For Ross to advance, it will take a great run defense. Bellbrook has rushed for 2,333 yards this season with three players recording 350 yards or more, led by Seth Borondy’s 718 yards and eight touchdowns on 103 carries. Ashton Ault adds 524 yards and seven touchdowns on 49 carries, and Jonah Atchison has 397 yards and six touchdowns on 56 rushes.
Quarterback Alex Westbrock has completed 36 of 60 passes for 784 yards and 11 touchdowns with three interceptions.
The Rams have been even better running the ball, on paper. Jackson Gifford accounts for 1,235 yards and 21 touchdowns on 135 carries, quarterback C.J. Boze adds 923 yards and 11 scores on 114 carries and Brayden Fraasman has 706 yards and nine touchdowns on 52 rushes.
Commins has confidence in his players but said they’ve been putting the ball on the ground too many times lately and been fortunate not to lose more fumbles. Ross won’t be able to do that and succeed against Bellbrook, which is equally physical on defense. The Golden Eagles have four shutouts and no one has scored more than 21 points against them.
“Their defensive line does great with their hands, the backers flow to the ball really well,” Commins said. “Their overall desire to get to the football is really strong, they get 11 hats to the ball and that’s pretty impressive. We just have to play as clean a game as possible, so no turnovers is No. 1, then knowing assignments. Bellbrook will do some good stuff to limit the triple-option attack. We just have to play as fast and hard as we can.”
Ross has been on a roll since an eye-opening loss to Badin in Week 1 and still riding the momentum of the program’s first playoff win two weeks ago against Monroe. The Rams are one of 16 teams left in Division III and Commins praises the players and staff for staying focused on what they’ve been asked to do in terms of the COVID-19 guidelines and also what they need to do in terms of preparation and on the field.
It’s also a credit to the senior leadership from players like Boze, Gifford, defensive lineman Tanner Meale (57 tackles) and Bruno DiAngelo (34 tackles, 3.0 sacks) and defensive back Casey Redemeier (46 tackles, two interceptions, one fumble recovery).
“I’m really proud of the senior class,” Commins said. “We’re very senior heavy, so to keep this thing going is a credit to them. It’s a special senior class and I’m happy for the young guys. We’re to a spot this school hasn’t been. It’s been special and I hope they live in the moment.”
Eying a rematch
A second matchup against Badin would really allow Ross a chance to show how far it has come since the opening 41-7 loss on Aug. 28. Badin plays an Alter team that started 0-2 and has won six straight since a 14-12 loss to the Rams on Sept. 4.
Badin came from behind in the fourth quarter to win the game on a Landyn Vidourek touchdown pass to Lucas Moore with less than four minutes left.
Alter is led by quarterback Brian Shane, who ran for 104 yards in the first matchup, and Brandon McDonald, who has rushed for 1,373 yards and 19 touchdowns but was held to 64 yards against Badin in the first meeting.
West seeks state semifinal
Lakota West has only once before (2014) been among the final eight teams in Division I. The Firebirds can reach the state semifinals for the first time with a win over St. Xavier on Friday.
The Bombers' only two losses came against quality competition from Indiana.
West coach Tom Bolden won the last game he coached against St. Xavier when he was in his last season at Colerain. Colerain beat the Bombers 35-9 en route to a Division I runner-up finish in 2018. The Firebirds made the playoffs for the first time since 2014 in Bolden’s first season at West last year but lost in the first round.
West and St. Xavier scrimmaged on Aug. 21.