One team has taken down the two predominant Cleveland area teams in the playoffs the last two seasons in the playoffs, a team looking for its first state football championship. It's a team that many thought would struggle after losing Ohio's Mr. Football award winner. It has an offense that feels it can score on anybody, and a defense that has silenced the critics, giving up just 41 points in four playoff games.
The other team is the defending state champions. They are used to this. They ooze tradition. They play a schedule that involves playing top teams from both Ohio and Kentucky. They also feel like they can score on anyone, and their defense has shown the ability to adjust to what the offense of their opponent is trying to do and flat out shut it down. The resurgence of the football team takes people back to the days of the 1980's, when the team wasn't just the best in Ohio, but one of the best in the country.
Its Mentor v.s. Cincinnati Moeller
Scouting Mentor.... Mentor has been state runner up twice in the last nine years, but this year they may have the pieces to finally bring home the trophy. Offensively, Mentor is known for spreading the field, and attacking the weakness in the defense. Quarterback Connor Krizancic runs the show, and does it with both his arms and legs. He accounted for almost 500 yards of offense in their semi-final win over St. Edward. Eddie Dougherty provides versatility, and is equally dangerous running and receiving from his slot position. The big play ability of receiver Brandon Fritts will test the Moeller secondary vertically. Don't sleep on receiver Cory Plavcan, as he has had big games when teams have given Fritts all their attention. The offensive line has done a tremendous job keeping Krizancic clean in the pocket, despite seeing all kinds of exotic blitzes from defenses. Defensively, the Cardinals are vastly improved from last season. They have done a great job of stopping the run, which they will have to do against Moeller's offense. Kent Berger and Justin McMahon lead the group, but it has been the all around effort of all three levels of the defense that has gotten Mentor here.
Scouting Moeller.... The Crusaders are the defending state champions, and have proven to all that last year's championship was no fluke. They come into Saturday's game with a 13-1 record, with their only loss being 45-42 against St. Edward. They are led by this writer's pick for Mr. Football this season in Ohio, quarterback Gus Ragland. He has passed for more than 1700 yards with 18 touchdowns, and has run for over 1300 yards and 25 touchdowns. Moeller's sophisticated offense scheme has given opposing defenses fits. He was also a starting pitcher on the state championship Moeller baseball team. It is by no means a one man show for the Crusaders. Wide Receiver and Kent State recruit Isaiah Gentry and his 6'4" frame gives Ragland a huge target to throw to. The offensive line is anchored by 6'4" 320 pound guard Jarrod Jacon-Duffy. Defensively, there are athletes all around, led by Ohio State recruit Sam Hubbard. The 6'6" Hubbard actually played safety on last year's team, and will switch between safety and outside linebacker on Saturday. Chalmer Frueauf, who also is a state wrestling champion, anchors the defensive line, which passed the test against run heavy offenses in Colerain and Davidson.
So who wins?.... There will be points scored. Both offenses are too good. The key to the game will be the ability of either defense to get their offenses back on the field. Moeller has played the tougher schedule, but Mentor is riding high, and contrary to last year, doesn't seem satisfied by just beating St. Ignatius and St. Edward. Ragland will put on a show, and the athletes on Moeller's defense will make some plays. There is just something about this Mentor team. Last year, they were satisfied getting to the state semi-finals. This year, they play as if they expect to win. Krizancic makes enough plays, and the defense gets the stops when they need it.
Mentor 35, Moeller 28