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Football

Defense key to Ready's success

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Getting to the Division VI, Region 21 final took more than back-to-back 40-plus-point efforts from the Ready High School football team's offense.

During a 48-6 first-round playoff win over seventh-seeded Oak Hill on Nov. 8 at home, the Silver Knights' defense allowed just three first downs in the first half and four through three quarters.

Then in a 45-14 victory over sixth-seeded Woodsfield Monroe Central in a regional semifinal Nov. 15 at Zanesville, Ready gave up just 70 yards rushing on 20 carries.

The Knights' 31-7 halftime lead forced Monroe Central to the air for most of the second half, and although quarterback Curtis Nixon completed 20 of 33 passes for 168 yards with one touchdown, Ready never let it back in the game.

Senior defensive back Kelly Culbertson had an interception and linebackers Connor Lancia and DeAndre Golden also played well, according to coach Joel Cutler.

The Knights played fourth-seeded Newark Catholic for the regional title Nov. 22 at Gahanna.

"(Monroe Central is) close to 60-40 (run-to-pass) and they came out empty (in the backfield) and (with) four or five wide (receivers)," Cutler said. "They're a pistol team for the most part and decided they couldn't run the ball on us. We more or less prepared for a running style, but we made some adjustments with their passing."

The Ready-Newark Catholic game was a rematch of the Knights' 26-14 win Aug. 30. Both teams entered at 11-1.

The winner plays Kirtland or Mogadore in a state semifinal Friday, Nov. 29. Kirtland was 12-0 and Mogadore was 11-1 entering the Region 19 final.

The other state semifinal will feature Haviland Wayne Trace or Ada from Region 20 against Mechanicsburg or West Liberty-Salem from Region 22.

In the final state poll, Kirtland was first, Ready was fifth, Mogadore was seventh and Wayne Trace was 10th.

Kirtland, which lost to Coldwater 10-9 in the Division V state final a year ago, was averaging 57.2 points before playing Mogadore.

Kirtland had 25 takeaways before the regional final, including two interceptions that Sam Kukura returned for touchdowns in a 49-21 win over Louisville Aquinas in a regional semifinal Nov. 15. Kukura and Adam Hess also rushed for a pair of touchdowns.

Mogadore beat Canfield South Range 35-28 in a regional semifinal Nov. 15 as Dominik Pizzino rushed for two touchdowns and returned two kickoffs for more than 40 yards to set up scores. Quarterback Anthony Ricci threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score.

"We're excited to be where we are," Cutler said.

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