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Poland has tough task against St. Vincent-St. Mary

November 15, 2013
By MATT WAGNER - Tribune Chronicle (mwagner@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

When Poland coach Mark Brungard saw that St. Vincent-St. Mary was still in Division III, Region 7, he realized there would be no way for the Bulldogs to avoid the Irish come playoff time should the Bulldogs advance far enough.

In a regional semifinal game at Ravenna High School tonight, the Bulldogs will meet the Irish, who are the defending Division III state champions and are currently undefeated in 2013. Riding a 17-game winning streak, the last SV-SM (11-0) loss came on Oct. 19, 2012, against Massillon Washington.

Brungard said the Bulldogs (10-1) understand tonight's game is a tough matchup, but he and his players are ready to go up against the Irish.

Article Photos

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Poland’s Ross Gould and the Bulldogs face defending state champion St. Vincent-St. Mary in a Division III, Region 7 semifinal tonight at Ravenna Stadium.

"If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best, as they say," Brungard said. "We're excited to have an opportunity. It is going to be a great challenge for us."

Toward the top of Poland's priority list tonight is finding a way to slow down SV-SM star Paris Campbell, who has averaged 9.8 yards per carry and accrued 1,048 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground. Brungard described Campbell as a fast, agile runner who cuts back away from the point of attack when necessary to dash for huge gains. The senior's ability has led him to Ohio State, where he has already committed to play next fall.

Against a back like Campbell, Brungard said it will be important to stay disciplined on defense.

"I think it's important against fast kids like him to not only just be good at the point (of attack), but you have to be good in your pursuit angles backside because he's had several runs where he cuts it back, where the defense overpursue," Brungard said. "You have got to be disciplined backside when the play's away from you, not to overpursue because you're probably not going to catch him anyway. You just need to wait for him to cut back."

Although Campbell and the Irish offense get most of the hype, Brungard said the SV-SM defense is probably the team's best unit.

The Irish have recorded 13.5 sacks, stopped 73 plays for a loss and forced 17 interceptions this season. With all the pressure SV-SM put on opposing teams' quarterbacks, Brungard said protecting junior Dom Petrony, who took over for starter Jacob Wolfe after he suffered a broken hand Week 8 against Hubbard, will be a priority.

This includes establishing a running game with Ross Gould (1,275 yards and 12 touchdowns during the regular season) and creating third-and-short situations, which are some of the best ways to do that, he said.

"They get after the quarterback pretty well with the rush, and then they force some quick throws, some bad throws," Brungard said. "They've had several defensive scores. We have to really be patient and try to establish a running game and get in third-and-manageable downs, where we can run or throw.

"That's the ideal game plan for us - find a way to move the chains and stay on the field."

Although it's a tall order to overcome the AP No. 1 Irish, Brungard and the Bulldogs go into tonight's game believing the upset is possible.

"We know if we win, it's an upset, but upsets do occur because teams work hard, they prepare, they play hard and they catch some breaks and take advantage of them," Brungard said. "We believe that we can do that (tonight)."