Ursuline rolls past Cuyahoga Heights to set up showdown with Kirtland
By Joe Catullo
In Saturday’s third quarter, the Ursuline High football team showed Cuyahoga Heights what it’s capable of.
The Irish scored four touchdowns, including three from its two senior running backs. Tramain Thigpen tiptoed rushes of 24 and 26 yards into the end zone while Jermaine Williams added a 58-yard score. The running back tandem combined for 23 rushes for 268 yards and three scores en route to a 44-15 blowout in a Division V regional semifinal.
“We can say we’re brothers,” Thigpen said. “Everybody. We’re a family, and that’s what we stick to. That’s what we believe in.”
After Thigpen scored his touchdowns, Williams said he wasn’t trying to impress anybody with his 58-yard scamper.
“It really don’t matter when he scores,” Williams said. “I let him because he gives me hype and stuff.”
The Irish (8-4) began the game slow, scoring one touchdown in the first half, but Vince Yurcho helped the cause by nailing three field goals of 30, 32 and 33 yards.
Coach Larry Kempe said Yurcho struggled kicking last year but improved.
“As I look at it, we spent a lot of time on special teams,” Kempe said. “Vince last year probably couldn’t hit the bus back there. He’s developed wonderfully.”
The Irish exploited the Redskins (10-2) in the second half, especially the third quarter. After the Redskins scored a touchdown with 4:24 remaining in the first quarter, they didn’t score again until a safety was called at the 8:32 mark in the fourth.
“I was really proud of our kids in the first half,” said Cuyahoga coach Dan D’Orazio. “Second half, they decided to come out and play power football. That was just a little bit too much for us.”
Thigpen said Cuyahoga Heights did what the Irish were taught to never do.
“They came out strong, but then they quit,” he said. “They tell us to keep going no matter if something’s wrong or you’re injured. And we didn’t quit. We kept playing.”
All in all, the Irish compiled 500 yards of total offense and allowed 302, including a fumble recovery and an interception. The Irish also committed four penalties for 48 yards, an area Kempe said the team is improving in.
“The one penalty cost us a touchdown in the first half, so the intelligence of not hurting yourself is very important to us,” Kempe said. “Don’t put us in bad position on any side of the ball. That’s something we’re working on.”
The Irish advanced to the Division V regional finals on Saturday against undefeated Kirtland. The Irish defeated the Hornets in the playoffs in 2008 and 2010. Ursuline went on to win state titles in each of those years.
Kirtland won last year’s state crown.
“At this point of the season, we’re really far as a team,” Thigpen said. “We’re coming closer, and we’re getting better to be one instead of being individuals, and that’s a good thing. That’s the key to where it’s going to take us.”