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St. Edward defeats Hilliard Bradley in state semifinals, now looks to defend state title

The Eagles will look to win their third straight OHSAA Division I state title

MANSFIELD, Ohio – One. Two. Three?

That’s the hope for St. Edward after the two-time defending Division I state champions took down Hilliard Bradley 26-3 in the Division I state semifinals at Arlin Field Friday night.

St. Edward was led offensively by sophomore running back Brandon White, who had 240 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 40 carries.

“He’s pretty good,” St. Edward head coach Tom Lombardo deadpanned when told of his running back’s numbers after the game. “I didn't realize he had 240 yards, but they were tough sledding yards.”

The 5-foot-8, 175-pound running back scored the first points of the game on a 3-yard run late in the first quarter and then made it 14-3 with a 1-yard scoring plunge late in the second quarter.

After a pair of Kellen Moyer field goals in the third quarter, White scored again from 12 yards out with 7:24 left in the game.

It is the 11th time in the last 12 games that White has led the team in rushing, the seventh time he has been over 100 yards and the third time he has been over 200.

“I became very comfortable (over the last 12 weeks),” White said. "The whole team tells me to just do what I gotta do. They believe in each other, they believe in me and they just helped me do what I did today.”

The St. Edward defense held Hilliard Bradley to 101 yards of total offense and allowed just a field goal by Jacob Walter in the second quarter.

The defense was facing an unfamiliar quarterback, as Hilliard Bradley senior Bradyn Fleharty missed the game after being injured in a regional final win last week over Upper Arlington and freshman Declan O’Neil was forced into action.

The 5-foot-11 quarterback stood in against the St. Edward pressure all night and was sacked seven times. He also completed 12 of his 24 passes for 101 yards and an interception that came on a desperation heave at the end of the first half.

But the new quarterback didn’t change the mentality of the St. Edward defense, even if the Eagles didn’t know until right before the game that they would be facing O’Neil.

“Even if we did know (earlier), we were still game planning for the same exact team,” St. Edward senior linebacker Jon Slaper said. “They got to the final four for a reason. It’s not like there's just some nobody teams (left), so we take everything not lightly.”

The Jaguars had 87 yards of offense in the second half and then just 14 yards in the second half and also were held without a single first down in the second half after picking up seven in the first half.

“I think it took a while (for us to adjust defensively),” Lombardo said. “You prepare for one system and you know, now they're empty the whole game. Luckily, we played Medina last week. (Hilliard Bradley) clearly copied a lot of what they were doing and (that was) smart on their part. I think once we got our bearings straight there, we kind of figured it out.”

Slaper led the charge defensively for the Eagles with six tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. The 6-foot, 210-pounder has fun playing in this St. Edward defense.

“I get to fly around the ball constantly,” Slaper said. “I love to be on the ball 24-7, it's so much fun. I have a blast.”

St. Edward running back Brandon White carries the ball in a game during the 2023 season. Photo credit: Jeff Harwell, SBLive Sports 

St. Edward running back Brandon White carries the ball in a game during the 2023 season. Photo credit: Jeff Harwell, SBLive Sports 

There were plenty of contributors for the Eagles on defense Friday night.

Padraig McMahon had four tackles and two sacks, Nate Gregory had six tackles and 1.5 sacks, Camrin Boone had five tackles and two tackles for loss, and Jaden Woods and Troy Regovich each chipped in with a sack.

“We've really established a base where we need to go 100% every single play,” Slaper said. “Our ability to do so is gaining each and every single game and I think just the way we fly to the ball is just so important to the structure of our defense.

“The game plan and scheme, just the way we run our fronts and blitzes that type of way, the way we have people moving in and out, it's hard to read (for a quarterback).”

St. Edward will face a familiar foe in the state championship game on Friday, Dec. 1 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton at 7:30 pm, as Springfield, the two-time defending runner-up, defeated Archbishop Moeller 26-19 in overtime in the other Division I semifinal.

The sophomore running back wants to send his older teammates out with another trophy.

“I just want to win and get them a third one because we have seniors who are leaving after this,” White said. “I just want to share this last moment with them.”

-- Ryan Isley | | @sbliveoh