The Clyde Fliers are 11-1, finished with a No. 12 ranking in the final Associated Press poll and will play for a spot in the state semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bowling Green State University’s Doyt Perry Stadium.
And they will be significant underdogs.
“Obviously they are defending Division II state champions and haven’t lost,” Clyde coach Ryan Carter said of Friday’s opponent, Toledo Central Catholic (12-0). “They have a quarterback going to Notre Dame and several other D1 athletes. Without sounding ridiculous with coach talk, they are a good team. We will have to do things very, very well to stay competitive.
“Our kids are pretty resilient and we try to do everything we can to put the kids in the best situation,” he added. “It’s one of those things where we’ll have to play really, really well, but at the same time, the kids are looking forward to the opportunity.”
Toledo C.C. Is led by QB DeShone Kizer. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound senior committed to the University of Notre Dame and head coach Brian Kelly on June 11. In the regular season, he was 108-of-174 passing for 2,106 yards with 23 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He is expected to be a finalist for AP Mr. Football in two weeks.
“I’ve said many times all year, our defense has carried us,” Carter said. “I don’t look for that to be any different this week. With that said, they have a special kid that stands back there and does a number of things. His best attribute is throwing the ball, and he stands in the pocket and does it very well. We’ll have to cover up and do some things where our skilled guys are on an island with a very good athlete and see if we can stand up against that.”
Kizer is joined by sophomore running back Tre’von Wade, who ran for 1,237 yards and 17 TDs in the regular season. Jermiah Braswell is the top receiver with 27 catches for 607 yards and 9 TDs, and the line is anchored by tackle Ramone Miles (6-5, 270) and guard Christian Ward (6-0, 290).
“I think our guys are looking forward to the challenge,” Carter said. “Our skilled guys have been very good all year. We’ve seen some skilled guys like we’re playing Friday, but I don’t think we’ve seen the combination of four or five on the field at the same time, and that’s what they have.
“So you have to put your guys in situations where they will be one-on-one, and we’ll have to make plays,” he added. “Sometimes it just comes down to who is going to make plays, and hopefully our guys make a few more plays than them.”
In an odd way, the Fighting Irish defense often gets overlooked because of Kizer and the other standouts on offense, but they are equally as dominant on defense. They allow just 11 points per game through 12 weeks.
Chris Green was the Three Rivers Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year at
linebacker, where he made 80 tackles (7 for loss) in the regular season. Defensive back Derich Weiland has several Mid-American Conference offers and is the top cover corner in the Toledo area with 12 pass breakups and two interceptions.
“They are very good there with Green in the middle, and their DBs are fast and can cover,” Carter said of the Toledo C.C. defense. “They put a ton of pressure on you with blitzes from just about every angle, and that’s because they trust that their defensive backs can play one-on-one and cover you by themselves, and they’ve been able to do that.”
Meanwhile, Carter’s team is coming off an impressive 19-6 win over Sandusky Bay Conference foe Perkins at Bellevue last Friday in the second round. The Fliers turned the tables on the No. 5-ranked Pirates after losing 34-14 to Perkins at home on Oct. 4 in Week 6.
“Our battle cry last week was to practice on Monday,” Carter said. “Our kids don’t want to the season to be over. You get to this point of the playoffs, and there are a lot of excited people in the program, but that’s not always the case for everyone. You’ve got scout team guys getting banged on since the end of July by first team kids, guys who know they don’t play a ton on Fridays.
“But those types of kids for us are still excited to go to practice and be there,” he added. “That is special for a program, and that’s how great things happen. We’re still going to tee it up, it’s still a game. We’re not going to say, ‘you win, we lose, we’ll go home.’ Our kids aren’t built that way, our coaching staff isn’t and our town and community isn’t really built that way. We’ll give it our best shot, put our best foot forward and see what happens.”
That being said, Carter knows it will take a near perfect effort for the Fliers to reach the state semifinals for the fourth time in program history.
“Going to have to mix what we do this week with great balance and great special teams,” he said. “We’re going to have to be sound in every aspect of the game from start to finish. If you get deficient in an area against them, they exploit it and they have the kids who can do it.
“You don’t get to be defending Div. II state champs with no losses and not be a good team,” he added. “We get to play at a great venue, the kids are excited for the opportunity to play there and play another week. Now we’re one of eight teams left in Division III, and we’re excited to keep practicing.”