He is often labeled as the "face of the franchise."

You could make the case that he’s the most indispensable player on the field.

If you want to have any chance of making some noise in the postseason, it begins and ends with your quarterback.

Where your field general goes, so does your football team.

Therefore, one might suggest Aurora is in very good shape for its second-round playoff matchup.

The Greenmen’s opponent, New Philadelphia, lost its starting quarterback to a devastating injury.

That particular signal caller accumulated more than 6,000 passing yards during his career. He also is planning to command the huddle for a Division I college team someday.

So how can the undermanned Quakers possibly contend with a defense that has allowed just 68 points this season?

They can’t.

Thus, Aurora has this one in the bag, right? Bring on the Elite Eight!

Bob Mihalik, on the other hand, begs to differ. The 19th-year Greenmen head coach sure is a party pooper, isn’t he?

"It will be a big challenge," Mihalik said. "They’re well-coached. They don’t make mistakes."

Perhaps the wizard of West Pioneer Trail is on to something.

New Philadelphia (10-1), the top seed in the Division III, Region 9 bracket, passed its first postseason test with a come-from-behind 31-28 victory over Chagrin Falls Township Kenston last Friday.

And the Quakers did so without their so-called alpha dog.

Thanks to three touchdown passes by senior Kobey Hoover, New Philadelphia held off the defending Division III champions. The dramatic win was particularly satisfying for Hoover.

The Quakers’ super sub had the impossible task of replacing classmate Baron May, who finished with 6,013 career yards before suffering a broken arm in a Week 10 loss to Dover.

In case you’re wondering, May, who also rushed for more than 2,600 career yards, recently made a verbal commitment to play at Eastern Michigan University.

As for his replacement? Let’s just say New Philadelphia didn’t miss a beat.

Hoover, making his first varsity start behind center, completed 11-of-19 passes for a Patrick Mahomes-like 287 yards.

Easy-peasy for the gang in green? Think again.

"Their style of play changed in how they wanted to attack," Mihalik said. "Their running game is very strong and they’re fundamentally sound. They don’t do anything fancy."

Aurora doesn’t either. Don’t say that to the Greenmen’s previous opponent, though.

Led by sophomore quarterback Alex Moore, Aurora defeated four-time state champion Steubenville 27-21 last Friday at Veterans Stadium.

The fourth-seeded Greenmen (11-0), loyal disciples of the ground-and-pound, smashmouth strategy for nearly two decades, threw Big Red for a loop with their rapidly developing aerial attack.

Moore completed 16-of-19 passes for 303 yards and a touchdown.

"Our passing game was really good," Mihalik said. "We protected pretty well. Our game plan was to take advantage of [Steubenville’s] blitzes. Our offense went exactly the way we expected it to go."

Big Red’s defense, which briefly knocked Moore out of the game, was known for crashing the Aurora backfield with reckless abandon.

The Greenmen may not see the same look against the Quakers. They may not see anything like it, as a matter of fact.

"They’re the complete opposite," Mihalik said. "They don’t blitz very often. They might be the one team that blitzes the least. Since their linebackers are so fast, they don’t have to blitz."

Aurora will gladly play this chess match with its not-to-be-taken-lightly opponent for a berth in the Region 9 title game. The highly anticipated semifinal contest is set to take place at Canton South High School’s Brechbuhler Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

As they proved in their dramatic Week 11 win, New Philadelphia’s Quakers have decided to let the chips fall where they "may." As for the "barons" dressed in green, they’re looking forward to facing a gifted backup with a possible chip on his shoulder.

Regardless of who is behind center, the Greenmen plan to avoid screaming a certain distress signal in their latest winner-take-all showdown.


"They showed last week that they have a very efficient offense — even without their Division I quarterback," Mihalik said.

Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, faceto@recordpub.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.