Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary hasn’t lost a football game in more than 13 months.
It hasn’t lost to a Division III opponent since Sept. 14 of last year when then-Division III Cardinal Mooney beat the Irish, 41-15, in the fourth week of the season — a season the Cardinals finished 3-6 and the Irish ended by lifting a state championship trophy.
On the way, St. Vincent-St. Mary rolled over Hubbard in the regional semifinal by 40 points — its largest margin of victory in the playoffs.
What does all this mean when the Irish and the Eagles meet tonight in the Region 7 final? According to Irish coach Dan Boarman, absolutely nothing.
“I told my team you take last year and you throw it out the window,” said Boarman, who is in his seventh season at the Akron school. “This is a different Hubbard football team. They’re much more physical, bigger, stronger — definitely faster — we have our hands full this week.”
The Irish (12-0) are led by Ohio State commits Dante Booker (a 6-foot-3, 215-pound linebacker) and Parris Campbell (a 6-0, 182-pound running back). However Boarman was quick to point out that they’re just two of the six captains that have led the Irish this season.
“They’ve done it in the past and I feel confident they’ll continue to do it,” the coach said of his team’s leadership. “We talk about adversity all the time and I tell them, ‘There’s gonna be times when we face adversity and you know what, you guys are gonna have to rise above it. That’s what a true champion does — it’s not winning 52-0 — it’s what happens when you’re down a little bit and what you do about it.’”
That’s the sort of coach-speak you expect to hear from someone who’s in his 48th year on the sideline. What also shouldn’t come as a surprise is that Boarman and his team took a vow together, at the beginning of the season, not to talk about a certain game at the end of the year.
“We don’t talk about state championships — we talk about today,” Boarman said. “That’s the beauty of this team is we talk about what we have to do today — not tomorrow and not even [game day] — it’s what we have to do today in practice to become a better football team.”
What the Irish will have to do tonight is figure out a way to slow down the Eagles’ high-flying rushing attack. The trio of L.J. Scott, George Hill and Darnell Tate all rushed for more than 100 yards as Hubbard (12-0) beat Aurora last week.
“We have to be sound — that’s the bottom line,” Boarman said. “If we’re not sound defensively they’re gonna hurt us. Obviously we have to be a good tackling team too, because these guys break some tackles, and they get to the second and third level, we’re in trouble.”
Hubbard coach Brian Hoffman had similar concerns about facing an Irish offense that he’s had little success stopping in the past.
“This is a style that is multi-formational and dimensional in the fact that they can include a lot of people in the game plan,” Hoffman said. “We’re gonna do the best job we can in preparation — we’re not going to be able to simulate, obviously, in practice — but we feel that right now we’re playing better defense and we’re gonna need to do that [tonight].”
Earlier in the week Hoffman made it a point to stress to his team belief. Whether that’s enough will be answered when the two teams meet tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Ravenna.
“We’ve earned the right to be in this position,” Hoffman said, “and now we just need to go out there and play our best football.”