The Raiders have regrouped after losing Jeff Johnston, but face a challenge in Warren JFK.
By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
Senior fullback Jeff Johnston was a key player on the South Range High football team, spearheading the Raiders to a 10-0 record.
But Johnston, who rushed for 959 yards and scored 17 TDs, suffered a knee injury in the last regular season game that ended his high school playing career.
The loss of Johnston put South Range at a disadvantage entering the Division V regional playoffs last week against Columbia Station.
Reinforcement: But the Raiders overcame that handicap, as other players stepped forward in the 28-0 win. That victory advanced them to a regional semifinal Friday against Warren John F. Kennedy at Bo Rein Stadium in Niles.
Senior quarterback Jimmy Sanders completed 11 of 13 passes for 124 yards and two TDs, while Brad Johnson, a senior halfback who was switched to fullback to replace Johnston, responded with 70 yards in 15 carries and one TD.
In addition, junior Brian Novak did a good job replacing Johnson at halfback.
"You take a 1,000-yard rusher out of your offense and it's tough," said South Range coach Dan Yeagley. "Sanders and Johnson stepped up to pick up the slack. All three did a great job in this realignment."
Sanders connected on an 11-yard touchdown pass to Brad Vizi and on a 4-yard toss to Jason King, while Jon Styer kicked two extra points and a 24-yard field goal.
Defense delivers: But just as important was the Raiders' outstanding defensive performance that registered a shutout.
"The entire defense played as a group, and they all swarmed to the ball, and all contained the running back. The defense rose to the occasion and played super, the whole group," said Yeagley.
The Raiders will need more of the same against Warren JFK, whose only loss of the season was to Howland, 13-7.
The Eagles have Josh Cayson, who scored four TDs on runs of 79, 78, 30 and 3 yards to key JFK's 43-6 victory over Massillon Tuslaw last week.
"He is very fast and moves well and sees the field," Yeagley said of Cayson. "He had four TDs and he only played half the game. He and his quarterback, [Alex] Senk, they are a big part of their offense and did a great job."
Senk scored a TD on a 1-yard plunge and threw a conversion pass to Mike Reese, who also ran for a conversion.
"He [Senk] runs well and throws well," said Yeagley. "He mixes it up. So that's another aspect we have to defense."
On defense for JFK, Chris Williams helped to lead the charge by returning a pass interception 52 yards for a TD, while Russell Accordino kicked three extra points.
JFK tradition: South Range also will have to contend with JFK's winning tradition. The Eagles, who have bounced back from a 3-7 record last year, are in the playoffs for the 12th time.
JFK won the Division IV state championship in 1991, and was runner-up in Div. V in 1992 and 1998.
Eagles coach Tony Napolet, in his 13th season, is 108-45-2 and has a career record of 143-69-3.