Hoban has history on its side heading into big game
By Mike D’Agruma
SOUTH AKRON — Last year, one of the area’s most intense high school football rivalries lived up to its billing as some 9,000 fans packed the Rubber Bowl to watch Archbishop Hoban High School take home a dramatic 10-6 win over St. Vincent-St. Mary High School (STVM).
For Hoban head coach Ralph Orsini, the win came at just the right time, a needed rejuvenator after losses to both Walsh Jesuit and Cardinal Mooney high schools.
Considering the rivalry’s history, it’s almost ironic that Orsini finds himself in exactly the same position as last year. After suffering two consecutive shutout losses to Walsh and Cardinal Mooney, his team will take the field Sept. 15 looking for a rebound win against the Irish. The game will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Rubber Bowl. The Knights will be the home team.
Perhaps the biggest change to hit the Irish this year has been on the sidelines. First-year coach and STVM alumnus Dan Boarman enters this weekend with a 123-78 record. He’s in his 17th season overall after 16 years at Copley High School. Boarman’s ties to STVM run much deeper than his simply being an alumnus, however. He joined the Irish coaching staff as an assistant in 1975, teaming with his former coach and mentor, John Cistone, to help STVM win its last three state championships (1981, 1982 and 1988). Needless to say, Boarman knows the tradition associated with the Hoban game.
Orsini is a Hoban tradition all on his own, having built a 116-94 record over the past 13 years. His Knights are coming off a 7-3 2006 season and were North Coast League champions after posting a perfect record against league opponents. Orsini has history on his side going into the weekend, having taken 10 of the last 11 against STVM. But despite that success, he can’t coach varsity experience into a player. While Boarman inherited a team that returned eight starters on both sides of the ball, Orsini returned eight total.
This season, STVM is averaging 312 yards of total offense per game with a fairly balanced attack. While 62 percent of the team’s total yards have come through the arm of quarterback Roger Wilson, 44 percent of the team’s touchdown total has been with the run.
With Wilson under center, STVM has been averaging close to 23 points a game while the quarterback has put up gaudy numbers: a 69.7 percent completion percentage, 584 yards, five touchdowns, a 141.4 passer rating. His favorite target? Big-play wide receiver Todd Culver, who averages only three receptions a game but carries a hefty 126-yard per game average. Forty-four percent of his receptions have gone for touchdowns.
Putting up numbers has been difficult for the Knights since an impressive 24-21 season-opening win over Garfield High School. During the past two games, Hoban has had difficulty in getting an inexperienced offensive line to gel, and it’s partially resulted in two shutout losses to powerhouse programs Walsh and Cardinal Mooney.
Through an eight-quarter scoring drought, the offense has only been able to generate 298 total yards of offense, its rushing attack limited to 18.5 yards per quarter. Quarterback Josh Masters has been held to a 48.3 percent completion rate — partly by defenses and partly by his own team. Orsini said his receivers have dropped 10 passes the last two games.
The STVM defense has played 12 quarters and has yet to give up any kind of scoring. As a team, the Irish have surrendered only seven points, and those came on an offensive fumble recovered for a touchdown. One touchdown, and the defense was on the sidelines when it happened.
When it has been on the field, the defense has been a dominant unit, holding opposing teams to an average of 92.6 total yards of offense per game and a total of 17 first downs.
With its offense unable to move the chains, the Knight defense has spent plenty of time on the field. In its last two outings, that defense has given up an average of 232 yards of total offense a game, 68 percent of it on the ground. Teams have racked up a total of nine rushing touchdowns, 32 first downs and 66 points against the Knights’ defense this season.
To Hoban’s credit, the defense has usually had a short field to work with. Against Walsh, for example, Orsini said the Warriors’ longest offensive drive was only 45 yards.
Tackling has been a problem for the Knights, and it has plagued them on special teams. Against Cardinal Mooney, five missed tackles resulted in a punt returned for a touchdown. Against Walsh, the same problem gave the Warriors phenomenal field position as they were able to work a short field for an early third-quarter touchdown.
STVM has seen that problem from a different perspective. Its defense has been killing drives and helping to win the ever-crucial battle of field position. And with a big play offense, kicker Igor Ilibasic has been busy. He’s a perfect 9-9 on his extra point attempts and knocked in his only field goal opportunity of the season.