The Monroe Central Seminoles are playing postseason football again after missing out a season ago.
The Jay Circosta-coached Seminoles travel to Centerburg Friday to take on the third-seeded Trojans in the first round of the Ohio Division VI, Region 21 playoffs. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
After playing in Week 11 each year from 2009 to 2011, the Seminoles failed to make the cut in 2012 even after posting a 7-3 record in the regular season.
Photo courtesy of Kate Fickell
Monroe Central quarterback Curtis Nixon (22) is tackled by two Buckeye Trail players last Friday night. The Noles are scheduled to play Centerburg in an opening-round playoff game this Friday night.
After MC got off to a rocky 0-2 start this fall, it appeared the Seminoles may be sitting at home yet again come playoff time. But Circosta rallied his troops, as the 'Noles surged for seven wins in the final eight games of the season to again finish 7-3. This time, that 7-3 record was plenty good enough.
"You're now in sudden death football," Circosta said. "Win or it's over.
"I told our kids we have to practice with a lot of focus and intensity. All we ask out of them is to give their best efforts."
Centerburg presents a tough challenge for Monroe Central. The Jim Stoyle-led Trojans put together a perfect 10-0 record this year.
While Centerburg did not lose this fall, it has had some close calls, edging out 8-2 Danville and 6-4 Fredericktown by a total of three points in overtime contests. The Trojans only other victory over a team with a winning record came last week against 7-3 Highland, a game which Centerburg won 18-13. No other team that the Trojans defeated this season had over four victories.
Centerburg averaged 42.4 points per game in 2013 and gave up just 17 per game. Don't expect the Seminoles to back down to a tough opponent, though, as they have persevered through difficult tasks all season long.
"One thing I'm extremely proud of our guys for is that they faced adversity early on," Circosta said. "After an 0-2 start, a lot of teams would probably fold the tents and go downhill. Give our kids credit. They've righted the ship."
Centerburg features a dangerous passing attack, led by quarterback Tyler Stoyle, the son of the team's head coach.
The younger Stoyle threw for 278 yards on 27-of-35 passing in the win over Highland. For the year, he put up over 2,100 yards through the air and had 25 touchdowns passes to just five interceptions.
Out of the spread offense, Tyler Stoyle has many options to go to, his favorite being Jake Stewart, who caught 58 passes for 728 yards this fall. Jeremy Sesma is another talented target, hauling in 42 receptions for 712 yards.
The Trojans can move the ball on the ground as well, with Austin Glasscock rushing for 1,102 yards on 137 carries for an average of eight yards-per-carry.
"They're an outstanding football team," Circosta noted. "They've got an outstanding quarterback who throws the ball extremely well.
"What they like to do in the passing game is try to get the ball to their guys in space. If you don't tackle well in space, you're gonna have a hard time."
The Seminoles have a potent offensive attack of their own, with quarterback Curtis Nixon and running back Levi Brown forming a dynamic duo out of the backfield.
Brown, a junior, and Nixon, a senior, combined for 1,776 yards on 252 rushes.
Nixon can also do damage with his right arm, throwing for 1,245 yards on 73-of-122 passing and 12 touchdowns.
"Those guys have been steady all season long," Circosta said.
Senior Bryan Duffy was Nixon's top target this fall, catching 20 balls for 345 yards. Junior Zach Jorris is another go-to guy in the passing game, notching 242 yards on 12 catches.
The Seminoles also have 6-foot-4 junior Gavin Morton and junior speedster Chase Carothers as weapons that Nixon has at his disposal.
All told, it's going to take a complete effort from Monroe Central on both sides of the ball in order to pull off the upset.
"We need to start fast," Circosta explained. "Like with any game, turnovers are key. We have to minimize turnovers and take advantage of opportunities. We also have to try to keep them off the field offensively. You do that by putting together drives and taking time off the clock. The more you give them the ball, the more pressure it puts on the defense."
Circosta is assisted by offensive coordinator Michael Jorris, defensive coordinator David Schuerman and assistant coach Josh Ischy.