BRUNSWICK — Archbishop Hoban defensive tackle Walter Ganous introduced himself to 6-foot, 185-pound Mark Steinmetz by making the Avon running back disappear under his 6-5, 340-pound frame on a two-yard loss.
Joey Lance got smacked down by Knights defensive back DeaMonte Trayanum for another two-yard loss on the very next play.
Although they were only the third and fourth plays offensively for Avon in a 42-7 Division II state semifinal win by Hoban, they were brilliant foreshadowing of what was to come Friday night.
“We want to set that tone early and we want to set it on the first play,” Trayanum said. “I want them to know that our defense is nothing to be played with. We haven’t really been given the respect we deserve, but we’ve been busting our butts since Week 3.”
Avon found that out the hard way.
Averaging 481.1 yards — including 315.3 rushing — per game coming in, the Eagles finished with 235 yards overall and 110 yards on the ground.
Add it up, and Avon averaged 3.1 yards in its 76 plays. That’s a far cry from the 7.7 yards per play it usually produces.
“One big thing about us is we’re not selfish at all,” Hoban linebacker Marcus Saahir said. “Everybody isn’t looking to make the extra play. We have a defense where everybody eats and everybody is going to make a play.
“When one person doesn’t, another person will. Everybody knows you have to help for that play to happen.”
Although Hoban's streak of not allowing a second-half touchdown by its starters since Week 4 was snapped, the 11 Knights defenders were so respected by veteran Avon coach Mike Elder that he went for it on fourth down three times in the first half.
Two of those gambles came inside the Eagles’ own territory with Avon (12-2) picking up a first down once.
After that, it was pain followed by more pain as the Knights (14-0) continued a trend that has become the norm for the Henchmen of Holy Cross Boulevard.
“It has a lot to do with their preparation,” Hoban coach Tim Tyrrell said. “They’re very easily coached. They’re a good group and they want to get better. Some of them are walking off with frowns on their faces right now.
“You win 42-7 and you’re going to the state championship, but they just want to play perfect as much as they possibly can. We’re always trying to get better every single week. We want to play in Week 15. We have that opportunity. Hopefully, we get better next week.”
That’s not hyperbole as Hoban enters a highly-anticipated state championship against Massillon (15-0) on a defensive tear. Through the first 14 games, the Knights have given up 13 points or less 10 times, and are ratcheting it up right when it matters most.
Since the calendar turned to the postseason, the Knights have given up only 20 points total and no more than seven in any game.
What’s more, they haven’t given up more than eight points in a game since Week 8, when they rolled 63-8 over Padua.
“It’s a huge motivator to keep them out of the end zone,” Ganous said. “Our coaches get us hyped up a lot. Our big focus is to put points up and not let them score. That’s what we’ve focused on all year.
“It’s a big part of our defense to make big hits and big plays early and stop the momentum of every team. This is a big motivator. So is the number on our back. We’re 14-0 and want to go 15-0 and make school history."