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Crusaders Win a Thriller to Make it Back to Back Championships

December 8, 2013
Cincinnati Moeller High School

By Mike Dyer, Cincinnati Enquirer

Crusaders Win a Thriller to Make it Back to Back Championships

CANTON — Big Moe is back-to-back Division I state football champions.

Moeller defeated Mentor 55-52 Saturday night at Fawcett Stadium for the Crusaders’ second straight state championship and ninth overall in the program’s storied history.“It’s awful hard to win a title in Division I once and then to do it twice – I am proud of these guys,” Moeller coach John Rodenberg said.

“This is something that will be around with them for the rest of their lives. It’s a special moment.” Saturday night’s state title is the first time the Moeller football program won back-to-back state titles since the 1979 and 1980 seasons.  Moeller athletic director Mike Asbeck said Saturday night the school is considering plans for a state championship ceremony soon at Moeller with details to be released later.

With the ninth state title, Moeller is in sole possession of second place for most state football titles in Ohio High School Athletic Association history. Cleveland St. Ignatius has the most with 11 state titles.

Moeller also won state titles in 2012, 1985, 1982, 1980, 1979, 1977, 1976 and 1975.

Saturday also marked the first time a Division I football program won back-to-back state titles since Elder in 2002 and 2003, according to the OHSAA.  Moeller was one of five defending state champions back in Stark County this weekend. The Crusaders made their 13th state final appearance, which is the most among big schools and ranks second only to Newark Catholic’s 14 appearances.

The Crusaders (14-1) never trailed Saturday night but Moeller went through its twists and turns throughout the second half, including being outscored by Mentor (13-2) 26-7 in the fourth quarter. Still, Moeller survived the furious scoring production by Mentor late in the game and persevered until the end.  Several OHSAA records were either tied or broken on Saturday night.

Moeller and Mentor broke the Division I state final record for most points by a team.  Moeller is the record holder with 55. Colerain previously held the record with 50 against Canton McKinley in 2004. Moeller and Mentor combined for 107 points – the most ever in a Division I state final – with the previous record being 71 points back in the 2006 game with Hilliard Davidson and Mentor.

Moeller and Mentor also shattered the most combined total yards Division I state final mark. Mentor had 586 yards of total offense to Moeller’s 550. The previous mark was 898 yards with Moeller and Cleveland St. Ignatius in 1989.  Moeller had 307 net yards rushing to Mentor’s 136. Mentor threw for 463 net yards passing to Moeller’s 273.

“It turned out to be one heck of a game,” Rodenberg said of Saturday night. “You feel sorry for a team like Mentor just for the fact it was a great game. I feel proud for our guys – we ended up on the winning side. Fifty-five to fifty-two with over 1,000 yards for both teams – what a great night.”

Moeller senior quarterback Gus Ragland tied a Division I state final record with five rushing touchdowns. It was also obviously a tied Division I state final record for most touchdowns for an individual. “Gus had a fantastic night tonight,” Rodenberg said.  Ragland rushed for 189 net yards and was 12 of 13 passing for 273 yards and three touchdowns.

“He’s a great player,” Mentor coach Steve Trivisonno said. “He’s done a nice job as he did all year. He wasn’t a co-player of the year (in the state) for nothing.”  Ragland, the Associated Press Division I state co-offensive player of the year and Southwest District offensive player of the year, shed some tears of joy shortly after leaving the field for media interviews at Fawcett Stadium. Ragland deflected the credit for the statistical significance and lauded his teammates.

“It’s surreal,” Ragland said. “It’s a great group of guys and it’s been an honor to play with them the last four years.”  Moeller senior wide receiver Isaiah Gentry tied a Division I state final record for most receiving touchdowns (2) when he caught 37-yard and 36-yard touchdown receptions, respectively, in the first half.

Gentry finished with seven receptions for 182 yards for the game.  “It’s a great feeling,” Gentry said of winning the state title. “I can’t describe it.”  Several other players stood out for Moeller including senior Jack Gruber who had 15 carries for 66 yards. Sophomore Kyle Butz had four kickoff returns for 100 yards including a 47-yard return. Sophomore kicker Matt Coghlin was also consistent in extra points converted. Junior wide receiver Chase Pankey had two receptions for 66 yards.

Defensively, Moeller was led by several players including senior free safety Sam Hubbard, who had 10 tackles, a fumble recovery, an interception and a key blocked extra point in the second quarter which proved costly for the Cardinals down the stretch when it also failed to convert a pair of two-point conversion attempts in the fourth quarter.

Hubbard said he came from the left side to help block the kick after an assistant coach noticed a tendency in the Mentor special teams.  Senior defensive back Christian Wersel had 10 tackles and junior defensive back Mitch Brauning had six tackles and a forced fumble for Moeller. Senior linebacker P.J. Barron had had four tackles and a sack.

“Our team had a lot of heart,” Moeller senior defensive lineman Chalmer Frueauf said. “We have some good players on our team and we came together.”  Mentor junior Eddie Daugherty also tied the record with two touchdown receptions.

Mentor senior quarterback Conner Krizancic, who is verbally committed to UC as wide receiver, rushed for 102 net yards and three touchdowns. He also threw for 419 yards and two touchdowns. The 419 yards was a Division I state final record previously held by former Elder quarterback Mark Miller (399 yards) in 2008.

Saturday also marked the conclusion of a long run of consecutive Division I state final games at Fawcett Stadium. The finals in all divisions move to Ohio Stadium in Columbus for the 2014 and 2015 seasons with anything beyond that yet to be decided.

Moeller was the No. 5-ranked team in the season’s final Associated Press Division I state poll and the No. 2 seed in Region 2.  Mentor came into Saturday as the sixth-ranked team in the AP poll and the No. 2 seed in Region 1.  Moeller arrived in Stark County Saturday morning and had a pregame meal on the campus of Walsh University. Former Moeller coach Gerry Faust greeted some coaches and players and gave them well wishes during the visit to campus.

“I am very proud of what John Rodenberg and his staff has done,” said Faust, who was the coach during the 1979 and 1980 state titles. “And I am happy they (were) in the state final.”



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