The monkey is off the backs of the Dover Tornadoes.
But a bigger challenge waits in the wings.
A pair of 11-2 teams will hook up when Dover takes on Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary tonight in a Division III semifinal at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Dover is making its first trip to the state semifinals after claiming its first regional championship with a 48-21 win over West Holmes last Saturday night after coming up short the five previous times.
Dover Head Coach Dan Ifft talks state semifinals on:
Coach Dan Ifft said his team has to put away the good feelings of breaking the regional barrier and focus on the task at hand.
“Our kids put such an emphasis on last week’s game you have to worry about the subconscious mind a little bit,” said Ifft. “A lot of people kept saying ‘You did it, you did it’ and to me that speaks of finality. It’s not over. We want to finish this race strong. We’re going to have to play our best game to date, but we’re fully capable of doing that.”
Against the Knights, Tornado senior quarterback Mason Mamarella rushed for three touchdowns and passed for three more and the Dover defense forced six turnovers and capitalized by scoring touchdowns.
SVSM, ranked No. 9 in the final Associated Poll, is making its ninth appearance in the state semifinals and first since 2001. The Fighting Irish have won four state championships, with the last coming in 1988.
“They’re very fast on both sides of the ball,” assessed Ifft.
“They have some scary speed. They have a big tall, strong quarterback and three excellent receivers. Defensively, their front three and linebackers are extremely quick.”
Ifft said the Fighting Irish is probably the fastest time the Tornadoes have faced since Week 1 against East Cleveland Shaw (a 28-27 Dover win).”
“Shaw had some large boys, but SVSM has some scatback players and we didn’t see that out of Shaw,” said Ifft. “They’re probably a little big quicker than Shaw overall.”
SVSM, coached by Dan Boarman, is coming off an impressive 34-7 win over Chagrin Falls in last Saturday’s Region 9 final.
The Fighting Irish defensive unit gave Chagrin Falls fits as it recorded six sacks with senior defensive end Eric Prologo (6-0, 195) and junior nose tackle Anthony Adkins (6-0, 205) leading the way with two each, while junior Travonte Junius (6-3, 185) and senior Mike Pruiett (5-10, 185) had one each.
Junius also had a big interception that helped turn a 20-7 lead into a 27-7 advantage for SVSM late in the third quarter.
Junius intercepted a pass near midfield and returned it to the Chagrin Falls’ 5. Two plays later, the Fighting Irish scored to extend their lead to 20 points.
Junior linebacker Dante Booker (6-3, 215), the Northeast Inland Defensive Player of the Year, also had a hand in the win with a number of tackles despite playing in a sprained ACL.
Junior linebacker Newman Williams (6-0, 220) leads the team in tackles with 102 and junior safety Nathan Bischoff has picked off six passes to pace the Fighting Irish.
Meanwhile, senior quarterback Clayton Uecker (6-5, 200) completed 13 of 23 passes for 242 yards and one touchdown to pace the SVSM offense.
On the season, he has completed 160 of 261 passes for 2,712 yards, 30 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Speedy seniors Fransohn Bickley (5-8, 145) and Jordan Hargrove (6-0, 185) were the top targets against Chagrin Falls. Hargrove caught six passes for 103 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown reception, and Bickley had five grabs for 119 yards.
Both have caught more than 1,000 yards passing and scored in double digits in touchdowns.
Junior Parris Campbell Jr. (6-0, 170) is the Fighting Irish tailback and a another receiving threat. He has rushed for more than 1,000 yards and scored 21 touchdowns.
SVSM defeated Chardon Notre Dame Cathedral Latin (49-23) and Hubbard (54-14) before facing Falls last weekend.
The Fighting Irish are averaging 42 points per game and allowing 15.
Dover or SVSM will meet the winner of the other semifinal between No. 4- ranked Dayton Thurgood Marshall (12-1) and No. 7 Bellevue (12-1) for the state championship at Fawcett Stadium in Canton on Dec 1.