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Aquinas is ready for first home playoff game

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This year’s Aquinas football team has already set itself apart from the others.

Tonight, the 2011 Fighting Irish can add to their legacy.

For the first time in program history, Aquinas is home for a state playoff game as the Irish play Athens Academy at 7:30 tonight.

But there’s a chance for another first – a victory would be the program’s first state playoff triumph.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” Aquinas coach Matt LeZotte said about being home. “When we came here as a coaching staff, we arrived with open eyes and we expected to do this.”

As the No. 2 team out of Region 7-A, the Irish (7-3) secured a playoff appearance by beating Washington-Wilkes after they had close misses in recent years.

Running back/linebacker Brendan Douglas has led both the offense with his 1,375 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns as well as the defense with a team-best 120 tackles.

The junior said the team’s main goal entering the season was to make the playoffs. Now, it’s time to make a run.

Athens Academy is the first road block. Aquinas senior James Mullins said the Spartans, though small on the lines, are well-coached. In order to have success, Mullins said the lines must stay low.

Offensively, the Irish will look to Douglas and Corey Gomillion for big plays. Gomillion not only has 492 receiving yards and seven touchdown catches, but he also has two punt return touchdowns.

“His ability to take it all the way is what makes him dangerous,” LeZotte said.

The head coach said the squad has enjoyed this week but has also switched on the seriousness when needed. LeZotte added this team’s togetherness reminds him of the 2004 James Madison team – of which LeZotte was a member – that won a national championship.

Aquinas’ own playoff march starts tonight, and though the Irish are 2-9-1 against the Spartans all-time, the two haven’t met since 2001.

But senior Tyler Williamson knows the Irish should benefit from playing in a challenging region that features Lincoln County. With the tough schedule, Williamson thinks the Irish are prepared for any team.

“I think that sets us up for the playoffs,” he said.

WARREN COUNTY COACH RESPONDS TO COMMENTS

Warren County coach David Daniel had a statement sent out addressing this past Friday’s game against Aquinas that left two Irish players out for the remainder of the season after they suffered injuries.

Here is Daniel’s statement:

“It is so unfortunate that players get hurt playing the highly competitive game of football. My heart goes out to all those players that have season ending injuries. Our game with Aquinas was a hard fought and well deserved win for our team. It grieves me that some disparaging comments were made to imply that our players would intentionally hurt our opposing team players. The nature of the game is highly competitive and physical in nature. In the past we have lost key players to season ending injuries. No team is immune to those types of injuries. I can assure you that our players are coached to play by the rules and taught the proper techniques of the game.

I reviewed the game film and saw hits on both sides of the ball that all the coaches from both sides would not teach nor condone. The officials, I thought, did a remarkable job of officiating our contest. I wish the Aquinas team the best in the playoffs and those injured players a speedy and full recovery.”

Warren County Schools Superintendent Carole Jean Carey said she called Aquinas Principal Christine Paul and talked about the game, adding the two sides are “OK.” Carey said it was just a “really hard-fought game” with hard hits on both sides.

Daniel himself is recovering from the postgame incident after the Hancock Central game. Carey said Daniel has been cleared to work for four hours a day.

The case is still under investigation and both Carey and Warren County Principal Kaveous Preston have voluntarily taken lie detector tests to back up some of their allegations.

– Wayne Staats, staff writer


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