Bishop Fenwick and Bishop Hartley bring tough and battle-tested teams to their Ohio Division IV state semifinal Saturday night.
Both schools got to this point by playing difficult schedules. They have bludgeoned the opposition by winning the wars in the trenches. Don’t expect the ball to go up in the air very often as the ground game will reign supreme. This war will be all about taking blows until there is only one left standing. The winner is going to be more exhausted than exuberant.
BISHOP HARTLEY HAWKS (10-3) vs. BISHOP FENWICK FALCONS (13-0)
Kickoff: Saturday 7:00 p.m. at Alumni Field (Wilmington HS)
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PLAYERS TO WATCH: Hartley running back Quri Hickman has rushed for 1,963 yards and 27 touchdowns. Hickman, who also plays linebacker, is a three-year starter and the heart and soul of the Hawks. Receiver Rian Anderson, offensive lineman Thomas Casmir, linebacker Cody Kirkbride and defensive back Richard Jones along with Hickman were First-Team All-Central District selections this season. All of those players go both ways.
Fenwick seniors Michael Sheridan and Nathan Jeffers have each run for more than 1,000 yards. Jeffers also leads the team in receiving and touchdowns with 17. The Falcons’ defense has been outstanding behind the leadership of Southwest District Defensive Player of the Year Ben Hinton and linebackers Sam DeBiasi and Vince Durham. Hinton has 89 total tackles (51 solo), 11.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and two interceptions, including a pick six.
TEAM TRENDS: Bishop Hartley played seven teams from larger divisions during the regular season. The Hawks went 5-2 in those contests. Hartley has won it last six games averaging 37.6 points. They only scored more than 32 points twice during their first seven games.
Bishop Fenwick has won 17 games in a row since last season. In that span only one team has scored more than 13 points while 14 of the Falcons victims have scored nine points or fewer. In the playoffs, Fenwick has given up a grand total of 19 points. The Falcons themselves have not scored more than 19 points in a post-season contest. They won their three playoff games by 7, 10, and 7 points versus Badin, Alter and Clinton-Massie respectively. Those three schools were a combined 28-3 minus their losses to Fenwick. The Falcons love to bring pressure, racking up 32 sacks. The defense has 33 takeaways.
BISHOP HARTLEY’S KEYS TO VICTORY: Getting out to an early lead and then building upon that would be huge advantage for the Hawks. Fenwick is not used to playing catch-up, so Hartley can do themselves big favors by jumping ahead and forcing the Falcons to throw the ball. Hartley has to convert on third down and sustain drives, something very few teams have been able to do versus Fenwick.
BISHOP FENWICK’S KEYS TO VICTORY: The Falcons have proven that they are mentally tough, winning three very tightly contested post-season games. This is not the time to let that guard down. Hartley will prey on the Falcons if they take even one play off. Focusing on the task at hand and not getting caught up on accomplishments to this point is priority number one for head coach Joe Snively and his team.
Prediction: Bishop Fenwick 17, Bishop Hartley 6