ve been tremendous.”
Defensively, the Irish gave up 357 yards to Dover, but surrendered just two touchdowns to a team that had scored nearly 500 points in 13 games.
“Our defense has played a tremendous role the past three weeks,” Boarman said. “We’ve been shutting down great offensive teams. I was scared with the five-wide and the stuff we were facing last week with Dover, but we did a nice job of shutting them down.
Defensively the Irish are led by major Division I recruit Dante Booker. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound linebacker recovered a fumble and caused another in the win vs. Dover. Ohio State is among his many suitors.
“He’s one of those kids who can hit you, but also runs like a deer,” Boarman said of Booker. “He has great running ability, and game after game he s showing greater ball sense. He can go sideline to sideline, or he can come up and smack you in the middle too.”
As for Bellevue, Boarman admitted he doesn t know much about the Redmen as of Monday, but like many, knows it is pretty obvious where to start the game plan.
“One of the big things I know is stopping the quarterback (Jalen Santoro), he seems to be the catalyst to their offense,” Boarman said. “Defensively, they are just solid. They stopped a very high-powered running team in Thurgood Marshall.
“They look a little bigger than us, but they handled Marshall very well. Marshall was huge, but they did a real nice job slowing that running game, which is no easy task. We have our work cut out for us against a very talented team.”