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Romeo continues historic run, downs C.C. 40-29 in Division 1 regional

By: Ben Szilagy, November 13, 2015, 11:18 pm

Romeo — When you think of Romeo in the fall, you think of apple orchards and Tillson Street on Halloween. This, however, the community can think of regional championships and trips to Ford Field.

The Bulldogs added another impressive playoff victory to its resume with a dominating 40-29 victory over Detroit Catholic Central for Romeo’s first trip to the Division 1 state semifinals since 1992.

Romeo faces Grand Ledge (11-0) in the state semifinals on Nov. 21.

“These past three games…holy smokes,” Romeo co-coach Jason Couch said as he stared at a mob of fans and players after the game. “These guys have the confidence now that they can play with anybody. We’ve played against strong teams and we stood the test.

“The support we’ve received has been tremendous. Thousands of people pack the stands whether we’re home or on the road. Romeo has an opportunity going into next week, with girls volleyball and now football still playing.

“Puts us on the map a little bit more.”

Romeo (11-1) made its intentions clear early as the Bulldogs bullied Catholic Central through the first half. Senior running back Brad Tanner gashed the Shamrocks defense for on a 11-yard touchdown for a 7-0 lead with 6:23 left in the first quarter.

After Shamrock senior Alex Bock tied the game at 7-7 by returning kickoff 92 for a touchdown, Romeo’s defense shut down C.C. for the rest of the half.

“We wanted to contain their run game,” Couch said. “Our defense has been strong all year, and teams have a hard time running on us. It was more of the same tonight.”

Romeo rebuilt its lead thanks to a 13-yard pass from Paul Hurley to fellow senior Lucas Schimon for a 14-7 lead with 2:02 left in the first quarter. Defensive back Anthony Quas set up another touchdown drive in the second quarter when he picked off a pass in opponent territory.

Hurley then marched his down the field at will via a steady running game. While the Bulldogs were in the red zone, Hurley earned his second touchdown of the night when he completed a jump pass to Dom Bongiorno for a touchdown with 6:24 left in the half

“I knew I had to play well today to keep the offense going,” Hurley said. “Our offensive line gave all of us time to complete a pass when we needed it, and we attacked the edge with our runs. We couldn’t let this community down.”

C.C. (9-3) wouldn’t stay quiet for long when the offense started to find its rhythm in the second half after Romeo added another touchdown pass from Hurley to Mitch Heimbuch for a 28-7 lead,

Freshmen quarterback Austin Brown connected with Alex Bock on a 73-yard touchdown pass to cut into the lead 28-14 with 4:08 left in the third quarter.

C.C.’s special teams pinned Romeo deep in their own territory on the ensuing drive and forced a turnover when Austin Darkangelo intercepted a pass at the Romeo 13. A few plays later, senior Phil Schmitz’s 9-yard touchdown run pulled the Shamrocks to within 28-21.

“We put ourselves right back into it,” C.C. coach Tom Mach said. “But, they came right back on us, and they played a great game.”

Tanner returned the kickoff 63 yards to the C.C. 32. After a 30-yard pass put Romeo in the red zone, Bongiorno earned his second touchdown on a 4-yard run for a 34-21 lead.

Romeo’s defense stepped up on the ensuing drive and picked off another Shamrock pass setting up good field position. Hunberto Flores capped a seven-play drive with a 5-yard touchdown that put the game out of reach, 40-21, 8:44 to play in the fourth quarter.

Shamrock fullback Cam Ryan scored a 1-yard touchdown run with 2:32 left. Austin Brown completed a 2-point conversion to Tyler Laurentius to make the score 40-29.

While Romeo is in unfamiliar territory heading into the state semifinals, Hurley knows he and his teammates can make the season even more special with a win next week.

“The legacy we’re leaving means a lot to us,” he said. “This community is awesome. We know they’re behind us through thick and thin. We want to bring them a state championship.”