Newark Catholic earned its eighth football state title in school history Saturday with a 28-14 win over Bascom Hopewell-Loudon in the Division VI final led by senior QB Mark Elwell (left) with three TDs on the Green Wave's first three possessions.
Matt Natali has more from the game.
CANTON, Ohio – Newark Catholic RB Mark Nichols moved to Ohio from St. Louis, Mo. with his family and wanted to attend Newark Catholic because of its rich football tradition.
Nichols helped contribute to the Green Wave football history Saturday at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium in the Division VI state championship as Newark Catholic claimed its eighth state in school history and first since 1991 with a 28-14 win over Bascom Hopewell-Loudon.
Newark Catholic (13-2) scored on its first four possessions and Hopewell-Loudon (14-1) couldn’t overcome the deficit in the second half despite battling back.
Nichols collected 161 yards on 38 carries and a TD while QB Mark Elwell was a one-man wrecking crew rushing for 100 yards on 13 carries and three TDs. Elwell was 4-of-5 passing for 55 yards.
“All year, we’ve said it starts with our offensive line and against a great defense our offensive line pushed and enabled Mark Nichols to find some seams at critical times,” Newark Catholic head coach Bill Franks said.
“I really felt Mark Elwell’s speed and athleticism was going to be the difference maker. Having a mobile quarterback, we wanted to get him the ball. You let your players make plays and be in their comfort zone and I think we did that.”
The Green Wave defense was stifling in the first half allowing just 88 yards of offense.
“I think if you go back and look at the films, that was a perfect half of football,” said Franks. “To beat the number one team in the state took perfection in the first half. Our guys put the time in and went out and did it.”
Elwell got Newark Catholic on the board midway through the first quarter on a 1-yard QB sneak on fourth down and goal capping off a 14 play, 64-yard drive on the opening possession of the game putting the Green Wave up 7-0.
He stretched the lead on the first play of the second quarter racing 15 yards to the corner of the end zone on a busted play picking up a key block from TE Tony Weisent giving Newark Catholic a 14-0 advantage.
The senior QB wasn’t through scoring in the first half sprinting 20 yards to the end zone on a bootleg putting the Green Wave up 21-0 with 7:21 left in the first half.
“I just owe it to our line, the backs and the coaches for calling the right plays and being in the right position to have a good game,” Elwell said about his performance.
Nichols reached pay dirt on a 1-yard touchdown run with just under a minute left in the half putting a bow on an 11 play, 76 yard scoring drive.
Hopewell-Loudon battled in the second half getting a pair on Travis Wise 1-yard TD runs pulling within two scores but the Chieftains failed to capitalize on several opportunities, including going a dismal 6-of-13 on third down conversions and 0-for-4 on fourth down.
“We didn’t get to the state finals playing like we did in the first half and I was proud of the second half,” Hopewell-Loudon head coach Brian Colatruglio. “We just missed some opportunities and I think our team gave a pretty good indication of what our team is all about in the second half. We just kind of ran out of time at the end.”
QB Tyler Brown was 17-of-41 passing in the Hopewell-Loudon spread offense for 309 yards and an INT.
WR Lukas Schalk reeled in eight passes for 138 yards.
“It was kind of nerve racking,” Newark Catholic DB Matt Grieb said about defending the spread offense. Grieb had several pass break-ups in the game. “We knew that they were going to pass (a lot) and at first I was playing back and our coaches moved me up and that helped us out a lot better.”
For Newark Catholic, it is the first state championship under sixth year head coach Bill Franks who is a Newark Catholic graduate.
“I always felt humbled to have the opportunity to go to Newark Catholic and play and having to opportunity to come back and coach,” Franks said. “I just feel blessed.”