Division I State Final Preview: Whitmer looking for first title, Moeller for 8th


JJHuddle State Football Coverage

The D-I State Championship has arrived. Whether you’re headed to Stark County or headed to the couch to watch on TV, here’s what you need to knowKeys, Two Cents, Stories, Stats, Top Players, Quotes, Notes & More.




MOELLER (11-3) vs WHITMER (14-0)

Toledo Whitmer (14-0) vs Cincinnati Moeller (11-3)
Saturday, 7 p.m. at Canton Fawcett Stadium
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Whitmer is trying to become just the second school from Toledo to win a D-I title and the first since 1984 (Toledo St. Francis). Moeller is trying to add to one of the state’s most storied trophy cases – albeit one that hasn’t opened for a while. The Crusaders are celebrating “50 Years of Moeller Football” and would
like nothing more than to cap it with a state title.


Cincinnati Moeller (11-3/ONG JJH NR/AP NR)

Head Coach: John Rodenberg
Nickname: Fighting Crusaders
Affiliation: Greater Catholic League
School-Type: Non-Public
2012 Regional Seed: 3 (Region 4)
2012 Regional Tournament: Huber Heights Wayne (W, 43-21); Liberty Twp. Lakota East (W, 46-20); ONG JJH #3/AP #2 Colerain (W, 24-21)
State Semifinal: ONG JJH #10 Pickerington North (W, 26-21)
State Championships: 7 (85, 82, 80, 79, 77, 77, 76, 75)
State Semifinal Appearances: 14 (12, 97, 93, 89, 85, 82, 81, 80, 79, 77, 76, 75, 74, 73)
State Final Appearances: 12 (12, 97, 93, 89, 85, 82, 81, 80, 79, 77, 76, 75)
All-Time Tournament Record: 40-23

The Difference Makers:
*RB Keith Watkins, sr.: Northwestern commit and GCL South Player of the Year has rushed for 2,078 yards and 25 TDs. Said Rodenberg: “Monster season.”
*LB Shane Jones, sr.: Michigan State recruit has a team-high 121 tackles. Said Rodenberg: “Quick, fast, gets to the ball and can cover up others mistakes.”
*DB Logan Kelleher, sr.: Has a team-high seven INTs, a fumble recovery and 57 tackles.
*OL Alex Gall, sr.: Miami (Fla.) commit: Said Rodenberg: “Some people say he’s one of the best lineman to come through Moeller. He’s got a little edge to him.”
*TE Evan Jansen, sr.: Indiana commit
*QB Spencer Icavone, sr.: Three-year starter has thrown for 1,809 yards and 17 TDs. He’s also rushed for 795 yards and 11 TDs. Marshall baseball recruit.

The Story: Despite owning seven state titles, the Crusaders haven’t won a championship since 1985. Moeller is the state final for the first time since 1997… …The Crusaders opened the season ranked No. 1 in the Ohio National Guard JJHuddle D-I Power Poll and were ranked nationally by several outlets. Said Rodenberg: ”We had a lot of hype going on.”

Key: Resiliency. After opening 4-0, Moeller lost three of its next five games to St. Xavier, Elder and St. Edward. The Crusaders were 6-3 after Week 9. Said Rodenberg: “We were beginning to doubt ourselves. A team meeting reaffirmed the fact that our goals were still in tact and that we still till had shot at state championship. Give our kids a lot of credit for bouncing back. Our kids know how to rebound.”…Moeller started its current five-game winning streak with a win over MaxPreps’ then-national No. 1 Louisville Trinity in Week 10.

Two Cents: Tradition. Admittedly it’s been too long since Moeller has won a state title. By comparison, Cleveland St. Ignatius has won all 11 of its titles since Moeller last won one. Said Rodenberg: “I feel good that it’s been so long since Moeller’s been there and now we’re back. I feel good where our program’s at. We’re getting back to work.”

Coach’s Quote: “We have a big offensive line and they have a big defensive line. We have to run the ball. We hang our hat on it. It’s going to be a gigantic match-up.”


Toledo Whitmer (14-0/ONG JJH #4/AP #3)

Head Coach: Jerry Bell
Nickname: Panthers
Affiliation: Three Rivers Athletic Conference
School-Type: Public
2012 Regional Seed: 2 (Region 2)
2012 Regional Tournament: Avon Lake (W, 28-0); Hudson (W, 39-28); ONG JJH #7/AP #10 Massillon Washington (W, 49-16)
State Semifinal: ONG JJH #5/AP #7 Mentor (W, 62-34)
State Championships: 0
State Semifinal Appearances: 6 (12, 11, 10, 88, 87, 79)
State Final Appearances: 1 (12)
All-Time Tournament Record: 19-13

The Difference Makers:
*QB Nick Holley, sr.:
Dual threat has accounted for 44 TDs. He’s rushed for 1,992 yards and 21 TDs and thrown for 1,743 yards and 23 TDs.
*DL Marquise Moore, sr.: Toledo commit has registered 75 tackles, 25 QB hurries, 16 TFL and 11 sacks.
*RB Tre Sterritt, sr.: Has rushed for 904 yards and 18 TDs.
*RB Me’Gail Frisch, sr.: has rushed for 765 yards and 15 TDs.
*WR Christopher Boykin, jr.: Panthers leading receiver with 39 catches for 630 yards and 10 TDs.
*LB Jack Linch, sr.: Stat line is impressive…162 tackles, 12 TFL, four sacks, three caused fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a blocked kick.
*DB Marcus Elliott, jr.: Has a team-high eight INTs.
*LB Nate Holley, sr.: Has 143 tackles, 13 TFL, five INTs and three fumble recoveries.
*LB Devin Thomas, sr.: has 127 tackles, nine TFL and four sacks.

The Story: Whitmer lost in the state semifinals the last two years to eventual state champions St. Edward and St. Ignatius, respectively. That bad taste has helped fuel this run. Said Bell: “Kids at young ages have dreams of winning championships. The feeling of last year has driven them to this point.”…The Panthers went from being unranked in the MaxPreps National Rankings to debuting at No. 6 this week.

Key: Defense. Said Bell: “We truly feel that defense wins championships and we wouldn’t be where we’re at (without our defense).” In last week’s win over Mentor, Whitmer forced three turnovers. Concerns? Moeller’s offensive line. Said Bell: “What concerns me is our ability to move the football and whether or not our front seven will be able to get after their big guys. Things run through their lines.”

Two Cents: On the surface one might assume Whitmer’s strength of schedule may pale in comparison to Moeller’s. Not true. Whitmer’s Week 2 opponent Detroit Central Catholic finished runner-up in Michigan, while the Panthers’ Week 3 opponent Fort Wayne Bishop Leurs won its fourth straight Indiana state title last Friday. Whitmer also played D-II state finalist Toledo Central Catholic in Week 10. Said Bell: “We may not be the biggest or most talented kids on the field, but when heart and determination are driving you and you get that momentum swing, that builds so  much confidence. Sometimes it can drive you to overachieve. We’re playing with a lot of confidence right now.”

Coach’s Quote: “We’re treating this as a business trip. I feel like if we play our game and we play physical and fast that gives us a very good opportunity to bring home a state title. I have yet to feel that we’ve played our best game. We have one to go.”



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