Senecas face familiar Flyers

It’s a rematch.

But the fact is, Calvert is a much different team than the one Norwalk St. Paul played back in Week 3.

In that game, which the Flyers won 23-7, the Senecas were playing without their starting quarterback, Park Hemminger, and their star tailback, Austin Jones, hadn’t emerged yet.

But Calvert coach Todd Fox said that while the Senecas are in a better position now, the Flyers are a better team. In fact, the Flyers may be the best team in Division VII. They are the No. 1 team in the state, and are undefeated, coming off a 52-13 win over Wayne Trace in the first round of the playoffs.

“We’re a different team, but at the same time, they’ve improved,” Fox said. “We’re excited. It’s a great matchup and it’s something we’re looking forward to on Friday night.”

Fox said Norwalk St. Paul brings in a tough defense, so he’s pleased to have Hemminger back. Hemminger has been a key part of the Senecas’ run, where they have won seven consecutive games.

“Their defense presents a lot of issues, anyhow. Without having Park to run our offense and to (use) all the pieces we put together, it limits us,” Fox said. “It allowed their defense to focus on some areas we don’t have without Park. I think going forward with this game, it just gives them a little more work to do in terms of stopping us.”

No one has been able to stop Austin Jones, who has put up a string of big running games for the Senecas en route to setting a school record for rushing yards.

Jones ran for 252 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s 50-43 win at Edgerton.

But as good as Jones has been, he and the Senecas have had problems holding onto the ball in the last two weeks. They’ve fumbled 12 times, losing nine.

Fox knows the Senecas can’t afford those miscues against the Flyers.

“Our focus is taking care of the little things, although turnovers like that are not the little things,” Fox said. “We’re really working on that this week. Protecting the football, and we feel comfortable that we’ve had a couple weeks of some bad breaks. If you look over the long term of the season, that’s not something we’re consistently doing.

“With a little more focus this week and a big game Friday, I think we’ll be OK,” Fox said.

But the Senecas figure to be tested on both sides of the football.

On offense, the Flyers — known as a running team — were led by Thane Crabbs, who had 138 yards rushing on 11 carries last week against Wayne Trace. He also scored three touchdowns and caught seven passes for 111 yards.

Norwalk St. Paul quarterback Nick Lukasko also had a big game, throwing for 240 yards.

But Fox said that regardless of the aerial numbers, the Flyers will want to run the ball.

“First and foremost, they’re a run-team,” Fox said. “(Coach) John Livengood does an excellent job with the Flyers, and they’re gonna run the ball. That’s what makes their passing game so effective. You have to focus on stopping that run game, and as soon as you focus too much, (Lukasko) will throw a big pass, or he’ll throw a nice completion, and it makes you reset your defense. They do a nice job setting it up, but again, you still have to stop their run game.”

A big part of Calvert’s defense during this stretch has been safety Nic Somodi, who essentially clinched last week’s game against Edgerton with a late interception. And that was on top of two touchdown catches from Hemminger, the last of which turned out to be the game winner.

“Nic, like a lot of our players, has improved,” Fox said. “We shifted positions defensively several weeks back, and switched him and Nick Krajewski (who also had a pick last week) around, and it made Krajewski a better outside linebacker, and Somodi a better deep safety for us. And obviously, (Somodi) led the league in interceptions. It just makes us a better football team, and that’s what we’re about.”

Travel will be a little easier on the Senecas this week. After traveling about two hours by bus to get to Edgerton for the playoff opener, Calvert takes on St. Paul in Fremont tonight.

It’s about an hour and a half less of driving time. Also, the Senecas are used to playing on the field. They beat St. Joe there Sept. 28.

“This drive will be a little better,” Fox said. “We’ve played there several times, it’s just going to be a different uniform on the other side of the line. It’s almost a home game for us, compared to last week.”

Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.