Tornadoes get 2nd chance at Trimble

By Paul Boggs -

Southern’s Colton Holbrook (34) carries the ball as teammate Ike Akers (10) blocks during the Tornadoes’ Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division football game against Eastern.

Southern’s Colton Holbrook (34) carries the ball as teammate Ike Akers (10) blocks during the Tornadoes’ Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division football game against Eastern.

Paul Boggs/OVP Sports

RACINE, Ohio — Life, and even football, is often about making the most of a second chance.

For the Southern Tornadoes, they are taking that second opportunity on Saturday night.

That’s because the Tornadoes travel to longtime nemesis Trimble for a Division VII, Region 27 quarterfinal — in a rematch of a regular-season tilt in which the Tomcats handled the Tornadoes 42-14.

Saturday night’s bout, between fifth-seeded Southern and fourth-seeded Trimble, kicks off at 7 p.m. inside Glouster Memorial Stadium.

Both clubs, which are members of the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division, went 8-2 in the regular season.

For Southern, it is only its second state playoff appearance in school history — as the initial one followed another 8-2 season three years ago.

Thus, the Tornadoes — and first-year head coach Mike Chancey — are already getting one kind of a second chance.

Southern lost its other regional quarterfinal at Steubenville Catholic Central, while Chancey — the longtime mentor at Meigs before he stepped down five years ago — made the playoffs in leading the Marauders in 2008.

That was Meigs’ only playoff appearance.

In an interview with Chancey on Tuesday, he said both he and his Tornadoes are “glad to have a week 11.”

“It’s an awesome feeling. In the state of Ohio, it’s hard to make it to the state playoffs and it’s a prestigious thing. It’s the result of a lot of hard work by kids and coaches,” he said. “These kids have really made it fun to coach. We’re excited about the opportunity to play in the playoffs and to play a good football team.”

Chancey was out of coaching for four years, but took over the Southern program in the spring — and has made the most of his first season with the Tornadoes.

There are, of course, two blemishes on the record — losses against Trimble and the outright TVC-Hocking champion Waterford.

So Southern has some payback on its mind for the Tomcats, which are making their 13th playoff appearance while sporting an 11-12 all-time tournament record.

In 2013, in the same season Southern first qualified, Trimble was the Division VII state runner-up.

This season, the Tomcats — coached by veteran boss Phil Faires — lost against Nelsonville-York and Waterford while winning their other eight contests.

On Oct., 7, at Roger Lee Adams Memorial Field in Racine, Trimble — with a trademark two tight-end full-house backfield — bullied the Tornadoes by rushing 47 times for 370 yards.

Every single Tomcat carry came from that wishbone formation — as Trimble only attempted three passes.

Chancey said simply “they (Tomcats) ran the ball down our throat and we didn’t stop them.”

Specifically, senior Kameron Curry and junior Dominic Pickett toted the rock, as Curry carried 15 times for 149 yards and a hat trick of touchdowns — while Pickett posted 125 yards on 13 attempts and one touchdown run.

Pickett’s paydirt trip covered 62 yards, while Curry erupted for a 78-yard scamper for his final TD.

For the season, Curry has rushed for 1,257 yards and 21 touchdowns on 157 carries, while catching 10 passes for 143 yards from quarterback Gary Brooks.

Pickett has 41 carries for 367 yards and four scores.

The Tomcats are also prolific in the passing game, as Brooks has completed 53-of-98 passes for 802 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Jacob Hardy, who played only defense in the first matchup because of an arm injury, has 43 receptions for 960 yards and 15 TDs.

“We’ll have to do a better job of being sound defensively in everything we do. They (Tomcats) do a nice job of being multiple-formation,” said Chancey. “They can play power football and be in the wishbone with the two tight ends, and they can line right back up with no backs and spread you out and throw it and run it. If we’re not sound, they will find that and hurt us. We have to be ready for anything from them, not give up big plays like we did the first game and we have to execute much better.”

The Tornadoes also have to execute better offensively, as they only generated 228 total yards in the first meeting, including 117 on the ground.

Southern also fumbled six times, despite only committing two turnovers.

“When you play a good football team, you have to execute on both sides of the ball,” said Chancey. “We have to not give up big plays, we have to win the special teams and we have to not turn the ball over. All of those things become such big things when you’re playing a good team. In week seven, we turned the ball over on special teams and on offense and we had some fumbled snaps.”

However, the Tornadoes do have Jaylen Blanks, Ike Akers and Dylan Smith back — as none of the three factored into the first meeting.

Southern’s offense is paced by senior quarterback Blake Johnson, who has completed 45 passes on 92 attempts for 1,262 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Riley Roush has rushed for 813 yards and seven scores on 106 carries, while tight end Crenson Rogers’ receiving stats are 23 receptions for 646 yards and nine TDs.

Chancey said perhaps playing ball control could keep the Tomcats’ offense off the field, but the bottom line is overall execution.

“If you’re going to be effective offensively, you have to both run the ball and pass the ball,” he said. “We’ll do what we do. We have some skilled kids that can make some plays, but I just want to see us execute better than what we did the first game. I think our kids will play hard, they’ve played hard all year.”

The Tornadoes are also eager to alter their infamous history against Trimble, as the Tomcats have captured the past 25 meetings — all since the series resumed in 1992.

Southern’s only win against the Athens Countians came in 1973 — a 19-8 outcome in Trimble’s first year of existence.

The Tomcats have shut out the Purple and Gold seven times, and have never allowed more than 28 points.

Still, each game is different and takes upon its own identity — and Chancey expressed optimism for his Tornadoes on Saturday night.

That is, if they execute their second chance.

“They know what we do and we know what they do, and it’s just a matter of executing and playing football. We know Trimble is a very good team and they beat us in week seven,” said Chancey. “Their kids really play hard all the time and our kids will play hard and it will be a tough, hard-fought football game. If we’re going to have a chance to beat them, we’re going to have to play better and execute better than what we did the first time. We’re going to get after it and see what happens.”

Going polling

The Tornadoes appeared in the first five weekly Associated Press statewide polls this season, book-ended by a pair of 11th-place rankings.

Southern was 14th in the second poll, followed by a ninth-place billing before a seventh-place ranking in the fourth poll.

Trimble finished 10th in the final Division VII release.

Meigs County clubs

Southern’s berth marks the fifth time a Meigs County squad has qualified for the playoffs.

The others are the Tornadoes in 2013, the Marauders in 2008, and Eastern’s back-to-back bids in 2000 and 2001.

Speaking of 2001, the Eagles lost at Trimble in the regional quarterfinal.

The Tornadoes of this season are aiming for Meigs County’s first postseason victory.

Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106

Southern’s Colton Holbrook (34) carries the ball as teammate Ike Akers (10) blocks during the Tornadoes’ Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division football game against Eastern.’s Colton Holbrook (34) carries the ball as teammate Ike Akers (10) blocks during the Tornadoes’ Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division football game against Eastern. Paul Boggs/OVP Sports

By Paul Boggs