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Irish experience playoff win

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Ursuline junior DeMarcus McElroy dives into the end zone on a 4-yard touchdown run against VASJ on Saturday night at Stambaugh Stadium.

YOUNGSTOWN — Never overlook an opponent, regardless what the situation is.

That was the message Ursuline coach Dan Reardon kept preaching to his Ursuline Fighting Irish.

Despite Villa Angela-St. Joseph’s only win coming last week in a first-round playoff game, Ursuline found itself being tested through three quarters Saturday in a 47-21 triumph over the Vikings at Stambaugh Stadium.

It’s the first playoff win since a 41-13 rout of Crestwood at the state quarterfinals in 2015.

With that being said, the matchup against VASJ was the first playoff game for the Ursuline roster, and coach Dan Reardon said that it took time for his team to adjust.

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Ursuline's Brady Shannon, right, moves to evade a Vikings defender during the first quarter.

“You can’t take anybody for granted in the playoffs, and I think we had some of our kids looking at their record and not looking at their individual talents that they had on their team,” he said. “They have a lot of playmakers on their team, really good receiving corps, good running back, a solid quarterback and those guys were making plays all night long.

“I think human nature of young kids, sometimes they look at the record too much and assume it’s going to be easy and it’s never easy in the playoffs. Having guys who haven’t been through that before, you try to tell them about the sense of urgency you need, and yet until you experience it, it’s kind of hard to understand, I think, as a young person.”

It was 14-7 at halftime and 21-14 going into the fourth quarter, but Reardon was pleased that his team played well in the second half.

Quarterback Brady Shannon had a pass picked off on the first play of the game for the Irish, but eased in and threw four touchdown passes. The junior helped rally his team going into the second half after only being up seven.

“I mean before the game, none of us have been in the playoffs before, so we’re not really used to it,” the quarterback said. “In the second half, we’re like, alright, they’re trying to steal this game away from us and end our season. We’ve got to step it up, and obviously we did.”

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Ursuline junior Jakylan Irving hauls in a 38-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter against VASJ at Stambaugh Stadium.

He hit multiple targets for touchdowns, including junior Jakylan Irving (38 yards), senior Matthew Reardon (40 yards) and senior Terrell Dillworth twice on 10-yard and 23-yard touchdowns.

“My line was doing really good,” Shannon said. “My receivers, I mean, they’re catching all the balls and stuff, so I stepped my game up in the second half, so it was really good.”

Another key player for the Fighting Irish (5-2) was junior running back DeMarcus McElroy, who found paydirt twice on 4-yard and 10-yard touchdown runs.

“Our energy on the sidelines, we had to pick it up, we didn’t want this to be our last game,” McElroy said. “My line and wideouts were blocking good, so I trusted them and they trusted me.”

A win always feels great, but a postseason win just feels a little bit better to McElroy.

“It feels really great, this is my first win in the playoffs ever,” he said. “We could win plenty more and win state.”

Capping off Ursuline’s second-half explosion was a 22-yard pick six by junior John Edmonds. The total of 47 points is the most the Irish have put up in a game this season, surpassing their previous mark of 42 against East.

Sixth-seeded Ursuline moves on to face third-seeded West Branch next Saturday in Beloit. The Warriors are 7-0 and average 41.86 points a game offensively.

Shannon is looking forward to the challenge.

“I’m excited, we’ve just got to have a great week of practice,” he said. “We’re 1-0 every week, so we’re not looking past any team.”

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