As the Hilliard Davidson High School football team celebrated its convincing 37-7 win over Huber Heights Wayne in a Division I, Region 2 semifinal Nov. 23 at Upper Arlington, coach Brian White told his players that they might have to alter their plans for Thanksgiving.
The Wildcats (13-0) are amid a busy week preparing to face defending state champion Cincinnati Moeller (12-1) in the regional final, which doubles as a state semifinal, at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, at Welcome Stadium in Dayton.
The winner plays Lakewood St. Edward or Mentor in the state final Dec. 7.
"As a coach, it's a goal to be practicing on Thanksgiving," White said. "I told one of my assistants about 15 years ago (that) it's the goal and the real deal to be able to practice Thanksgiving morning and having to adjust your Thanksgiving plans. Fortunately, we've had a couple opportunities to do that."
Davidson is making its first final four appearance since 2010 and its sixth overall, having won state championships in 2006 and 2009. Moeller, which has won eight state titles, advanced to the final four for the 15th time. The Crusaders' state title a year ago was their first since 1985.
The last meeting between Davidson and Moeller, which were ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, in the final state poll, was in 1993 and, coincidentally, occurred in a state semifinal at Welcome Stadium. The Crusaders won 27-7 before losing to Cleveland St. Ignatius in the state final, 38-20.
Moeller, seeded second in Region 2, never trailed in its 35-26 win over sixth-seeded Cincinnati Colerain in a regional semifinal Nov. 23 at Mason. Colerain was first in the final state poll.
The Crusaders were led by 6-foot-3, 205-pound quarterback Gus Ragland, who rushed for four touchdowns and a game-high 204 yards on 28 carries. He attempted only eight passes against Colerain.
On the season, Ragland has completed 107 of 172 passes for 1,726 yards with 18 touchdowns and five interceptions and has rushed for 1,357 yards and 25 scores on 202 carries.
Ragland, who was a wide receiver last season, was named Southwest District Offensive Player of the Year.
Other key players on offense include running backs Jack Gruber (5-10, 190) and Dean Meyer (5-10. 210) and wide receiver Isaiah Gentry (6-4, 180).
Gruber has rushed for 671 yards and three touchdowns on 135 carries and Meyer has 558 yards and six scores on 104 carries.
Gentry has a team-high 36 catches for 916 yards and eight touchdowns.
According to White, Moeller's offensive line averages more than 280 pounds.
"It's unfathomable how big their offensive line is," White said. "We thought Pickerington North was big. Pickerington North averaged 274 across the front. It's incredible with just the size and shear athleticism that we saw with Wayne and the size and athleticism that we're going to see from Moeller. They're defending state champs for a reason. We'll see what we can do to come up with a game plan to combat the genetics that they've been blessed with."
Moeller's defense is led by back Sam Hubbard (6-6, 225), linebackers P.J. Baron (6-1, 215) and Will Mercurio (6-2, 196) and lineman Chalmer Frueauf (6-2, 250).
Hubbard, who has committed to Ohio State, has a team-high 86 tackles and four interceptions and Baron has 82 tackles. Mercurio leads the team in interceptions with seven, including two which were returned for touchdowns, and Frueauf has a team-high 11 sacks.
The top seed in Region 2, Davidson spotted fifth-seeded Wayne (11-2) a 7-0 lead in the first quarter before taking command.
The Wildcats scored 17 points in the second quarter, seven in the third and 13 in the fourth.
Senior running back D.D. Clark rushed for 119 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries against Wayne and, on the season, has 1,862 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns on 268 carries.
Senior slotback Phillipie Motley added 83 yards rushing and a touchdown on 12 carries against Wayne and has rushed for 740 yards and nine touchdowns on 69 carries on the season.
Senior linebacker Travis Brown leads the Wildcats in tackles with 172, followed by junior linebackers Markus Bailey (146) and Ben Brooks (102).
"If you make it to the final four, you're pretty good," Bailey said of Moeller, whose only loss came against St. Edward, 45-42 on Oct. 26. "We just have to worry about ourselves, keep playing Davidson football, do our assignments and do our jobs."