By: Ed Dick
WADSWORTH, OH – The lights peeked over the houses on the right-hand side of the street approaching the parking lot. Art Wright Stadium was alive, ready for a Division 2 Region 6 quarterfinal contest between the visiting, seventh-seeded Sylvania Northview Wildcats (8-2 overall, 5-2 Northern Lakes Conference) and the undefeated champions of the Suburban League National Division, host and second-seeded Wadsworth Grizzlies. The second season of high school football kicked off at 7:30pm with Wadsworth’s Ryan Larj teeing the ball up at the 40-yard line. Sylvania Northview returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2005 and wasted no time making their presence felt.
The Wildcats took the opening kickoff and proceeded to march 70 yards in 4 plays for a quick 7-0 lead on a 50 yard TD run by RB Dane Hullibarger. Wadsworth went backwards on their first drive, punting from their own 5 yard line. Senior QB Brandon Leach took over at the Wadsworth 35, hitting WR Ryan Rempe for an 18 yard completion to the Wadsworth 16. Four plays later, Hullibarger plunged into the end zone from 2 yards out and a 14-0 lead with 4:26 left in the first quarter. Aided by a penalty and an errant kickoff, the Grizzlies got the ball on the Wildcat 49. Five plays later, QB Joey Baughman found WR Mitchell Blackburn for a beautiful TD pass from 27 yards out, cutting the lead to 14-7. The Grizzlies were able to hold the Wildcat offense, led by a 9 yard sack of Leach by DL Joey Fernholz. Baughman started the next drive at his own 34 yard line and went 66 yards in less than a minute, hitting Blackburn on a perfectly blocked screen pass for a 39 yard TD. The first quarter ended in a 14-14 tie.
Sylvania Northview continued to play from ahead, as Hullibarger rushed for his third TD from one yard out. His TD was set up by a diving catch at the 1 by Rempe from Leach. The Grizzlies answered back, utilizing a quick passing game en route to a 1 yard TD run by RB Brock Snowball. Hullibarger countered with a 3 yard TD run, his fourth of the game. A botched PAT snap led to K Luke Pawlak reversing fields to evade tacklers and finding Alex Sample for an improvised two-point conversion and a 29-21 lead. Undaunted, the Grizzlies began to unleash their rushing attack behind Baughman and Snowball. Baughman hit Blackburn for his third TD of the game from 6 yards out, then went right back to him for the two-point conversion and a 29-29 tie with 48 seconds left in the half. The Wildcats had a first down at Wadsworth’s 41 yard line and two timeouts left. Coach Doug Downing elected to go into the half tied with the undefeated Grizzlies instead of attempting to get into range for Pawlak.
The Wildcats were able to answer the bell in the third quarter after a couple of more Wadsworth haymakers, specifically Baughman’s 63 yard TD run to start the second half. Leach calmly led Northview on a 75 play drive, completing 4 passes for 89 yards, culminating in a 13 yard TD pass to WR Camden Corron. However, Pawlak’s extra point attempt was blocked and the Wildcats trailed 36-35. The Grizzlies kept the ball on the ground for seven of ten plays on their next scoring drive as Snowball found the end zone from 11 yards out and a 43-35 lead. The Wildcats clawed back behind Leach’s 10 yard TD pass to Rempe over a Wadsworth defender. The drive was aided by an unnecessary roughness penalty via helmet-to-helmet contact between Snowball and WR Jarrett Batanian. Pawlak’s extra point was true, and the Wildcats cut the lead to 43-42. The score remained going into the decisive fourth quarter.
The Grizzlies started to find their groove with the rushing game in the third quarter. Save for a 12 yard TD pass from Baughman to Blackburn to start the fourth quarter, their fourth TD connection of the night, the Grizzlies were able to wear down the Wildcats with the run game on the offense and a relentless defense. The Wildcats, sensing they could not keep the Grizzlies out of the end zone, bypassed punting on their next three possessions. Unfortunately, the Wildcats were right as Brock Snowball rushed for a one yard TD after the first turnover on downs, and Baughman completed an 11 yard TD pass to Blackburn after their second, and the game was blown open at 61-42. Blackburn’s knockdown of a Leach pass attempt to Rempe ended one of those drives, showing how versatile his skills are. Leach’s final attempt at a comeback was thwarted by Wadsworth’s defense with just over two minutes left in the game. Wadsworth successfully ran out the clock for a 61-42 victory over a worthy Sylvania Northview team.
Sylvania was able to hang offensively for the first three quarters. QB Brandon Leach, all 6 feet 7 inches of him, completed 26 of 32 passes for 338 yards and 2 TDs. WR Ryan Rempe caught 10 of those passes for 144 yards and a TD and Camden Corron caught 7 passes for 78 yards and a TD. RB Dane Hullibarger rushed 17 times for 117 yards and 4 TDs. The Grizzlies had a little more in the tank led by All-Ohio QB Joey Baughman. He completed 22 of 28 passes for 229 yards, 5 TDs and a two-point conversion and rushed 14 times for 191 yards and 1 TD. WR Mitchell Blackburn caught 13 passes for 130 yards and 5 TDs and a two-point conversion. RB Brock Snowball rushed 14 times for 123 yards and 3 TDs.
Sylvania Northview ends their season at 9-2. They brought a physical offensive and defensive line and were successful for three quarters. The Wildcats acquitted themselves very well and their lively fan base had plenty to cheer about. However, it’s the resilient Wadsworth team that moves on, now at 11-0. The Grizzlies will take on #3 seed Olmsted Falls next Friday night at a neutral site.
|Division 2 Region 6 Quarterfinals||1||2||3||4||Final|
|#7 Sylvania Northview||14||15||13||0||42|
|SN – Dane Hullibarger 50 run (Luke Pawlak kick)|
|SN – Hullibarger 2 run (Pawlak kick)|
|W- Joey Baughman 27 pass to Mitchell Blackburn (Ryan Larj kick)|
|W- Baughman 39 pass to Blackburn (Larj kick)|
|SN – Hullibarger 1 run (Pawlak kick)|
|W- Brock Snowball 1 run (Larj kick)|
|SN – Hullibarger 3 run (Pawlak pass to Alex Sample)|
|W- Baughman 6 pass to Blackburn (Baughman pass to Blackburn)|
|W- Baughman 63 run (Larj kick)|
|SN – Brandon Leach 13 pass to Camden Corron (kick blocked)|
|W- Snowball 14 run (Larj kick)|
|SN – Brandon Leach 10 pass to Ryan Rempe (Pawlak kick)|
|W- Baughman 12 pass to Blackburn (kick failed)|
|W- Brock Snowball 1 run (kick blocked)|
|W- Baughman 11 pass to Blackburn (conversion failed)|