TRAVERSE CITY — The storylines between South Lyon and Traverse City Central football are pretty similar.

A small community rallying around a team seeking their first trip to Ford Field in decades, and a state-leading player at the center of it all.

No. 3 Traverse City Central takes on No. 2 South Lyon in the Division 2 semifinals in Greenville at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Neither team has been to the state finals in at least 26 years. South Lyon lost to Lapeer in its lone trip to the Class A finals in 1995. Traverse City Central last went to the finals and won in 1988 — completing a stretch of three state championships in 10 seasons.

The winner moves on to play the winner of No. 1 Warren De La Salle and Livonia Franklin in the D2 finals Nov. 26.

“My orthodontist (Dan Sarya), he was part of the last team that went to Ford Field,” senior linebacker Conrad Dobreff said. “It would be crazy. The whole community would love it. It would be a real special thing.”

South Lyon rebounded from a season that ended with a COVID-19 forfeit to North Farmington — the team TC Central mercied in the 2020 state quarterfinals. One player tested positive for the virus, rendering the team unable to play.

But the Lions came back this season with an undefeated regular season and the program’s first regional title since 2004. South Lyon beat Portage Central in overtime last Friday, 29-23.

“We’re enjoying the ride we’re on right now,” South Lyon coach Jeff Henson said. “We have a good group of kids that really enjoy being around one another. I think that’s a big reason for our success to this point.”

At the center of it all is Division 1 wide receiver Quinn Fracassi. His brother Braden is the Lions’ quarterback.

Quinn, who plays wide receiver and defensive back, has reported offers from Central Michigan and Youngstown State. Henson called him the Lions “do-it-all guy.” He finished the regular season with 46 catches for 553 receiving yards, 1,623 total yards with 15 total TDs (seven receiving, four rushing, three kick return, and one interception TD).

Senior Dakota Blackwell and junior Tommy Donovan pace the Lions backfield.

“When you prepare for a team you look at their best players, and the Fracassi brothers are their best players,” Central head coach Eric Schugars said. “We’ve been preparing for them all week and trying to simulate their speed and what they do.”

Schugars said the Lions have a unique offense in which they stretch the field sideline-to-sideline but also like to play vertically as well.

“They’re pretty quick guys,” Dobreff said. “They can cut the ball back and make you miss. We’ve got to tackle well and play our game.”

Nate Groother and Simeon Mardossian lead the Lions on defense. Blackwell has an offer from Michigan Tech at cornerback (his brother Braxton plays the same position for the Huskies). Donovan has interest from Mid-American Conference teams.

Henson said it’s easy to tell that the Trojans are a veteran team that is very good at what it does. One key is to stop Central star quarterback Josh Burnham, something no team this postseason has done.

“They are some ballers, but so are we,” TC Central senior Carson Bourdo said. “We’ll just go out there and give it our all.”

Bourdo, an all-state selection last year at safety, said it’s going to be fun trying to contain both the Fracassi brothers.

He’s been successful in matchups with Michigan’s best wide receivers before. In the Trojans’ Week One loss to DeWitt, Bourdo mostly contained the Panthers’ top receiving target in Tommy McIntosh, who’s committed to Wisconsin.

“We feel very excited that we’re backed by the community so much,” Bourdo said. “We’re excited by this opportunity to go play for Central, the guys who played before us, the guys who play after us, and the rest of town. It’s huge for us.”

Follow Andrew Rosenthal on Twitter @ByAndrewR

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