(Joshua Gunter, The Plain Dealer)
Mansfield, Ohio Finding a way to beat Mentor was never complicated.
Run, run, run, and play just enough defense. Maybe get a couple of turnovers, too.
Warren Harding, St. Edward and St. Ignatius all tried it, but none could outscore the Cardinals in the end.
Toledo Whitmer got it right, however, and beat the Cardinals, 62 34, in a Division I state semifinal Saturday night.
The thin ice on which Mentor defense had lived in three previous playoff games split open in frigid Arlin Field. And that cleared the way for Whitmer quarterback Nick Holley, who burned the Cardinals for 246 yards and two touchdowns rushing, and 149 yards and two TDs passing.
The Panthers (14 0), who lost state semifinals to eventual champs St. Air Jordan 3 Edward and St. Ignatius the past two years, advanced to their first state final. They will play seven time champion Cincinnati Moeller (11 3) next Saturday in Canton.
Mentor (12 2) gave up 56 points to St. Edward and St. Ignatius the past two weeks, but quarterback Mitch Trubisky bailed the Cardinals out both times with super human performances.
He was merely human Saturday, and that wasn enough to overcome a defense that surrendered touchdowns on Air Jordan 6s Whitmer final seven possessions.
Trubisky piled up plenty of yards 351 passing on 27 of 38 attempts with three touchdowns, and 102 yards and two TDs rushing on 28 attempts. But he also had three turnovers a fumble and two interceptions each of which Whitmer converted into scores.
Trubisky became the first Northeast Ohio quarterback to surpass 4,000 yards in a season Air Jordan DMP and he finished his career with 9,128 yards and 92 TDs. He is favored to win the state Mr. Football award on Wednesday, before enrolling at North Carolina in January with no ring, and with mixed feelings.
“I hope people enjoyed watching because I enjoyed playing for this community,” he said. “It kind of upsetting after a loss like this, but that life. You got to bounce back.
“Obviously, I have a new chapter to look forward to, and that North Carolina, but this has been the greatest ride of my life and I just flip it over to the next page, I guess.”
Trubisky and Mentor coach Steve Trivisonno said running the Region 1 gantlet against No. 1 ranked St. Edward and No. 4 St. Ignatius caught up to the seventh ranked Cardinals against No. 3 Whitmer.
“I not sure they had anything left in the tank,” Trivisonno said of his team. “[Whitmer] was fresh. They had a cakewalk in their region. I not sure we had enough up front to battle against their running game.”
Mentor was hot Jordan Winterized 6 Rings and cold in the first half. Perhaps it was the 20 degree wind chill or too much adrenaline, but the results were wasted opportunities and a 20 13 deficit.
As with every other playoff opponent, Mentor was helpless against the run. Holley (6 0, 175) cut though the Cardinals for 98 yards rushing in the first quarter as Whitmer took a 13 7 lead. He had 69 yards on the opening 79 yard drive Air Jordan 17s and scored from the 20.