Led by quarterback, Tipp believes it has the stuff of champs

In state semifinals for first time, Red Devils play Bloom-Carroll tonight

TIPP CITY – Matt Burgbacher addressed his Tippecanoe football team at the end of practice and explained that he receives an inspirational message on his phone every day. Wednesday’s message: Don’t stop believing.

Liam Poronsky has always believed.

Poronsky, the team’s senior quarterback, never worried that 19 starters graduated off last year’s team. He didn’t care that he was the only returning starter on offense. He didn’t care that senior middle linebacker Josh Dietz was the only returning starter on defense. And he doesn’t care if he never has to answer another question about it.

“At this point, who cares who we brought back from last year,” he said. “We’re a whole new team. We’re 25 weeks into it.”

And this week the Red Devils (13-1) play in a game they’ve never played in before: a state semifinal. Tipp tangles with Carroll Bloom-Carroll (13-1) at 7 p.m. Friday at London High School for a place in the Division III final Dec. 3 in Canton.

“We know why we’re here,” Poronsky said. “It’s our preparation and believing in our game plan.”

Preparation began last winter. That’s when Poronsky started to believe the journey of this year’s team did not have to be defined by its lack of experience.

“This dude said every day we’re going to go make a playoff run, get to state,” Dietz said. “I’m not even exaggerating – he’d say it every day. I thought he was nuts. I’m not gonna lie.”

Poronsky and Dietz typed potential lineups on their phones and compared notes about who they thought could be starters and playmakers. A big get was convincing basketball star Stanley Clyne to return to football for the first time since his freshman season. He is one of Tipp’s top receivers along with junior Evan Liette.

When preseason camp began, the belief got stronger. Poronsky and Dietz began to see the potential as a real thing and not just a hopeful list.

Tipp opened the season at home against Bellbrook, a team it lost to twice in 2021′s 10-3 season. Bellbrook beat the Red Devils 24-14 in the season opener and 38-7 in the playoffs. This year Tipp beat Bellbrook 14-10 on Poronsky’s 35-yard late-game touchdown pass to Liette.

“After that Bellbrook game I knew we were going to be really good,” Dietz said.

Confidence continued to grow even in a 27-22 Week 6 loss at Xenia. Tipp rallied from a 20-0 deficit to lead 22-20 before Xenia scored at the end. Two weeks later they beat Piqua for the first time since 2015.

“We started to really believe then that we are this good even in a loss,” Poronsky said. “And that was good for us and propelled us to win over Piqua, and we learned how to play in tight games.”

The experience factor, of course, favors Bloom-Carroll. The Bulldogs are playing in their third straight semifinal but still looking for a victory. Last year they lost to eventual champion Clinton-Massie 24-21 in Division IV. In 2020, they lost to Mentor Lake Catholic 17-10 in Division IV.

“They haven’t seen the team like us on all three phases,” Dietz said. “Everyone knows their role and does it well.”

Division V: Valley View (13-1) is back at state for the first time since 2002. The Spartans are trying to win their first title since 1997 when they won a second straight and third in four years.

The Spartans face Ironton (14-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at Cincinnati Princeton. The title game is Dec. 2 in Canton.

Division VI: Marion Local (14-0) owns a 30-game winning streak and is playing for a second straight state title and 13th overall. They set the state record last year for most championships by winning the Division VII title. The Flyers face Columbus Grove (12-2) at Lima Spartan Stadium at 7 p.m. Saturday.

The Flyers have 10 shutouts this season and allowed a high of 16 points to New Bremen. They’ve allowed only three points in the playoffs.

Division VII: New Bremen is trying to win it’s second title in three years. The Cardinals (11-3) face Lima Central Catholic (10-4) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Wapakoneta.

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