Blue Devils seeking revenge for ’17 loss
Both earned an upset win last week and are looking to extend their season.
Carey (6-5) knocked off top-seeded Western Reserve in a 50-41 shootout last week, making the Blue Devils one of five 8-seeds to win in the regional quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, fifth-seeded Jeromesville Hillsdale (8-3) battled past fourth-seeded Galion Northmor 25-21.
They’ll meet Friday in a 7 p.m. Division VI regional semifinal at Willard. It’s a repeat clash from 2017, when the Falcons dominated Carey 41-0 to reach the regional final.
But second-year coach Trevor Cline, a 2012 Hillsdale graduate and assistant in 2017, said a blowout then doesn’t mean a victory now.
“Carey, they’re a good football program, and even that year they were a good team. They just happened to not play very well that night and we played really well, we were able to make some big plays,” he said.
“It’s going to be good game this Friday,” Cline said. “I know we’re going to have to execute well to be able to compete with them. I’m looking forward to the matchup with them this week just because it’s going to be a good high school football game, I believe.”
The Falcons have plenty of options to move the ball, though one less than they’d like.
Caden Mutchler handled the majority of the signal calling, throwing for 988 yards and nine TDs while adding a pair of scores on the ground before breaking his collarbone in a 37-7 Week 7 win against Chippewa.
Ty Williams moved from tight end and running back to quarterback after that and has thrown for 241 yards and a touchdown. He was one of the team’s top receivers prior to that, with 22 grabs for 309 yards and two touchdowns.
Other popular targets include Colt Bishop (20-501, 6 TDs), Justin Zeigler (18-294, 3 TDs) and Briar Funk (14-159, 1 TD).
The run game is even more varied, led by Williams’ 529 yards and 10 TDs and Funk’s 483 yards and four scores.
“Those two in the backfield are pretty dangerous; they’re pretty nice-sized kids,” Carey coach Jonathon Mershman said.
Williams checks in at 6-2, 200 pounds while Funk is 6-2, 190 pounds.
Brandon Reardon backs them with 432 yards and three touchdowns, with Ethan Goodman (250 yards, 2 TDs), Evan Rottman (193 yards, 3 TDs) and Landon Rebman (127 yards) adding depth.
“I think that’s part of their offensive philosophy — spread it around; you want to take away one, we’ll just use somebody else,” Mershman said. “They’re not far off from what their philosophy was two years ago when we played them, and they took it to us. We took that one on the chin and hopefully we’ve learned from some of our mistakes in that game.
“I think their running game is their key to their offense. We’ve got to find a way to stop that running game,” Mershman said.
Cline said the Blue Devils, specifically Cade Crawford, also bring the challenges.
Crawford averages 37.7 yards per punt return with two touchdowns, and averages 17.6 yards per kickoff return. He also leads the receivers with 40 catches for 497 yards and five touchdowns.
“He is very athletic. He has made some very big plays. I believe he has two punt returns for touchdowns and he’s had multiple big returns on kick returns. He is someone that can definitely make plays,” Cline said. “And offensively, there are times that he will slip out and they will get him the ball and he will turn a short gain into a big play.”
Quarterback Ethan Beringer (1 TD) leads the rushing attack with 589 yards, but Reece Billock paced last week’s win with 149 yards and three scores to give him 410 yards and nine touchdowns via the run.
Connor Williams (317 yards, 6 TDs), Brady Curlis (245 yards, 3 TDs), Derek Lonsway (239 yards, 2 TDs) and Bryce Conti (129 yards, 1 TD) also provide options.
Beringer has also thrown for 1,333 yards and seven touchdowns.
Ian Yeater (16-302, 1 TD), Billock (22-229) and Curlis (14-137) join Crawford as targets.
“They have multiple guys who can make big plays,” Cline said.
“Their quarterback has done a really nice job of running the ball, but he can also throw the ball, too. Their offensive and defensive line is solid, too,” Cline said. “They’ve got some big guys up front who know how to be physical, so those are the things that we thought really stood out for them.”
Mershman said the Blue Devils’ success has been all about going with the best option and not trying to play outside of themselves.
“For us, it’s about what we can control and what we can do. I can’t control the size of their kids and stuff like that. As the season went on, it was all about us taking what the defense gives us and not fighting it,” he said.
“If you’re throwing the ball, don’t force the ball down the field when they’re giving you a short route, or vice versa,” he said. “In the run game, stay in the hole, stay in the designed play. Don’t try to do too much. As we’ve gotten more consistent as the year went on about doing what we can control, we started getting better. So for us, it’s really right now about taking advantage of what opportunities are given to us instead of going outside the box too much.”
Some of the same names shine on defense.
Williams and Funk also lead Hillsdale’s charge as middle linebackers. Williams tops the team with 128 tackles and 12 tackles for loss, while Funk — he holds the school record with 417 career tackles — has 96 tackles and seven tackles for loss.
Goodman, another linebacker, brings 64 tackles and five tackles for loss.
Defensive end Evan Jones has 81 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, five sacks and four fumble recoveries, and defensive back Cole Sinnett has picked off five passes.
Carey’s Williams has registered 130 tackles, 30 tackles for loss and an interception as an inside linebacker.
Fellow linebackers Cameron Pahl (68 tackles, 8 TFL) and Landen Kemmerly (42 tackles, 10 TFL) also pose challenges for opposing offenses. Kemmerly also returned a fumble 32 yards for a score with 11 seconds to go last week to seal Carey’s victory.
The secondary features Lonsway with 78 tackles and two interceptions, Conti with 38 tackles and eight picks, and Crawford with 58 stops and two interceptions.
Defensive tackle Trennen Stoll adds 28 tackles and 10 tackles for loss.
Mershman hopes to see more of the same so the Blue Devils get a chance to play in their first regional final since 1994.
“It should be a great one,” he said. “I’m really hoping that we travel well and have a great showing for our fans.”