It can be argued that Newark Catholic is the most successful program
in Ohio High School football playoff history. Surprisingly, that tradition will be downplayed Saturday in the
Division VI state championship at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium (11 a.m.
kick off) when first-time title game participant Bascom Hopewell-Loudon
tangles with the Wave. Newark Catholic is going for its eighth state title but first since 1991.
It can be argued that Newark Catholic is the most successful program in Ohio High School football playoff history. With seven titles and a record 13 championship game appearances, 30 playoff berths and 61 postseason wins, the Green Wave carry credentials no school can match.
Surprisingly, that tradition will be downplayed Saturday in the Division VI state championship at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium (11 a.m. kick off) when first-time title game participant Bascom Hopewell-Loudon tangles with the Wave. Despite its prowess, Newark Catholic hasn’t been in a state final since 1992.
“Our kids are 16, 17, 18 years old and they don’t understand the success of Newark Catholic,” HL head coach Brain Colatruglio said. “I do. I’m from Tiffin and went to the finals in 1980 and 81 when Calvert beat Newark Catholic two years in a row. I was seven years old, but I understand the tradition and have respect for them, but shoot, our kids don’t know. (To them) it’s just another team we have to play and our kids won’t be intimidated.”
Neither will NC by its own success.
“Newark Catholic is a pressure cooker if (you) let it be and (heading into this year) we just said ‘Hey this if football, we’re going to have some fun,’” NC head coach Bill Franks said. “We’ve truly had fun with these guys this year. We’ve made every effort not to play tense. They truly do enjoy each other and that’s the key to chemistry and success.”
CHIEFTAINS REACH MOUNTIAN TOP: Hopewell-Loudon has been close to the state finals before. The Chieftains were state semifinalists in 2005 and were regional finalists last season (lost 29-28 to Norwalk St. Paul). In 2004 HL made the regional semifinals.
“I think we’re pretty comfortable in a big-time atmosphere,” Colatruglio said. “We’ve come close several times and success definitely breeds success. As coaches we may never have expected something like this , because you only dream about this, but I think our kids really thought this could happen. That mindset is a huge key.”
HL OFFENSE ROLLING: This year HL got over the hump thanks to an offense averaging 40.6 points per game. Balance has been key.
The Chieftains are led by senior running back Adam Brickner who has 1,900 yards and was named the Northwest District offensive player of the year.
As a team HL has rushed for nearly 3,000 yards and thrown for 2,500, with most of those coming from junior quarterback and first-year starter Tyler Brown. The Chieftains have four receivers with 30 or more catches, including seniors Nate Siebenaller and Lukas Schalk. Siebenaller leads the team in catches, while Schalk leads the team in TDs and yards.
The HL offensive line averages 215 pounds and according to Colatruglio, the unit’s strength is its athleticism and protection. HL has allowed only three sacks the entire season.
BASCOM’S BRICK WALL: Defensively the Chieftains, who employ a 4-4, are extremely impressive and effective. Allowing just 12.9 points per game, HL allowed a measly seven first half points in its first 13 games. Counting last week’s win over Ada, team’s have tallied just 21 first half points on the Chieftains this season.
Senior linebacker Robbie Oldnaker, defensive end Jake Frisch and defensive backs Schalk and Siebenaller (eight interceptions) headline the unit, which has a plus-25 turnover margin.
PLAYING FROM BEHIND: Last week in its 41-38 overtime win over Ada, HL trailed 14-0 in the first quarter. It was the first time all year the Chieftains were behind. The 38 points put up by Ada was also the most HL has surrendered in a game in Colatruglio’s four years.
“That was definitely the most exciting game I’ve ever been a part of,” Colatruglio said. “We got down 14 halfway through the first quarter and we’d never been behind all season. That was also just the second and third touchdown we’d given up in first half all season. It was pretty much uncharted territory for us, but we hung in there and survived.”
COACHING SUCCESS: Since taking over in 2004, Colatruglio has led HL to a 49-4 record and four playoff berths. He’s hoping to add a state championship to that resume.
“They were on the verge,” Colatruglio said. “They made it (to the playoffs) the two years before I got here and they lost in the first round both times. The process was starting. What we’ve done is really just taken that start and work ethic they were beginning to understand and taken it to a new level.”
Colatruglio was head coach at Van Buren for three years and an assistant at Calvert for six before coming to HL.
GREEN WAVE GRINDING IT OUT: Unlike HL, Newark Catholic predominantly runs the ball, especially with senior standout back Mark Nichols.
Nichols has 2,755 yards and 41 TDs on the season. He’s rushed for 560 yards the last two weeks in wins over Shadyside and Springfield Catholic Central and has seven games of 200 yards or more this season.
“His heart,” said Franks when asked to describe what makes Nichols go. “He’s a special young man who cares for his teammates and as a result they want to block for him. He has great vision and quickness and also possess high levels of confidence and good speed. He gets tough yards and can break tackles. He gets better as the game goes on.”
Franks said Nichols is a Division I recruit who is finalizing his NCAA Clearinghouse obligations. He has not committed to a school.
OTHER OPTIONS: NC senior quarterback Mark Elwell was thrust into the starting line-up during the 2005 playoffs and has remained there since. He’s headed to Xavier on a baseball ride. Senior kicker Christian Spencer also set the school record for PATs in a season this year and doubles as the punter.
MONKEY OFF THEIR BACK: The win over SCC in the state semifinals ended a five-game losing streak for Newark Catholic in state semifinals and was Franks first win at that level after three losses.
“It’s a good feeling in that we’ve been so very close so many times and to finally step through the door means a lot,” Franks said. “Our coaches and kids have worked hard at it and it’s a rewarding feeling to know that all the sacrifice has come to fruition.”
SHOCK AND AWE: Both teams are going to go to the Division III state final on Friday at Canton to adjust to the venue. Newark Catholic will also be going to cheer on Licking County cohort Licking Valley. The Panthers beat the Wave 32-0 in Week 9.
“It’s just a special community,” Franks said of Newark. “It’s a little bit of a throwback area but we take our high school sports very seriously. If we want to get out (and experience) big city life we just head over to Columbus.”
ECHO IN HERE: Franks admitted he’s a fan and follower of Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and mirrored the coach when asked what his team had to do to beat HL.
“We need to minimize mistakes and keep turnovers to a minimum,” Franks chuckled. “We’re going to have to minimize their big plays, play hard and control the game. If they don’t have (the ball) they can’t score. That’s why we believe in the running game.”
NEWARK CATHOLIC (12-2)
Nickname: Green Wave
Head Coach: Bill Franks
Record at School/Yrs: 57-22/6
State Playoff Appearances: 30
State Championship Game Appearances: 13
State Titles: 7 (last championship 1991)
All-Time Playoff Record: 61-22
Final ONN/Ohio High Power Poll Ranking: 9th
Points Per Game: 35.7
Opponents Points Per Game: 18.5
@Amanda-Clearcreek W, 33-14
Bainbridge Paint Valley W, 41-7
Lancaster Fisher Catholic L, 34-28
@Granville W, 38-28
Hebron Lakewood W, 41-8
@Heath W, 49-21
@Gahanna Columbus Acad. W, 49-28
Columbus Bexley W, 42-14
@Newark Licking Valley L, 32-0
Whitehall-Yearling W, 54-7
Sugar Grove Berne Union W, 21-18
Danville W, 43-6
Shadyside W, 41-28
Springfield Catholic Central W, 21-14
BASCOM HOPEWELL-LOUDON (14-0)
Head Coach: Brian Colatruglio
Record at School/Yrs: 49-4/4
League: Midland Athletic
State Playoff Appearances: 7
State Championship Game Appearances: first
State Titles: none
All-Time Playoff Record: 10-6
Final ONN/Ohio High Power Poll Ranking: 2nd
Points Per Game: 40.6
Opponents Points Per Game: 12.9
@Bloomdale Elmwood W, 21-7
@Kansas Lakota W, 40-13
Gibsonburg W, 56-6
Fremont St. Joseph C.C. W, 42-1
@Attica Seneca East W, 20-6
Carey W, 37-14
Tiffin Calvert W, 27-7
@North Baltimore W, 75-16
@Fostoria St. Wendelin W, 53-7
Sycamore Mohawk W, 42-15
Leetonia W, 49-14
Mogadore W, 40-16
Norwalk St. Paul W, 26-14
Ada W, 41-38, ot