ANSONIA — It will be a meeting of old friends when the Lehman Catholic football team travels to Ansonia for a Region 28, Division VII quarterfinal playoff game at 7 p.m. on Saturday night.
Former college teammates Richard Roll (Lehman coach) and Eugene Hoening (Ansonia coach) are the two coaching legends in the area and will meet for the second time in the postseason.
Hoening is in his 38th season as Ansonia’s coach and Roll, who is in his 40th year of coaching, has been at the Lehman helm for the last 10 seasons.
“I was a freshman when Roll was a senior at Wilmington College,” Hoening said. “He was the center on the team. I wasn’t playing yet, but we stayed in touch over the years and here we are. I guess it’s a little extra special going against a former teammate and a friend, but I really don’t look at it that way. You just want to win the game, but by the same token it’s nice that two old guys are still in it.
The Tigers running game has been effective. Five runners have combined for more than 2,500 yards and 30 touchdowns led by sophomore Reece Stammen, who carried the ball 135 times for 800 yards and 11 scores in the regular season.
Behind Stammen is senior Matthew Shook with 106 carries for 694 yards and 7 TDs. Also over 600 yards rushing is senior Devyn Sink (73 rushes, 657 yards and 5 touchdowns). After Sink is junior Brock Shellhaas (68 carries, 474 yards, 4 touchdowns) and junior Ethan Fischer (42 touches, 219 yards, 3 touchdowns).
“Ansonia runs the ball well,” Roll said. “We must be able to stop their inside trap and power game. Their offense reminds me of some of Versailles offenses in the Coach (Al) Hetrick days.”
Lehman’s offense primarily runs through senior quarterback Elliott Gilardi, who Coach Hoening described as a “dual threat.” During the regular season, Gilardi completed 119-of-194 passes for 1,443 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also was the Cavaliers leading rusher with 125 carries for 734 yards and 10 scores.
“He throws a great ball and he can run like a deer,” Hoening said of Gilardi. “Their offensive line and defensive line come off the ball extremely hard. I’m impressed with how quick they are and they are just a well-coached, fundamentally sound team.”
The other threats Lehman Catholic has on offense are running backs junior Tyler Sollmann (73 rushes, 391 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Drew Barhorst (64 rushes, 247 yards, 2 touchdowns). Gilardi’s favorite passing target has been Bradley Haynes, who has 36 receptions for 504 yards and 4 touchdowns.
The Cavaliers are making their sixth straight postseason appearance, while it is the second straight year for Ansonia.
“We must protect our quarterback and establish a run game,” Roll said. “It’s a typical week of preparation except maybe a little more mental than physical. Last year all but two of our starters were role players, so I’m not sure if being in it for six years in a row makes that much of a difference.”
Lehman hosted Ansonia in 2008, with Lehman winning 42-7.
The Tigers are the No. 4 seed in Region 28 this year, while Lehman is No. 5.
Anna at Elyria Catholic
Anna gets one of the longest road trips in the state for a playoff opener. The Midwest Athletic Conference co-champion Rockets (8-2) will travel nearly three hours to take on Elyria Catholic (8-2) in a Div. V, Region 18 quarterfinal.
The No. 4 seed Panthers lost back-to-back games in Weeks 4 and 5 to Mogadore and Valley Forge. They’ve won five consecutive games, including a 33-12 win over Div. III playoff qualifier Rocky River (6-4) last Friday.
Senior quarterback Cameron Engrish has thrown for 2,030 yards and 26 touchdowns for Elyria Catholic with nine interceptions while senior running back Leighton Banjoff has rushed for 1,309 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Senior David Griffin leads the squad with 627 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, while Jaret Frantz, Banjoff and Connor Trockley have between 273 and 279 receiving yards and a combined 10 receiving TDs.
The Panthers average 400 yards and 36.5 points per game. They’ve allowed an average of 17.8 points per game.
Anna averages 353.7 yards and 35.2 points per game on offense. The Rockets allow an average of 335.8 yards and 26.1 points per game.
Junior running back Riley Huelskamp has rushed for 1,287 yards and 21 touchdowns for Anna while junior quarterback Bart Bixler has rushed for 820 yards and 10 TDs. Bixler has thrown for 749 yards and nine touchdowns with five interceptions. Jeffrey Richards leads the team with 23 receptions for 406 yards with three touchdowns.
It’s Elyria Catholic’s first playoff berth since 2010, while Anna made it last year for the first time since 2010.
New Miami at Fort Loramie
After a season-opening loss to Minster, Fort Loramie largely cruised through its last nine games on its way to earning the No. 1 seed in Region 28.
The Redskins (9-1) have won their last five games by at least 44 points and will look to open the playoffs with another big win when they host Hamilton New Miami in a regional quarterfinal on Saturday.
No. 8 New Miami (6-4) is in the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The Vikings won the Miami Valley Conference Gray Division and average 24.7 points per game while allowing an average of 16.8.
Fort Loramie has made the playoffs nine times since the program started in the middle of last decade. The Redskins steamrolled to a Cross County Conference championship and average 43.4 points per game while allowing an average of 13.2.
Sophomore quarterback Collin Moore has thrown for 1,361 yards and 15 touchdowns with two interceptions. Carter Mescher leads the team with 30 receptions for 505 yards and six touchdowns, while Mason Kemper has caught 27 passes for 306 yards and 4 TDs.
Mescher leads the team with 523 rushing yards and seven touchdowns while Nick Brandewie has rushed for 507 yards and 8 TDs. Moore has ran for a team-high 11 TDs and has 502 rushing yards to his credit. Max Hoying has rushed for 464 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Riverside at Minster
Minster will look to start another state championship run when it hosts Riverside in a Region 28 quarterfinal on Saturday.
The defending Div. VII state champion Wildcats also finished as runner-up in 2016. They’re the No. 3 seed in Region 28 while the Pirates (6-4) are No. 6.
Minster (7-3) averages 360 yards and 30 points per game and allows an average of 335.8 yards and 20.3 points.
Junior running back Alex Schmitmeyer has rushed for 821 yards and 14 touchdowns while quarterback Jacob Niemeyer has ran for 583 yards and five touchdowns. Niemeyer has thrown for 1,447 yards and six touchdowns.
Riverside is in the playoffs for the second consecutive year and third in the last four. The Pirates average 302 yards and 25.2 points per game.
Senior Luke Roby has rushed for 998 yards and 12 touchdowns, while Brandon Sacks, Darrick Cotterman and Joel Cotterman have between 421 and 427 rushing yards and have each rushed for 4 TDs.
The teams last played in the postseason in 2015, when Minster won 21-6.
Sidney Daily News sports editor Bryant Billing contributed to this article. Billing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.