Mike Carter doesn't think about last year anymore.
Mike Carter doesn't think about last year anymore.
For the seventh-year coach of the Johnstown High School football team, last season's 34-14 season-ending loss to Ready in a Division V regional semifinal might as well have been 20 years ago. What's past, is past and will have little or no bearing on Saturday night's first-round playoff rematch in Johnstown.
"Last year is last year. This year, we have a new team with a new focus and new players," said Carter, whose team enters the game 8-2 overall and finished 7-0 to win its second consecutive outright Mid-Buckeye Conference title. "It will be a challenge, just like any playoff game.We have to focus on ourselves and take care of our business. We want to be able to control the tempo of the game and work on doing the little things."
Ready coach Larry Wolf remembers the playoff game as being much closer than the score would indicate.
"When we played them last year, I thought they were as good as anyone coming off of the line and they are pretty solid defensively," said Wolf, whose team enters the game 6-2 overall. "In the playoff game last year, we played close and then things got away from (the Johnnies). We scored 14 points in the last two minutes (of the first half) and there's a big difference between going to the locker room tied at 7 and being up 20-7. That changed the complexion of the whole game."
The Johnnies run out of an I-formation with several backs giving the offense punch. Junior tailback Brad Couts leads Johnstown with 1,285 yards rushing on 176 carries with 10 touchdowns. Senior quarterback Jay Orders has 709 yards on 111 carries and eight touchdowns. Senior fullback Will Carter, coach Carter's son, has 546 yards on 102 attempts with 14 touchdowns.
"Both of us are pretty physical teams and neither have a speed-back that can burn you, but they have several kids that they give the ball to that you have to control," Wolfe said.
"They have no apparent weakness and they run the ball right at you. They can lull you to sleep with the run and then they can kill you with the pass when they go to it."
Orders is 36-for-80 passing for 533 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions.
Senior Mitchell Hendren is the Johnnies' leading receiver with 22 catches for 187 yards and a touchdown. Hendren also has rushed 13 times for 137 yards and a touchdown.
The Silver Knights began the season in a wing-T, but have gradually started to run their offense from the I-formation.
They are led by senior tailback Collin Leidinger, who had a career-high 218 yards on 30 carries and four touchdowns last Friday in a 52-6 win over Hartley. Leidinger has totaled 726 yards on 128 carries and 14 touchdowns.
Sophomore running back Demetrius Clark has added 306 yards on 43 carries with six scores.
Junior quarterback Brennan McCarty is 74-for-133 passing for 975 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions. His top target has been senior Steve Christman, who has 19 catches for 280 yards and three scores.
"(The Silver Knights) have talented players and a lot of seniors. We have to make sure we snap our chin straps and come out ready to play," coach Carter said. "They have a really good running back (Leidinger) who had a great game last week against their rival. They also have big linemen who do a good job of opening holes for their backs."
Both teams feature top punters. Senior Mike Morgan has punted 16 times for 598 yards, an average of 37.4 per attempt. Johnstown's Josh McClellan has 24 punts for 963 yards, an average of 40.1 per punt.
Morgan is 9-for-10 on field-goal attempts with his long being 50 yards. He has made 27 of 29 extra-point kicks.
"Neither team is the kind that will throw the ball 40 times, so we have to be careful to keep the game close," Wolf said. "We thought they were one of the best teams we played all of last year. We know that as a staff and our kids know that, so we have to be ready to play."
•After earning its first district championship with a 22-25, 250-20, 23-25, 25-18, 15-13 win over Amanda-Clearcreek last Saturday at Hilliard Darby to improve to 18-7 overall, the girls volleyball team will look to extend its season at 6 p.m. today at Wilmington in a Division III regional semifinal against Versailles.
The Tigers beat Springfield Northeastern 25-15, 25-10, 25-12 to win a district championship at Tipp City Tippecanoe last Saturday and are 18-7.
The winner will play for the regional championship at 2 p.m. Saturday at Wilmington against Middletown Fenwick or Anna. Entering their semifinal, Fenwick is 14-10 and Anna is 18-7. The state semifinals will be held Nov. 7 at Wright State, with the state championship match the next day at the same site.
"It means a lot since we've never won a district title before," senior setter Kelly Gantz said. "It feels really good to turn the program around. I really do think we can make it to state. We're definitely going to need to work on talking more and staying up and blocking. We have to stay together and be prepared for anything."
Ready, which was seeded fourth for the district tournament, beat No. 8 Jonathan Alder 25-18, 25-15, 21-25, 25-15 in a district semifinal Oct. 23 at Darby.
Against the ninth-seeded Aces last Saturday, the Silver Knights trailed 10-8 in the final game before a kill by Taylor Riggs sparked a comeback. Erin Sekinger followed with a block to tie it at 10 and kills to make it 12-11 and 13-12. A kill by Sarah Gabel gave Ready a 14-13 lead and Sekinger served an ace to close out the match.
Versailles has won nine consecutive district championships, including earning regional runner-up finishes in 2004, 2006 and last year and a state runner-up finish in 2003.
Anna has won five district titles in a row, including 2006 when it was the state champion.
"To never be even in a (district) championship (match) in Ready history is a great thing to come our way," coach Mike Kusan said. "I know (Versailles) is a good team and that they've been ranked in the top 20 in the state all year."
•The last time the girls cross country team competed at the Division III regional was 2005 when it finished 12th.
At the regional last Saturday at Pickerington North, the Silver Knights were 11th (230) behind champion Newark Catholic (133).
Freshmen Michelle Kaiser was 26th (21 minutes, 11.48 seconds) and classmate Niki Brown was 28th (21:17.64) to lead the way, followed by sophomore Haley Widner (74th, 22:26.97), freshman Jill Schwendenmann (84th, 22:48.25), sophomore Katie Speed (106th, 23:46.72) and freshmen Elli Moehrman (107th, 23:53.53) and Chloe Brown (122nd, 26:33.69).
"It felt like a good run," Kaiser said. "It's just nice that since we're all so young, we can all stick together for four years."
Sophomore Robert Reed finished 79th (18:32.94) in the Division III boys race behind champion Isaac Potes (16:04.41) of Fredericktown.
"(Reed is) a soccer player primarily, and cross country is his second sport so for him to be here was a real surprise," coach Dean Tower said. "It was a good experience for him, and maybe he'll come back out even harder next year."
READY at JOHNSTOWN
•When: 7 p.m. Saturday
•Last meeting: 2007, Ready 34-14 in a Division V regional semifinal
•Johnstown (8-2 overall) to date: Lost to Granville 35-23; lost to Heath 24-18; def. Licking Heights 34-15; def. Centerburg 47-0; def. Loudonville 32-0; def. Fredericktown 28-14; def. Utica 27-21 (OT); def. Danville 20-17; def. East Knox 56-21; def. Northridge 28-0
•Top Johnnies: Cody Bracken, Will Carter, Brad Couts, Mitchell Hendren, Josh McClellan, Jay Orders, Stephen Orr, Colton Rosshirt and Kurt Sammons