The gameplan for the Mansfield Tygers was simple: Give the ball to Terrance Flickinger.
After all, that worked in the regular season for 1,018 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground for the senior running back.
The visiting Bay Rockets were unable to stop Flickinger as he ran for 149 yards and three touchdowns Friday night in the Tygers’ 28-0 regional quarterfinal victory.
“They spread the field really well,” Bay coach Ron Rutt said. “Horizontally, vertically, they make you defend the whole field. That’s always a tough thing to do, you have to spread out your defense and make plays in space.”
Bay (7-4) opened the game with two big plays. Quarterback Logan LaMere connected with receiver Zak Crabb for 10 yards before running back Nick Buttari broke off a 25-yard run to move the Rockets into Tygers territory. Two stuffed runs and an incompletion later, the Rockets punted.
That was the opening Mansfield (10-1) needed.
The Tygers next three drives ended in touchdowns by Flickinger (5-yard, 6-yards and 2-yard), while their defense forced two three-and-outs and an interception before halftime.
“I think our coaching staff did a great job of breaking down what they like to do and where they were uncomfortable at so we knew where we could attack them defensively,” Mansfield coach Chioke Bradley said. “T-Flick’s been doing that all year. He’s over 1,000 yards rushing and we’re just glad to have him.”
Though the Rockets also attempted to establish the run game, the Tygers front-seven held Bay to 109 yards rushing, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. After the 25-yard carry to open the game, Buttari managed 24 more yards in the first half. He did not play the second half due to an injury.
“(Mansfield’s) speed was all over,” Rutt said. “Anytime we got some movement, they reacted quick and were all over the ball. I know we scored zero points but we moved the ball at times. It just stalled out a few times.
“It’s tough (to play without Buttari),” Rutt added. “Nick is great on both sides of the ball. So him not being out there in the second half hurt us. Not having him out there meant other guys had to step up or switch around some positions a little bit.”
Though he Rockets held the Tygers scoreless in the third quarter, Bay gained just 37 yards in the third. Despite being outgained 376 yards to 176, the Rockets did hold an advantage in the passing game, with LaMere completing eight of 18 passes for 84 yards, while Cameron Todd went nine of 13 for 69 yards.
LaMere threw an interception in the fourth quarter, which led to a 1-yard touchdown from Todd to Angelo Grose, boosting Mansfield’s lead to the final 28-0 score.
Cyrus Ellerbe (three catches, 54 yards) led all Tygers receivers. Three Bay receivers had two catches: Cullen Gergye (15 yards), Zak Crabb (22 yards) and Daniel Fitzgerald (30 yards).
Rutt said this season’s 17-player senior class – including LaMere (62-of-130 passing, 987 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions this season) and Joe Galati (53 carries, 332 yards and three touchdowns this season) – has been a special group to coach. He mentioned how, in August, the seniors pulled his team aside to spark motivation in practice.
“Since that time, we’ve been a different team,” Rutt said. “(The seniors’) leadership has kind of guided us to a lot of big victories this year and a playoff berth. I’m tremendously proud of that group of guys.”
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