Senior two-way lineman Nick Boeriu talked about how physical he and his teammates on the Hartley High School football team were up front in a 42-20 win over Wheelersburg on Nov. 23 at Nelsonville-York in the Division V, Region 17 final.
Moreover, senior running back and defensive back Alonzo Saxton said the Hawks' defense "can punch you in the mouth."
It's all part of how a team must play to survive at this juncture in the season, according to coach Brad Burchfield.
The next task figures to be more of the same for the Hawks, who have reached a state semifinal for the third time in the last four seasons.
Hartley (12-1) faces Akron Manchester (11-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, at Arlin Field in Mansfield. The winner plays defending state champion Coldwater or West Jefferson in the state final Dec. 7 at a site and time to be announced.
"We had over 400 yards rushing (against Wheelersburg), so I thought we (controlled the line of scrimmage)," Burchfield said. "It sounds like next week is going to be another physical game, but that's the only way to play in late November. I think (Manchester) runs (the ball) quite a bit. It's going to be a busy week."
Senior running back Sam Mackowiak rushed for 240 yards and five touchdowns on 24 carries against Wheelersburg, as Hartley attempted only two passes.
Manchester didn't attempt any passes in a 69-21 win over Columbiana Crestview in the Region 15 final Nov. 23. The Panthers rushed for 616 yards, which is the ninth-highest total for a game according to the OHSAA.
Leading the way for Manchester was 6-foot-2, 220-pound running back Mason Hayes, who rushed for 273 yards and five touchdowns on 25 carries.
Wide receiver Anthony Miltner also was a major contributor to Manchester's ground attack against Crestview, rushing for 191 yards and two scores on 15 carries.
Manchester, which qualified for the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season but is making its first state semifinal appearance since 1997, when it was the Division IV runner-up.
While competing in Division IV, Hartley won the state championship in 2010, was a regional runner-up in 2011 and lost to Clarksville Clinton-Massie 45-21 in a state semifinal last season.
"Last year still burns a little bit," Mackowiak said. "We've talked about how we want to (win a state title) again, like we did our freshman year."
Brown back to lead girls basketball team
The girls basketball team is taking a simple approach offensively this season, particularly in the early going.
The Hawks' offense will center around their most experienced player in Marissa Brown, a 6-foot-2 senior post player who has committed to Youngstown State University.
Hartley returns only two other players who were regulars last season in senior guard Alexis Britford and junior guard Sydney Williams, and Britford is expected to be sidelined four to six weeks with an injury.
Last season, the Hawks finished 21-5 overall, went 6-2 in the CCL to share the league title with DeSales and Watterson and won a Division II district championship before losing to Millersburg West Holmes 59-49 in a regional semifinal.
The district title was Hartley's first since 2001.
"We obviously want to try to use Marissa's skill set, so we want to run a little but not so much that we have to do mass subbing," said coach Mike Lanza, whose team opened Nov. 23 with a 38-36 win over Chillicothe Unioto. "We'll have a transition offense but we're picking and choosing when to do that. Last year we just ran and ran and just subbed whenever we wanted."
Last season, Brown averaged 9.3 points and was named honorable mention all-district. Britford, who is expected to see extensive action running the offense when she returns, averaged 4.4 points a year ago and Williams averaged 1.7 points in a backup role but should be a key ball-handler this season.
Junior Kylie Casimir and sophomore Jayla Fields are in the guard rotation after spending most of last season on junior varsity. Kailey Beard, a junior guard who practiced with the team last season but wasn't eligible to play after transferring from a charter school, also is expected to be a key contributor in the backcourt.
Others looking to contribute include junior post player Miranda Golden, sophomore post players Haley Johnson and Hannah Kelly and freshman guard Faith Saxton.
Hartley lost forward Jaana Motton, who averaged 10 points last season and made first-team all-district, to graduation. It also lost guard/forward Taylor Kilgore-Barr, who transferred to Walnut Ridge for her senior year after averaging 5.6 points last season, and guard Ariel Packer, who averaged 4.7 points a year ago but transferred to Mifflin for her junior year.
According to Lanza, Brown has a chance to shine this season. She scored 13 points in a 53-44 win over DeSales in a district final last year. The Hawks had lost both regular-season meetings with DeSales.
"(Brown has) always been a good rebounder, a good shot-blocker and a good scorer, but she's a very good jump-shooter as well," Lanza said. "She can hit those elbow jump shots consistently."