NOVI — So they meet again.
For the second straight year, perennial state powers Novi Detroit Catholic Central and Rockford will clash once again in the Division 1 state semifinals on Saturday afternoon.
Last season the Shamrocks topped Rockford 23-20 in an overtime thriller to advance to the Division 1 state title game against Cass Tech.
This year, the Shamrocks know Rockford will be out for revenge, but Catholic Central head coach Tom Mach are focusing on things that they can control.
“I don’t worry about that at all,” said Mach. “Our emphasis is always working on the next game and winning the state championship and winning the next game. What took place a year ago or two years ago, I’m not a believer that that helps you much. I think it’s your will to win and what you want to do in a positive way for the next game.”
Catholic Central has been one of the state’s hottest teams since the playoffs started, thanks in large part to its defense, which has limited its last three opponents to 17 points or less.
Senior linebacker Brandon Malinowski said that he and the Catholic Central defense were out to make a bit of a statement, while also getting some revenge of their own in last week’s 28-7 win over Plymouth.
“It feels good,” he said. “We wanted to send a message coming into this game, especially since it was Plymouth and they beat us in 2010 and we wanted to bring the hammer, so we did.”
The three wins that Catholic Central has picked up to start the playoffs have come over three high-powered offenses (Hartland, Walled Lake Northern and Plymouth), who have scored more than 40 points a combined 17 times this season. But the Shamrocks have allowed just 39 total points against the three opponents.
The Shamrocks will once again be facing another capable offense in the semifinals as Rockford averaged almost 30 points per game in its 12 games so far this season.
The top task for the Shamrock defense on Saturday will be to limit Rockford quarterback Kyle Short, who has three touchdown passes in the postseason, including a 98-yard score against Clarkston last week, and has totaled nearly 700 total yards in Rockford’s three playoff games.
Mach noted that his team has continued to play better defense throughout the postseason, and will have to do more of the same to slow down Rockford on Saturday.
“I think they’ve really stepped it up, especially since the playoffs started,” he said. “They’ve done a great job of getting to the football and shutting down opponents’ offenses and I think our defensive coordinator Dan Anderson has done a great job with them, as far as preparing them for what they’re going to see in the game coming up.”
Catholic Central will also look to slow down Scott Kaule, who rushed for nearly 100 yards on Saturday as he helped lead the Rockford rushing attack.
The Shamrock rushing attack has paced the Catholic Central offense through the first three playoff games. Senior Anthony Darkangelo, who has rushed for just over 350 yards, has helped lead the playoff push.
Darkangelo noted that there are quite a few similarities between the Shamrocks and Rockford, and added that he expects another tough challenge in order to get back to Ford Field for a second straight year.
“They’re a tough team just like us,” he said. “They like to run the ball, so it’s going to be a tough game for 48 minutes.”