D-II State Football Primer: First-time title game qualifers Anderson, Louisville a pleasant surprise


D-II Football State Championship Preview

Entering into the 2007 football season, few envisioned Cincinnati Anderson or Louisville in the Division II state championship game except for those close to each program.

But the Redskins and Leopards have earned their spots in the title game Friday at Massillon’s Paul Brown Stadium (7:00 p.m. kickoff) and each program is both excited and well-deserving of their first trips to the championship stage.

Entering into the 2007 football season, few envisioned Cincinnati Anderson or Louisville in the Division II state championship game except for those close to each program.

But the Redskins and Leopards have earned their spots in the title game Friday at Massillon’s Paul Brown Stadium (7:00 p.m. kickoff) and each program is both excited and well-deserving of their first trips to the championship stage.

“We’re very excited as a team,” said Anderson head coach Jeff Giesting. “It is a wonderful situation to be in, especially as a first-year coach. The community is very excited. We’ve never had a football team get this far so we’re just hoping that we can play well and win our first state championship.”

Louisville was a state semifinalist 15 years ago but fell short of the chance to fight for a state championship in 1992.

“We’re very excited as a staff and so are our players,” Louisville head coach Paul Farrah said. “The community has been waiting for this a long time when you have tradition like we do with (a 545-255-36 record). The community is excited to finally get into the state finals.”

Braves on the Warpath: Anderson (12-2) was paced this season by RB Elijah Storey – cousin of Seattle Seahawks RB Shawn Alexander – who toted the ball 313 times for the Redskins for 2,069 yards and 23 TDs.

“Elijah is a good back but I don’t think we thought he would be doing what he is doing,” Giesting explained. “He’s got a knack for what we do on offense. He is a good, tough, inside runner. He is not necessarily going to break away from anybody once he gets loose. He is capable of breaking a couple tackles and getting us a few extra yards.”

Dual-threat QB Daniel Rod was 136-of-226 passing for 1,986 yards, 15 TDs and 10 INTs while rushing for 331 yards on 90 carries and 9 TDs.

Louisville (12-2) will be focusing on Storey and Rod in the title game.

“(Storey) has a low center of gravity, has great cut-back on his own and is hard to bring down,” Farrah said. “(Rod) is an accurate thrower but when he takes off and runs he puts you in a bind.”

Receivers John Runk (46 catches, 607 yards, 4 TDs) and Nick Truesdell (41 catches, 582 yards, 7 TDs) present size mismatch problems for the Louisville secondary standing in at 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-7, respectively.

“Their receiver (height) is going to be a major concern of ours against our corners,” Farrah said. “I think the biggest problems are the match ups with their offense. They have a great tailback and quarterback and they stack the line of scrimmage.

“But when we come out we have to make sure that we’re doing our role as a defense. With this zone option (Anderson runs) every player better know where everyone is or we’re going to get burnt. Our kids have to play very fundamental football.

Louisville’s Leap: Finishing the regular season ranked No. 8 in the final Division II ONN-Ohio High Power Poll, Louisville’s two losses this season are by a combined total of two points and the Leopards boast a 10-game winning streak since falling to Northeast Buckeye Conference foe Canal Fulton Northwest in Week 4.

Junior QB Neal Seaman mans the Louisville spread attack connecting for 186-of-304 pass attempts for over 2,300 yards, 25 TDs and 11 INTs and tallied 1,078 yards on 227 carries and 11 TDs.

RB Clay Swigert leads Louisville’s ground attack having collected 960 yards on 131 carries, 16 TDs and was named to the first team All-Ohio offense.

“One thing we have to do is whatever (Anderson gives) us we have to take, not get greedy and play the game how we do,” said Farrah. “We’re going to get a lot of carries by (Seaman and Swigert) and we’re going to have to throw the ball 50 times to beat them. We’re going to have to do that because we’re playing a heck of a football team this Friday night.”

Giesting added: “(Louisville) is very balanced. They are able to run the ball effectively as much as they throw it. We basically will try to tailor our defense each week to what we feel is going to slow the offense down and give us a chance to get as many stops as possible. We have been effective blitzing and we have been effective dropping eight, so the multiplicity of our defense helps us with that quite a bit.”

WR Brandon Mathie has reeled in 52 catches for 842 yards and 9 TDs in the spread attack.

“We’ve seen the spread enough and we’ve been successful against it but we have also had games where it has hurt us quite a bit. But I don’t think it is so much the scheme but more the guys executing it. I have seen teams have success against the spread and I have seen the spread rip all kinds of defenses apart.

Louisville DE Matt Schooley was named the Division II Defensive Co-Player of the Year.

“(Louisville’s) offense has gotten a lot of attention but I think their defense is just as good as their offense,” said Giesting. “They’ve got nice size and they are a tough, physical bunch of kids. Their defense has enabled them to get where they’re at.”

Said Farrah: “Our No. 1 offense goes against our No. 1 defense in practice and they chirp back-and-forth about the offense always getting the news paper articles. The defense just wants to smack them in the mouth and shut them up during practice. It is a great rivalry and the kids love to go back-and-forth.”

State-ment Wins: Both Anderson and Louisville knocked off two teams in their respective playoff runs that most prognosticators had pitted as favorites for the Division II state title.

In the Region 8 finals, Anderson edged top-seeded and undefeated Cincinnati Turpin 24-23 in thrilling fashion. The Redskins tied the game on a 1-yard TD run by Rod as time expired and the John Howard point after gave Anderson the regional title over Forest Hills School District rival Turpin.

“It was exciting,” said Giesting. “We stopped playing Turpin in 2002 for a variety of reasons. It was kind of strange that it was the best team they’ve ever had and we ended up beating them in the regional finals.

“It was a very exciting game and a fight to the end. We scored with a few seconds to go and you couldn’t ask for a more exciting finish.”

Louisville knocked off top-seed and undefeated Columbus DeSales in the Region 7 finals with Seaman completing 21-of-30 passes for 273 yards and 3 TDs in the game and Mathie reeling in eight catches for 115 yards and 2 TDs.

“When we went into that DeSales game and even after the game, we didn’t even know if we would have had a kid start for DeSales,” Farrah said. “But as a team we played pretty well together and that is what we need to keep working on.

“I think the biggest thing is in the playoffs we haven’t turned the ball over much, we’ve played sound defense and our offense has come through when we need them to.”

Turning Points: Anderson started the season 3-0 before dropping a 39-38 overtime affair to Hilliard Darby and getting throttled by Cincinnati LaSalle 51-10 the following week.

The Redskins were without Rod, Storey and several other starters on both sides of the ball against LaSalle due to injuries in the Darby game but that loss was the turning point in the season.

“LaSalle at the time was playing really well and I thought they were going to challenge for the (Greater Catholic League) championship. They put it on us pretty good there at their homecoming,” Giesting said.

“We bounced back from it, though. After that game, the kids made a commitment that no matter what happened they were not going to quit and they would keep fighting. We were able to come back from being down in some games after that and get in some games and win them.”

Louisville began the season 2-2 but following the 34-33 loss to Canal Fulton Northwest in Week 4, the senior leadership of the team stepped forward to guide the Leopards to the title game, according to Farrah.

“They didn’t get down on themselves when we lost to Northwest by one,” he recalled. “Clay Swigert stood up and said, ‘Now its time to run the table to the playoffs’. And we did that and this senior class has only one goal – to win a state championship and make sure the sophomores and juniors stay in line.”

Newfound Success: Anderson last made the playoffs in 2003 losing in the first round to eventual Division I state champion Cincinnati Elder.

Following the divisional realignment last spring, the Redskins dropped to Division II with the potential of facing an entirely different crop of teams in the postseason.

“We played, basically, the same schedule as last year because we’re locked into it so we played a Division I schedule,” Giesting explained. “We’re a large Division II school, which is an advantage for us but we’ve been used to playing schools that are bigger than us. Then when we got to the playoffs we found we were playing some teams that had players going both ways and maybe not quite the same size we are used to seeing from Division I teams.

“Last year was a good team for us but we just didn’t get our break. And this year we’ve gotten our fair breaks and sometimes you need to have that to get to the state finals. You’ve got to have some luck along the way.”

Practice Makes Perfect: Farrah and his staff have a reputation for holding physical, intense practices during the week to prepare for games and the 10-yar head coach credits those sessions as one of the reasons Louisville is playing in the state championship this week.

“The first offense goes against the first defense and we feel you’ve got to be physical in practice to be physical in a game,” he said. “We don’t go so far as to getting anybody hurt but you better protect yourself when you’ve got people flying around doing what they are supposed to do. (Our practices) are pretty intense.”

Taking the Reigns: Giesting stepped into the Anderson head coach’s position this season after a 19-year tenure as an assistant under former head coach Vince Suriano. The long-time head coach moved on to the college ranks in the off-season taking an assistant coaching job at Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati.

“I have been with the program for 20 years and through the whole building process coach Suriano put into place,” Giesting said. “It’s nice to reap the rewards this year but I have to give a lot of credit to previous teams and coach Suriano.

“I was here with Vince for 19 years as an assistant and learned a great deal and evolved,” he added.


Head Coach: Jeff Giesting
Record at School/Yrs: 12-2/1
Conference: Fort Ancient Valley
Enrollment: 511
State Playoff Appearances: 8
Playoff Record: 5-7
Years in the State Finals: 1 (2007)
State Finals Record: 0-0
Years as State Runners-Up: None
Years as State Champions: None
2007 Regular Season:
Springboro W, 28-13
@Mason W, 35-12
Hamilton W 14-7
Hilliard Darby L, 39-38
@Cincinnati LaSalle L, 51-10
Cincinnati Winton Woods W, 14-12
@Loveland W, 21-7
Cincinnati Glen Este W, 56-35
Milford W, 34-18
@Harrison W, 40-24
Kings Mills Kings W, 14-6
Dayton Carroll W, 31-13
Cincinnati Turpin W, 24-23
Ashland W, 35-20


Nickname: Leopards
Head Coach: Paul Farrah
Record at School/Yrs: 73-23/10
Conference: Northeastern Buckeye
Enrollment: 386
State Playoff Appearances: 11
Playoff Record: 11-10
Years in the State Finals: 1992, 2007
State Tournament Record: 0-1
Years As State Runners-Up: None
Years As State Champions: None
2007 Regular Season:
@Ravenna W, 35-27
Uniontown Lake L, 35-34
North Canton Hoover W, 34-21
Canal Fulton Northwest L, 34-33
@Beloit West Branch W, 23-13
Carrollton W, 55-6
@Alliance W, 17-0
Alliance Marlington W, 42-7
@Canton South W, 35-20
@Minerva W, 40-0
Uniontown Lake W, 34-21
Dresden Tri-Valley W, 22-13
Col. St. Francis DeSales W, 25-20
Mayfield W, 41-13


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