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FOOTBALL: Shamrocks bottle up Pioneer, advance to semifinals

NOVI — Playing with poise, persistence and passion, Novi Detroit Catholic Central defeated Ann Arbor Pioneer 21-0 on Saturday afternoon in a Division 1 regional final.

It wasn’t that close.

The host Shamrocks jumped on top early and crushed their opponents in every facet of the game.

Catholic Central (11-1) didn’t allow Pioneer (9-3) past the 50-yard line the entire contest and held the state’s leading rusher, the Pioneers’ Drake Johnson (2,800 yards and 38 touchdowns), to a paltry 48 yards on 16 carries.

“Our defense did an excellent job today,” said longtime Shamrocks head coach Tom Mach following the victory. “We knew we were going to have to stop Johnson from doing what he normally does and we did a great job of doing that. If we keep playing our brand of football, which we’ve been doing since the playoffs started, we’ll be okay going forward.”

Part of the reason Johnson, who came up 86 yards short of eclipsing the state’s all-time single-season rushing record, had a tough time getting going against Catholic Central was the fact that his team barely had the ball. Johnson and the Pioneers possessed the ball for only 3:02 in the first half and less than 10 minutes in the second half.

“We took their heart when we bottled up Drake,” Shamrocks’ all-state defensive lineman Matt Godin said. “You could see it in their eyes. They didn’t know what to do when their No. 1 option was taken away. By the second quarter, they were reeling big time.”

Godin (10 tackles) and Johnson will be teammates in college next year at the University of Michigan.

Next up for Catholic Central is a state semifinal showdown with Rockford on a neutral-site field. Mach has now led the Shamrocks to five appearances in the final four in the last decade.

The tailback tandem of sophomore Zach Bock and junior Anthony Darkangelo highlighted Catholic Central’s offensive assault Saturday. Bock carried the ball 13 times for a game-high 83 yards and the opening touchdown of the game, a 4-yard dart into the end zone that placed the Shamrocks in front 7-0 after their first possession.

Darkangelo ran for 70 yards on 12 carries, including a pair of touchdowns. His 9-yard score to start the third quarter made it 21-0.

“We did what we were supposed to do, we survived and advanced” Darkangelo said. “I’m just excited about moving on.”

Back in October, Catholic Central won the rough and rugged Catholic League for the second time in three seasons. The program captured its 17th regional title on Saturday and is search of its 12th state championship all-time. Last year, the Shamrocks fell to Plymouth 9-7 in the regional finals.

A reserve on the school’s 2009 state title team, Godin wants nothing more but to raise another banner.

“The only thing on my mind right now is to make it back to Ford Field and end my career with a win.”



Last Updated: 11/13/2011 1:56:57 PM EST

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