2013 PLAYOFFS: Monroe set to face Centerburg

Monroe Central head coach Jay Circosta made the trip northwest earlier this week to Centerburg to get a feel of what the trip would be like for his team for its first-round playoff game Friday night.

And, while he said it was a long trip, in many ways, it didn’t feel that long. Kind of like his team’s season.

After an 0-2 start, Monroe Central did something the veteran coach said is sometimes hard to do in its region – make the postseason with a 7-3 record.

But, after winning seven of its final eight games, there the Seminoles are, in the playoffs for the eighth time and first time since 2012.

”Anytime you start 0-2 you want to test and challenge your kids to see what kind of character you have on your team,” Circosta, the Ohio Valley’s winningest coach, said.

The Seminoles passed the test with flying colors and will now head to Centerburg – the geographic center of the State of Ohio – for one of four Division VI, Region 21 quarterfinals on Friday night.

The contest pitting the No. 3 seed Trojans and No. 6 seed Seminoles kicks off at 7:30.

The winner will face the survivor of Friday’s Bishop Ready (2)-Oak Hill (7) game next Friday at a neutral site to be determined Sunday by the OHSAA.

While Monroe Central faced many challenges during the season, it actually started before the season for Circosta’s club.

The budget crunch in the Switzerland of Ohio School District forced officials to implement a pay-to-participate plan for sports and eliminate athletic busing.

What could have been a dire situation for the program was averted thanks to members of the community, Circosta said.

”The boosters stepped up and the football moms have stepped up,” he said. ”The support from the community has been great.”

The result? Donations have enabled the team to travel to road games as a group.

”I don’t think it’s caused any kid to not come out,” Circosta said.

He does have a smaller coaching staff, though. Dave Scheurman is the defensive coordinator, Michael Jorris oversees the offense and Josh Ischy works with both Jorris and Sherman.

”Our staff … I can’t say enough about them,” Circosta said.

The team? Circosta can’t say enough about them, either.

”A lot of teams might had folded after an 0-2 start, but our kids didn’t do that,” he said. ”We came right back and got a win.”

And another. And another.

The Seminoles nearly ran the table. Only a 32-8 loss at Magnolia prevented Monroe Central from winning out.

In it’s wins, Circosta’s club scored more than 44 points each time, with the only exception being 34 scored in a 34-12 regular-season finale against Buckeye Trail.

That gave the Seminoles another PVC title. But, in Circosta’s eyes, it didn’t give his team the springboard it needed for the playoffs.

”I told (the team) I wasn’t pleased with their performance and that’s not how you want to end your (regular) season,’ he said. ”I also told them they had a great year and now you have to play your best football against outstanding football teams.”

And Centerburg is certainly one of those teams.

A member of the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference after many seasons in the Mid-Buckeye Conference, the Trojans produced a 10-0 regular season for the first time since 1976.

This is Centerburg’s first playoff appearance since 2005. The Trojans are 4-2 in the postseason.

”In some ways, they look a lot like Bellaire,” Circosta said. ”Now, we didn’t play Bellaire, but they have good wide outs and an excellent quarterback and their running backs are very capable.

”They’re a very good football team.”

While the Trojans might not have a deep postseason tradition their coach – Jim Stoyle – is certainly battle tested.

Stoyle, in his fourth year at the Knox County school, is a former assistant at Columbus DeSales and Highland. He was part of the DeSales staff that reached the 2005 state title game and lost to Steubenville.

”I learned a lot being around Bob Jacoby at DeSales,” Stoyle, also the athletic director at Centerburg, said. ”During the course of 23 years of coaching I’ve tried to listen to each coach and see what works and what doesn’t.”

Circosta is one coach he has plenty of respect for.

”He does a great job,” Stoyle said. ”You can tell (Monroe Central) plays hard and are fundamentally sound. They have some good athletes.

”I’ve been very impressed with their quarterback and extremely impressed with their running back. He’s small, but you can’t let that size fool you.”

The move of Curtis Nixon to quarterback during the Shadyside game in week two spurred the Seminoles turnaround. For the year, the senior has thrown for 1,263 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has also rushed for 869 yards and 14 more scores.

”That’s really paid dividends for us,” Circosta noted. ”And it also paid dividends by moving Zach Jorris to wide out. He’s done a great job.”

Levi Brown, Monroe Central’s junior running back, has carried the ball 137 times for 911 yards and 17 TDs. He has 13 catches for 227 yards.

Other offensive weapons for the Seminoles include tight end Gavin Morton, fullback Mike Jones and wide outs Bryan Duffy, Jake Schuerman and Jarrett Hooper.

Monroe Central’s line consists of Colton Robinson at center, Tanner Potts and Cordell Gauding at tackles and Marshall Mozena and Justin Kilburn at guards.

”We’ll have to play good, sound defense against them,” Stoyle said. ”And defensively, they like to get after you and bring pressure. I think they are a little bit bigger than us. Overall, I think they two schools are very comparable.”

The Seminoles’ defensive front consists of Hunter Conner at middle guard, Mozena and Potts at the tackles and Gauding and Morton at the ends. Jones is the middle linebacker, while Schuerman and Chase Carothers are the outside backer. Nixon and Brown or the corners and Duffy is the safety.

Centerburg’s offense is orchestrated by senior quarterback Tyler Stoyle, son of the coach.

He’s thrown for more than 2,000 yards this season and 25 touchdowns. For his career, he has more than 5,000 yards passing.

”The key to their team is there quarterback,” Circosta said. ”He throws the ball extremely well. He’s a student of the game and manages the game really well.”

The Trojans are quite balanced offensively and play mostly seniors and juniors. Stoyle said they’ve thrown for about 2,000 yards and rushed for about 2,000.

Leading the way on the ground is senior Austin Glasscock and his nearly 1,100 yards.

”He’s not a really big kid, but he’s a nice runner so we won’t be able to just stop the pass,” Circosta said.

Juniors Jake Stewart and Jeremy Sesma are Centerburg’s top receiving threats.

Defensively, the Trojans play a 4-4. The unit as top-ranked in its conference.

Like the Seminoles, the Trojans can score. Centerburg scored 65 against Mount Gilead and 55 twice. The first time it was in a 55-54 overtime victory against rival Danville.

”That win kind of gave our kids a lot of confidence that we can be pretty good,” Stoyle said. ”From there, we continued to get better as the season rolled along.”