They can light up the scoreboard like few teams can.
They’re downright nasty when they don’t have the ball too.
Aurora football fans, meet the Quakers.
Unlike the members of the Religious Society of Friends, these Quakers won’t be preaching passages from the Bible.
They probably won’t be involved in too many "holy conversations" with the Greenmen either.
No, these particular Quakers reside in New Philadelphia. And unlike the Christian religious group that originated in the 17th century, these Quakers aren’t opposed to participating in warfare.
On the gridiron, at least.
Fourth-seeded Aurora will butt heads with top-seeded New Philadelphia in a winner-take-all showdown. The Division III, Region 9 semifinal game is scheduled to take place Friday at Canton South High School’s Clyde Brechbuhler Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
The Quakers enter Friday’s showdown with a 10-1 record. The Greenmen, on the other hand, are batting a thousand this season.
Aurora is 11-0 after earning a hard-fought 27-21 victory over four-time state champion Steubenville last Friday in its postseason opener. All told, the Greenmen have won 14 consecutive games dating back to last year.
New Philadelphia, which is competing in its 12th career postseason (11th during current head coach Matt Dennison’s 17-year tenure), has been quite formidable as well.
The Quakers’ lone loss took place in their regular-season finale when they suffered a 34-28 defeat to archrival Dover.
New Philadelphia’s superior production justifies an imposing squad that is favored to win its region. The Quakers, who earned their eighth playoff berth in the last nine years, have scored 472 points, while allowing just 155 points thus far.
Although it isn’t quite as explosive as its opponent from Tuscarawas County, Aurora has been downright ruthless on defense.
The Greenmen, who completed their first undefeated regular season since 1998, have outscored their opponents 361-68.
So what conclusion can one make about the two highly-touted juggernauts?
Try as you may.
"They play good run defense and they have a good passing game," Aurora 19th-year head coach Bob Mihalik said of the Quakers.
Well, that explains it, right?
Regardless, the matchup looks quite intriguing on paper.
New Philadelphia is led by senior quarterback Kobey Hoover, who rallied his troops to a thrilling 31-28 victory over Chagrin Falls Township Kenston the previous week.
Hoover completed 11-of-19 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns. All three of those scores took place in the second half.
Here’s another fascinating nugget about Hoover’s night: He wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place.
The Quakers’ starting quarterback, who plans to continue his football career at Eastern Michigan University, will not play another down this fall.
That young man is Baron May, who racked up more than 6,000 career yards in the air and 2,600 yards on the ground. The groundbreaking senior suffered a broken arm against Dover.
Fortunately, May’s backup proved to be quite serviceable. It didn’t hurt to have some gifted playmakers on his side too.
Senior wide receiver Jent Joseph has caught 56 passes for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. The John Stallworth to Joseph’s Lynn Swann is senior receiver Sam Zemis, who has 49 receptions for 853 yards and 11 TDs.
Zemis scored twice and fullback Austin Kohl, who caught three passes for 99 yards, found the end zone once against the Bombers. Kohl, a linebacker on defense, also has 97 tackles this fall. Junior linebacker Logan Ortt leads the team with 113 tackles and junior defensive lineman Mitchell Stokey has a team-high seven sacks.
Since May, who led the team with 775 rushing yards, is no longer a factor, New Philadelphia’s top runner is just a sophomore. His name is Reise Meechan, who has gained 588 yards and scored nine TDs this fall.
Against Kenston, it was John Sciaretti’s turn to shine. The dependable senior, who recently returned from a foot injury, led the Quakers’ rushing attack with 108 yards. In case you’re wondering, Sciaretti scored the game-winning touchdown with 21 seconds left.
So who should the Greenmen attempt to neutralize when they take the field in Canton?
Pick your poison.
"They [the Quakers] have a really good running back [Sciaretti]," Mihalik said. "They don’t feature him every time. They like to spread the ball around. Their offensive line is well-coached."
Aurora’s laborers in the trenches aren’t bad either.
The Greenmen’s line comprises seniors A.J. Barner (tight end), Tucker Nietert (guard), Alex Hawk (center), Adam Hicks (guard) and Patrick Murray (tackle) and junior Michael Sedar (tackle).
Thanks to this Pontifical Swiss Guard-like protection, Alex Moore has blossomed. The first-year sophomore quarterback has completed 110 of his 162 passes for 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Senior running back Tony Gramm leads Aurora’s ground game with 726 yards and eight TDs in 144 attempts, while junior running back Evan McVay has gained 378 yards while scoring six TDs on 79 carries. McVay also has 34 receptions for 486 yards and two more scores.
The Greenmen’s leading receiver is senior John Papesh, who has caught 35 passes for 679 yards to go along with 10 TDs.
Barner, who plans to continue his football career at Ohio University in Athens, leads Aurora’s vaunted defense with 93 tackles, including nine for a loss. The 6-foot-5 linebacker also has recovered three fumbles.
Lenny Galaska has raised his share of havoc as well. The senior defensive end has 58 tackles, including a team-leading 12 for a loss, seven sacks and a team-leading three caused fumbles.
Two other seniors also have been known to wreck the opposing team’s game plans.
Senior linebacker James Austin has a team-leading eight quarterback sacks and Papesh leads the Greenmen with four interceptions.
Oddly enough, the vaunted Aurora defense looked more vulnerable than ever in its 2019 playoff debut.
It appeared that way, at least.
"Even though we gave up 21 points last week, I thought our defense played well," Mihalik said. "They did everything they could. The game plan was to stop [Steubenville’s] run. We kept No. 6 [Tayveon Crawford, who gained more than 2,100 yards in 2019] under wraps for awhile."
It doesn’t hurt to have a decent kicker either.
First-year senior Alex Bibza, who recently concluded a stellar career as a midfielder on the Greenmen soccer team, has made the end zone his second home, thanks to his booming kickoffs.
He came through when his team really needed him too. Bibza kicked two critical field goals in his playoff debut the previous week.
"Alex has been a blessing to our football team," Mihalik said. "Our special teams was the difference in the game. Even though he didn’t get it in the end zone, his kicks were nice and high, which allowed us to cover well."
With this kind of firepower on defense and special teams, it’s no wonder the Greenmen have pitched a lot of five-inning shutouts this season.
Aurora has not allowed a single point in the first or fourth quarters, respectively, in any game this season.
The Greenmen hope this stretch of dominance continues Friday. That pursuit of excellence resumes against an opponent with a nickname resembling a Christian movement founded by George Fox.
In this case, though, the Tuscarawas River’s version of the Quakers does its business a little differently than its more spiritual namesake.
They may prefer passionate fireside chats rather than accessing "the light within."
In other words, think Woody Hayes instead of Barclays.
"The fact that we haven’t allowed a point in the first and fourth quarters is pretty cool," Mihalik said. "That tells us we’re getting off to a fast start and we’re playing well when it counts."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.