Flyers in familiar spot — at home in postseason

The pursuit of a state title for a state title for playoff teams starts this weekend
Mike Greco
Nov 8, 2013

For the St. Paul Flyers, that means a home game against Southington Chalker at 7 p.m. Saturday at Whitney Field.

The Flyers are in the playoffs for the 15th time since 1995, including second straight.

“That’s one of our goals at the start of the season,’’ St. Paul coach John Livengood said.

The Flyers have four state championship appearances, including winning the Division VI state championship in 2009, in Livengood’s tenure and are 28-13 all-time in the postseason.

“We’ve had consistency in the coaching staff and that helps,’’ he said. “A lot of it is work ethic. If you have the kids who are willing to work and play hard, you have the opportunity for success.

“It comes down to your kids and our team chemistry is awesome,’’ Livengood added. “We’ve had a lot of young guys contribute at the varsity level.’’

Since falling to Huron in Week 3 of the season, St. Paul has rattled off seven straight wins, en route to a 15th FC crown since 1992.

They’ve scored 40 or more points in each game and the highest amount given up was 20.

St. Paul faced St. Mary Central Catholic, Tiffin Calvert and Huron before opening the league slate.

The Senecas and Tigers are also playoff bound.

“When you play teams who are bigger and have well-established programs who are going to challenge you, it exposes the things that need to be worked on,’’ Livengood said. “It makes you better. The kids have worked hard to get better each week and worked to be the best possible team we can be.’’

The Flyers went through the FC competition with a 7-0 mark.

Five of the FC teams finished at least 5-5 in the regular season.

Mapleton also reached the playoffs.

“Our league is as well-coached from top to bottom as it has been and that challenge makes you better each week,’’ Livengood said. “You have to bring it each week.’’

St. Paul has rushed for 2,936 yards.

Four runners have at least 342 yards, led by Jesse Gross’ 909 and 16 touchdowns.

Devin Smith has 817 yards, despite missing games with injuries and 14 scores.

Brad Smith and Jaret Nickoli check in with 568 and 342 yards, respectively.

Quarterback Scottie Slauterbeck is 62-of-113 for 979 yards with nine TDs and six interceptions.

He finished 12-of-15 for 166 yards and two TDs in Saturday’s regular-season ending win over Monroeville.

“His accuracy was good, the protection was good and the receivers caught the passes,’’ Livengood said. “All three areas contribute to that. We want to be consistent with our passing game and need to be entering the postseason.’’

Bob Harwood has 21 receptions for 369 yards.

Nickoli leads the defense with 113 tackles, followed by Gross at 85.

Grant Dilger tops the team with four interceptions.

Nickoli and Cal Meyer share the lead with six sacks apiece.

As the second seed, the Flyers will host Chalker.

“It’s a big deal to play at home,’’ Livengood said. “It’s great for our seniors to play one last time in a meaningful game at Whitney Field.”

Chalker, with a male enrollment of 100, will make the trek from Trumbull County for Saturday’s game.

The Wildcats, as the seventh seed, finished with a 5-5 regular-season mark.

“They’re a primarily a power team,’’ Livengood said. “We’ve seen them run the wishbone off double tight formation.

“Defensively, we’ve seen them mainly in a 3-5, but also some 4-3, 3-4,” the coach added.

Austin Casper, a 5-foot-10, 160-pound senior, has thrown for 618 yards.

Seniors Brendan Baugher (5-10, 180), Dillon Nezbeth (5-6, 150) and John Mazzola (5-7, 150) are other ball-carriers on the radar. Junior Justin Len (5-9, 155) leads the team with 17 receptions.

Chalker, under the guidance of Ryan Slone, is making its second overall playoff appearance.

The last one was in 2001.

The Wildcats won three of their first four, lost two straight, won two and ended the regular season with two straight defeats.

“We need to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball,’’ Livengood said. “We can’t turn the ball over, have to be physical from the start and play great special teams.’’