Cimino triggers big-play Andrean offense
MERRILLVILLE -- For Joe Cimino, the past is the past.
He's just thankful for the series of events that brought him to Andrean.
"Quarterback has always been my thing. I just haven't necessarily had the opportunities that I wanted," Cimino said after his 228 yards passing and four touchdowns helped the 59ers carve up New Prairie 42-14 on Friday at Father Eckert Stadium. "When we made the move out here, they gave me the opportunity and I've made the most of it. I'd like to say we're headed in the right direction. It's working out pretty well."
The last two years, Cimino was playing receiver at Marian Central Catholic in Woodstock, Illinois. He declined to comment on not liking how he was used, but he didn't have to say the words. In the spring, his dad was promoted to store manager at Costco in Merrillville, so he and his family began looking for a new school. By coincidence, Cimino trained at Throw It Deep Quarterback & Receiver Training Academy in Chicago, where he worked out with Zack Merrill, a former 59ers signal-caller who walked on at IU.
"When I found out we were moving to the area, I was like, oh, Zack used to live in this area, let me check where he went to school," Cimino said. "I really found out about Andrean three, four years ago, I just never thought we would be moving to the area. The guys have made the move really easy. They're all great kids."
The slender 6-foot-2 right-hander has a wealth of weapons at his disposal and used them all against the overwhelmed Cougars, completing 15 of 20 passes to six targets. Wide out Nicky Flesher made the big plays, with three catches for 86 yards, while slot Alonzo Paul and tight end Dominic DiTola were the touchdown makers, snagging two apiece. Running back Ryan Walsh also took a screen pass 48 yards.
Joe Cimino Ryan Walsh
"It all works together on offense," Andrean coach Chris Skinner said. "We have some good skilled players on the outside, obviously No. 8 (Walsh) is effective running the ball. He's not going to tire. Once you give him a crease, he's going to keep going. We wanted to put them in a position where they had to choose what they wanted to take away, Nicky on the outside, Zo from the slot, or load the box on the run game. I thought the coaches did a great job recognizing what they were giving us and putting guys in a position to execute, and credit to players for executing. We wanted to utilize our athletes, put them in space and let them make plays. We put a lot of responsibility on the quarterback and Joe made good reads."
Flesher broke loose for a 32-yard catch and run on Andrean's first snap and snagged a deep ball for 34 yards down the sideline a few plays later. Cimino and Paul synced up on an 8-yard score with the QB delivering the ball before Paul had come out of his route. He connected with DiTola on the same red zone play from four and 10 yards, and his 17-yarder to a wide open Paul in the final seconds of the half may have been the knockout punch, putting Andrean up 28-0.
"We wanted to come out and make a statement," Cimino said. "It makes my job really easy when we have someone like Ryan. They want to stack the box because of him and the kid's deadly if you don't do it. The wide receivers got open, I just put the ball where it needed to be. It was all them. We spend a lot of time, even after practice, 45 minutes working on timing, and it really showed with the different timing routes, the comeback, the outs. We work hard on stuff like that. The receivers make it easy on me. They go to coach or come to me, and tell us what they see, and they're right 100 percent of the time. A shout-out to the line, too, they're the unsung heroes. I just did my part."
Walsh made the most of eight touches, amassing 165 total yards. In addition to the screen pass, he raced 43 yards down the sideline to make it 14-0 at 2:14 of the first quarter and dashed 71 yards up the gut for the final 59ers score in the last minute of the third.
"They beat us last year, but we felt like we made some mistakes," said Walsh, carrying the team's MVP belt. "We had them at home on senior night, we wanted it. We knew we were better than what we did last year. The coaches did a great job all week making sure to put us in the right positions. Everybody executed great on both sides of the ball. I don't do anything without (the line). (Cimino)'s good. If they load the box, he can throw the ball. It opens up the box when he starts tearing it up. It works hand in hand. He's really easy to talk to. He's a great guy all around. It's really worked out."
Walsh, impressive sophomore Drayk Bowen and Eddie Bastardo were a wrecking crew at linebacker, spending as much time in the New Prairie backfield as the Cougars. Walsh and Bowen sacked Cougars QB Ian Skornog on back-to-back plays late in the first half.
"The D line stepped up and made some plays," Walsh said. "They got to their targets, which opened up lanes for the linebackers, which is where it all started."
Andrean continually brought heavy pressure, leaving Skornog little to no time.
"We've been really stressing with these guys about playing hard and playing fast," Skinner said. "I've got to give credit to the defensive coaches. They came up with a really good game plan. We wanted to utilize our speed, our athleticism, and that showed. It always feels good when you execute the game plan. The guys came out and played with a chip on their shoulder. The guys are starting to understand that when you play hard, fast and physical, you can make up for mistakes. If 11 guys are flying to the ball relentlessly, that's hard."
New Prairie (2-1) wanted to establish a power running game behind its massive offensive line but Andrean's aggressiveness never let the Cougars create a methodical pace.
"They're big up front and the tailback is a good player," Skinner said. "If you get into that kind of grind with them, they can wear you down. We didn't want to do that. We knew the importance of getting some stops, some three and outs, some turnovers. We dictated the game and luckily they didn't get into that type of game. I think it helps when you scrimmage Valpo, you play Merrillville, you play Lake Central. You learn that you have to play that way, I think, especially defensively."
The 59ers (2-1) smothered New Prairie until sophomore Noah Mangia exploded for scoring runs of 54 and 93 yards after Andrean's 35-0 led initiated a running clock midway through the third quarter.
"Their speed was a little too much for us," Cougars coach Casey McKim said. "We have to do a better job of getting ready for that during the week. We had a kid hurt late in the week and we made a switch in secondary. That caused some issues in terms of communication, but that's not an excuse. We have to have guys ready to go."
The big deficit also limited a New Prairie attack that can't lean heavily on throwing the ball. When he wasn't scrambling to elude pressure. Skornog completed 4-of-9 passes for 46 yards. Nine penalties kept the Cougars consistently behind the chains.
"You can't have mistakes like that," McKim said. "We didn't execute the way we needed to. The big thing is using our technique, what we've been taught.It made things difficult, and we weren't able to overcome it."
Mungia finished with 231 yards on 30 carries though Andrean largely kept him in check while the game was competitive.
"Any time you lose by that much, it's a rude awakening," McKim said. "We'll see how we respond, if we're going to fall apart or work to come together."
Andrean 42, New Prairie 14
New Prairie 0 0 7 7 -- 14
Andrean 14 14 14 0 -- 42
A -- Alonzo Paul 8 pass from Joe Cimino (Evan Hartman kick), 6:05
A -- Ryan Walsh 43 run (Hartman kick), 2:14
A -- Dominic DiTola 4 pass from Cimino (Hartman kick), 1:17
A -- Paul 17 pass from Cimino (Hartman kick), 0:21
A -- DiTola 10 pass from Cimino (Hartman kick), 5:42
NP -- Noah Mungia 54 run (Trenton Chalik kick), 2:56
A -- Walsh 71 run (Hartman kick), 0:38
NP -- Mungia 93 run (Chalik kick)
First Downs: New Prairie 13, Andrean 11
Rushes-Yards: New Prairie 41-258, Andrean 16-105
Passing: New Prairie 4-9-0, Andrean 15-21-0
Passing Yards: New Prairie 46, Andrean 228
Total Yards: New Prairie 304, Andrean 333
Penalties-Yards: New Prairie 9-83, Andrean 5-50
Fumbles-Lost: New Prairie 2-1, Andrean 2-1
Punts-Avg.: New Prairie 4-37.3, Andrean 2-36.0
Rushing: New Prairie, Mungia 30-231, Skornog 9-27, Dallas Ryans 2-0; Andrean, Walsh 7-117, Cimino 6-(-5), Evan Gilligan 2-(-7).
Passing: New Prairie, Skornog, 4-9-0-46, Andrean, Cimino 15-20-0-228, Gilligan 0-1-0-0.
Receiving: New Prairie, Zane Gazarkiewicz 3-22, Thomas Sanders 1-24; Andrean, Nicky Flesher 3-86, Paul 6-64, DiTola 2-14, Cam Thornton 1-24, Patrick Clacks III 2-(-2).
Records: Andrean 2-1, New Prairie 2-1.