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Toledo Central Catholic takes home state title for second straight season with win over Bishop Watterson

Toledo Central Catholic won a state championship for the second straight season

CANTON, Ohio - New Division, same result for Toledo Central Catholic.

A year after winning the OHSAA Division II state championship, the Fighting Irish took home the Division III crown with a 27-7 win over Bishop Watterson on Friday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.

Central Catholic trailed 7-0 after the first quarter, but took advantage of turnovers and scored a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 14-7 lead into halftime.

Marquan Braswell scored on a 6-yard run with 8:44 left in the second after an interception by Kevin Arnold III and then Central Catholic punted with less than two minutes left and it was fumbled by Watterson, recovered by the Fighting Irish. Central Catholic paid it off with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Terry Collins, Jr. to Sharard Vaughn III.

"I believe I said (at halftime) we had a little bit of luck happen to us at the end of the first half, so let's go make some of our own luck in the second half," Dempsey said. "Sometimes to win games like this, you do have to be a little lucky and you know luck is when preparation meets opportunity. These guys were prepared to go in and take advantage and they did."

The Fighting Irish capitalized on another Watterson mistake in the third quarter when the Eagles attempted a punt after their first possession but the snap was dropped and Central Catholic tackled the punter at the Watterson 23. 

Three plays later, Braswell scored from seven yards out to make it 21-7.

"In a game like this, we have been here enough to know what you're going to get out of that opponent," Dempsey said. "And we were very fortunate to overcome some of our own mistakes and we were very fortunate to take advantage of some of their miscues and you have the difference in the game.  Three of those plays lead to three touchdowns and there you go."

It looked like Watterson had scored a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, but replay overturned the call and the Central Catholic defense responded with a sack on the next play to force a turnover on downs.

On the ensuing possession, Braswell took a carry 72 yards down to the Watterson 5. While he was frustrated he didn't score, he was satisfied with how the play helped Central Catholic ice the game when Jaylen Watson finished the scoring with a 3-yard run with 3:12 left in the game.

"I was mad that I didn't score but I was I was happy," Braswell said. "I was happy that I got the yards that I got and got my team to seal the game."

Braswell finished the game with 169 yards rushing on 22 carries.

Toledo Central Catholic football head coach Greg Dempsey smiles during the 2022 state championship game. Photo credit: Jeff Harwell, SBLive Sports

Toledo Central Catholic football head coach Greg Dempsey smiles during the 2022 state championship game. Photo credit: Jeff Harwell, SBLive Sports

The Central Catholic defense held Watterson to 139 total yards and they believe the key to stopping the Watterson offense came down to their style of play.

"Our coaches really put it on us that we're only going to go as far as the trenches go, as far as how good we get every week," Central Catholic senior lineman Marc Nave said. "And we had a chip on our shoulder every week and we hold each other accountable every week to play the best football that we can and just get better individually. 

"I always say just having that mindset every week just to dominate up front and just having that physical mentality really just prospered throughout the team."

The win was the 31st in a row for Central Catholic and finished off a perfect 16-0 season. But the total number of wins is not something the Fighting Irish focuses on.

"We keep preaching going 1-0 every week," Dempsey said. "I know it sounds corny and cliche, but that's what you do. If you focus on going 31 or whatever it is, that's not going to happen. You do have to take it one week at a time and that is part of the deal. And that was the thing we said before we left the locker room was let's go 1-0 tonight."

Despite being the defending state champion in a higher division and having the pressure to win in a lower division, Central Catholic didn't necessarily feel that pressure of listen to the outside noise.

"I'm sure there was (pressure) but I remember being the defending Division II state champion in 2012 and in 2013, we lost in the playoffs.," Dempsey said. "So I knew what we were getting into. We have faced really good football teams along the way getting everybody's best shot."