COPLEY - Up only nine points coming out of halftime, the Ursuline Irish turned to their two-headed rushing attack.
Senior running backs Tramain Thigpen and Jermaine Williams spearheaded the Irish offense to a 28-point third quarter in Ursuline's 44-15 win over Cuyahoga Heights in the regional semifinal matchup Saturday.
"(The running attack) is a big key to our offense," Thigpen said. "Having two good running backs like this and a great line, which we have, we can't be stopped if we just play to our potential and do what the coaches tell us to (do)."
Starting on the first drive of the second half, Thigpen and Williams took over.
The Irish (8-4) used a heavy dosage of the two senior running backs, with Thigpen finishing the drive with a 26-yard touchdown run. Thigpen took a pitch, went along line and waited for a tiny hole on the sideline to go for the score.
Thigpen did it again at the 5:47 mark in the third quarter, this time on a 24-yard touchdown run. The Redskins (10-2) seemed to have Thigpen dead to rights, but the senior kept his balance and tiptoed the sideline for the score.
"That's something that our coaches teach us to never do (to quit)," Thigpen said. "They tell us to keep going no matter if something's wrong. Never quit - keep playing. And we didn't quit."
Having set up the first three touchdowns of the quarter with huge gains, Williams wouldn't be left out of the party. He busted a 58-yard touchdown run in which he was untouched with 20 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
In those 12 minutes of play alone, Williams gashed the Redskin defense for 141 yards, while Thigpen added 73 yards.
"It really don't matter when (Thigpen) scores," Williams said. "It boots me up when he scores."
Before the third quarter, Cuyahoga Heights was right in the game.
Ursuline managed to score on all four possessions in the first half, but Cuyahoga Heights had a "bend but don't break" philosophy on defense. The Redskins stalled the Ursuline offense three times in the red zone, forcing Irish kicker Vince Yurcho to connect on field goals of 30, 32 and 32 yards.
For Ursuline coach Larry Kempe, he was glad to see Yurcho connect on all three field goal opportunities.
"Last year, Vinny Yurcho probably couldn't hit the bus back there," Irish coach Larry Kempe said. "He has developed wonderfully."
On top of holding the Irish to mostly field goals, Cuyahoga Heights kept the Ursuline offense off the field, using long, methodical drives.
Junior quarterback Jordan Martin led the way. He peppered the ball to his receivers with short pass attempts, including numerous screens, and let his playmakers do damage on the outside. Martin went 11 of 19 for 111 yards through the air and added 53 yards on the ground in the first half.
Cuyahoga Heights coach Dan D'Orazio said his team played a great first half on both sides of the football.
"I was really proud of our kids in the first half," he said. "It was incredible the way we were able to hold them to a few field goals in the first half with some big defensive plays. I feel we tackled as well as we had all year."
But in the second half, Ursuline turned the tables on possession, and the defense stepped up.
On Cuyahoga Heights' first two possessions, the Irish forced a three-and-out and picked up Martin to supplement the offensive surge.
"We got to be patient," Kempe said. "The defense had to get the ball to the offense. I knew that once we got the ball, we were going to be in good shape."
The Irish move on to face Kirkland in the regional final Saturday. Kempe said that he doesn't have much information on their next opponent, but he and the team will get to work today.
"We're really happy to be in the regionals," Kempe said. "We're in the regional final next week, and every week we're playing gives us more time to work with all our boys. So, it's a plus."