OHSAA Playoffs - Division VI - Region 21

Canton Central Catholic Crusaders (2-5) at United Eagles (5-1) Saturday 7:00PM

Much like league rival Southern, the Eagles face a perennial playoff team in the second round of the OHSAA playoffs in the Canton Central Catholic Crusaders. The Crusaders have appeared in post-season play 14 times, winning state championships in 1988, 2000, and most recently in 2016. They also finished as state runner-up in 2014 and again in 2015. To say the Crusaders have a great tradition would be an understatement.

But they have struggled the past three years with a combined 13-16 record and no playoff appearances. They have also lost to a local school in South Range in 2018 (19-13) and 2019 (33-0). This year the Crusaders are 2-5 following a first round 49-7 win over Tuscarawas Valley last Saturday. Their other win this year was a 28-21 win over Licking heights.

The Crusaders are primarily a passing team as sophomore quarterback Jack Talkington #16 has thrown for 1,040 yards on 89 of 163 attempts. He has 4 touchdown tosses and 9 interceptions.

His favorite targets are junior receiver Riley Campbell #13 with 26 receptions for 268 yards and 2 TD's, and senior receiver Danny Heck #18 with 21 catches for 202 yards and 1 touchdown catch.

Talkington also leads the Crusaders in rushing the ball with 251 yards on 63 carries and 2 scores. They do not have another back with over 100 yards on the season, but senior Mason Vance has 88 yards on 34 carries, and Heck has added an additional 75 yards running the ball.

Defensively, the Crusaders have given up 191 points on the season, or a little over 27 points per game. They have forced the opposition into committing 10 turnovers on the year, including 7 interceptions. Junior defensive back Mikey Monastra #21 is the ball hawk of the defense with 3 interceptions on the year.

The match-up appears to be one in which both teams will pass the ball the majority of the time. The one who makes the least mistakes will be the one to advance to the next round of the playoffs. It may also be important for the team that can offset the passing with a solid running game to be able to control the clock and the flow of the contest to their advantage.

The Crusaders have been hit by some injuries this season, but the real strength they have is the level of competition that they have faced on their schedule. The Crusaders play a brutal schedule with 1 Division I (Massillon Jackson), 2 Division II (Massillon Perry & Licking Valley), 2 Division III (New Philadelphia & Louisville), and 1 Division VI (St. Thomas Aquinas) on their regular season slate. Their opponents combined record is 22-17, including an undefeated Perry and one loss New Philadelphia.

The Eagles can't match that kind schedule strength, but they hope to utilize their home field advantage to their benefit. In addition, DJ Ogilvie has faced some pretty tough opponents in his tenor as a head coach, having two weeks to prepare has given him an opportunity to throw some new wrinkles at the Crusaders Saturday night.