MASSILLON: The celebration pretty much started in the third quarter for the St. Vincent-St. Mary football team Saturday, but out of respect to Dover, the Fighting Irish officially held off their smiles and hugs until the final whistle.
St. V-M is heading to the Division III state championship game after defeating Dover 48-13 before a crowd of 4,806 in a state semifinal at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
The Irish (12-2) proved to be just too fast and talented for the Tornadoes (11-3).
Junior Parris Campbell Jr. rushed for 147 yards and four touchdowns on 11 carries, and senior Mike Pruiett rushed for one touchdown and gained 132 yards on 13 carries.
“We decided to keep it fast paced and we just wanted to keep rolling and put up a lot of points on offense,” said Campbell, a 15-year-old junior. “We thought if we put up a lot of points, our defense would come in and stop them.
“This is great. It is amazing. This is the best feeling ever. This is what we work for all year, and we are finally getting there. We have to go in, have a good week of practice and go out and get a W.”
St. V-M will play Bellevue (13-1) for a state championship at 11 a.m. Saturday at Fawcett Stadium in Canton. Bellevue beat Dayton Thurgood Marshall 34-33.
“This is a good experience, but we have got to win the state championship for me to be excited,” Irish senior Jordan Hargrove said. “I don’t want to lose. I just want to win.”
Senior quarterback Clayton Uecker completed 12-of-16 passes for 144 yards. His top targets were Hargrove (seven receptions for 96 yards) and senior Fransohn Bickley (two receptions for 26 yards).
“It feels great and this has obviously been a dream of mine since I was a little kid,” Uecker said. “I have always wanted to win a state championship. We are one win away. We gotta get it done.”
The Irish forced three turnovers in the first half and converted the Dover miscues into 21 points.
“We did what we thought we could do,” said Irish coach Dan Boarman, a 1970 St. Vincent graduate. “I gotta give credit to Dover. I thought their quarterback [senior Mason Mamarella] was a tough cookie.”
St. V-M led 13-7 after one quarter courtesy of a Uecker 1-yard touchdown run and a Campbell 94-yard touchdown run. An interception by junior Corey Whaley set up the drive that ended with Uecker’s score.
The Irish extended their advantage to 27-7 at halftime following a Campbell 1-yard touchdown run and a 3-yard touchdown run by sophomore Vince Lockett. Both scores followed a Dover fumble.
Irish senior Eric Prologo and junior Dante Booker both forced a fumble with hits. Booker and Whaley recovered the loose balls on the turf.
“Turnovers are always big and you always try to force them,” Booker said. “Our defense played great overall. The offense also played great.”
Senior center Nick Karipides joined junior Derek Whiddon and seniors Derek Pierog, Bryan Wisor and Tom Paolucci to pave the way for 490 yards of offense.
Junior twin brothers Aaron Adkins and Anthony Adkins also contributed on St. V-M’s defense with senior Joe Weber, freshman Tyrece Speaight and juniors Travonte Junius, Newman Williams and Nathan Bischof.
“Our defense once again stepped it up,” Boarman said. “We let them move the ball a little bit, but we didn’t let them into the end zone. Offensively, we were balanced.
“We told the kids in the locker room that one of the things that wins state championships is not making mistakes.”
Campbell rushed for two touchdowns in the second half, and Pruiett rushed for one.
Mamarella tossed a 2-yard touchdown pass to junior Mick Fishel in the second quarter, and senior Brant Raber had a 5-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
St. V-M won state championships in 1972, 1981, 1982 and 1988.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.