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Crusade ends at top

December 2, 2012
Cincinnati Moeller High School

By Scott Springer

CANTON — As the lyrics to the song by Bowling For Soup go: “Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, way before Nirvana, there was U2 and Blondie and music still on MTV.”

The song is called “1985.” It was the last time Archbishop Moeller High School won the state title in football.

On Dec. 1, the Crusaders broke the 27-year football title drought. The “flux capacitor” was utilized and it was “Back to the Future” with coach John Rodenberg’s crew loading up the Ohio Division I trophy into the Delorean for the ride back home.

Playing a Toledo Whitmer team that was 14-0 and dominant, the Crusaders won 20-12. In doing so, a defense that had been criticized held the Panthers to a season-low 12 points.

“People think our defense isn’t good, but we gave up 12 points tonight,” Michigan State-bound linebacker Shane Jones said. “It didn’t surprise me. I know my guys will fight to the end.”

Jones finished with 7.5 tackles and two tackles for loss to lead the Moeller defenders.

Whitmer did get their yards as quarterback Nick Holley went from being held to 14 yards rushing at the half, to finish with 92 on the ground. In the air, he was 12-20 for 196 yards and two scores. Whitmer finished with more passing yards, but was outrushed by Moeller 154-108.

The Crusaders led 17-6 at the break thanks to a Matt Reiniger first-quarter field goal and 14 points in the second quarter. Senior quarterback Spencer Iacovone hit senior Keith Watkins for a seven-yard score and then later sneaked into the endzone behind center Chris Henke.

In the third frame, Whitmer fought back and had the only score when Nate Holley was jolly in the endzone on a pass from his twin brother, Nick, to cut Moeller’s lead to 17-12.

It would be the last score of the season for the Panthers. The Crusaders held Whitmer scoreless for the final 13 minutes.

“That’s what state championships are all about, being able to persevere longer than the other team,” Rodenberg said. “I feel good for the Moeller alumni. It’s about tradition. I told these guys they’re going to raise the bar a little bit.”

Watkins, who is going to Northwestern, led Moeller with 68 rushing yards. He now gets a short breather before he hits the hardwood for Carl Kremer’s basketball team.

“I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a little kid,” Watkins said. “My Dad always told me in little league that they would get me to a high school where I could finally be a champion.”

In addition to his 22 tough carries on the ground, Watkins was also the Crusaders’ top receiver pulling down eight passes for 76 yards. The Moeller pass attack was open and alive for business on this Saturday night.

“A lot of people were doubting us and saying we weren’t a passing team and just a rushing team,” Watkins said. “We had to do what we had to do. We got the win.”

Watkins was joined on the podium with Jones and Iacovone as coach Rodenberg was presented the Division I trophy to deafening blue and gold cheers. Iacovone was right behind Watkins in rushing yards with 63 was 15-19 passing for 161 yards and a score.

Afterward, the typically talkative signal caller was nearly overcome with emotion.

“This year was easily the toughest. We played four state championship teams,” an out-of-breath Iacovone said. “It’s such a great feeling to win this and be with my friends out here. It’s so great!”

Added Jones, “We fought through everything, I’m so proud of our guys that we can finally hold the trophy again.”

The Crusaders finish 12-3 and will be presenting their eighth state championship trophy to the students.

Most three-loss teams don’t go as far. Then again, most haven’t faced a schedule that looks like “murderer’s row.”

“When we beat (Louisville) Trinity that took us into a little easier shot into the playoffs,” assistant coach Steve Klonne said. “After Trinity, we played a little better every week. It’s a tribute to our kids and our program.”

It was Klonne who rejoined the Moeller crusade this season along with former Bengal pro personnel director, Jim Lippincott. Rodenberg had the wisdom to hire the “Sunshine Boys,” who were instrumental in Moeller’s last title 27 years ago.

The former head coach assisted Doug Rosfeld on the offensive line and Lippincott directed the defense that held Whitmer down. The veteran Klonne says he’ll be back for more next season.

“They’re going to take me out of here in a box!” he said.

While many more wish they would have, 8,834 attended the festivities at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium.


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