By: Ed Dick
Brunswick, Ohio – The frigid air took twelve weeks to introduce itself to the high school football season in Northeast Ohio. Visible breaths emanating through helmets, parents bundled up in the stands, and plenty of hot chocolate going around for this Division 2 Region 6 semifinal contest between the #3 Olmsted Falls Bulldogs and the #2 Wadsworth Grizzlies. Wadsworth was attempting to set a school record for victories in a season, while Olmsted Falls wanted a potential rematch to avenge their only loss against #1 Avon.
Wadsworth’s offense hummed all season long behind the arm and legs of QB Joey Baughman. Three plays into the game, Olmsted Falls DB Tyler Broski tipped a Baughman pass into the waiting arms of LB Brian Eiseman. Eiseman returned the interception to the Wadsworth 27 yard line just 39 seconds into the game. The Bulldogs, utilizing their patented triple-option offense, drove to the Grizzlies 8 yard line. On fourth and two, head coach Tom Deluca eschewed a 25 yard field goal attempt and was promptly turned away by the Wadsworth defense. Baughman got the Grizzlies out of trouble with a 30 yard run, but the Bulldogs were able to force a punt and got the ball back at their own 23. Olmsted Falls took all of five plays covering 77 yards to take a 7-0 lead, capped off by runs of 38 and 11 yards by RB Jack Spellacy with 3:39 left in the first quarter. Undeterred, Wadsworth countered with a three play, 58 yard drive ending in a 5 yard Baughman TD run to tie the game up at 7-7 less than a minute later.
The Bulldogs embarked on an eight play drive ending in a Luke Lombardo fumble at the Grizzly 3 yard-line, recovered by Wadsworth’s Clay Wagner. Both defenses stonewalled each other’s potent offenses. Wadsworth drove 66 yards to the Bulldogs 10 yard line with just three seconds left in the first half. Ryan Larj came on to attempt a 27 yard field goal. As the ball was snapped, the play was whistled dead as Wadsworth had a false start. Larj had successfully split the uprights on the attempt, but faced a 32 yard attempt after the penalty was walked off. Larj’s second attempt fell just short and the Bulldogs went into halftime tied 7-7 with the undefeated champions of the Suburban League National Division.
Wadsworth forced a three and out to start the second half. Three plays later, Baughman found WR Jack Simmons at the Bulldog 3 yard line. As Simmons was fighting for the end zone, DB Michael Howard forced a fumble recovered by DB Richie Nock, thwarting the drive. Olmsted Falls continued to run the ball, getting out of Wadsworth territory before they were forced to punt. The Grizzlies took over on their own 8 yard line. Brock Snowball put the ball on the ground, and Brett Eiseman recorded his second turnover of the game, recovering the fumble. Wadsworth’s defense was up to the task, as FS Brett Randolph fended off two end zone passes from QB Teddy Grendzynski to WR Braden Galaska on third and fourth downs to stop the Bulldogs with just over four minutes left in the third quarter. From the press box, Galaska appeared to have successfully completed his catch in the end zone, but was ruled out of bounds by the officials. Wadsworth drove 92 yards in 9 plays, aided by a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty, and ended in a familiar combination of Baughman to WR Mitchell Blackburn for a 22 yard TD. Ryan Larj’s extra point was good and the Grizzlies held a 14-7 lead.
On their next drive, the Bulldogs completed two timely passes, converting both a 3rd and 7 via a 25 yard pass from Grenzynski to WR Josh Jaeckin and a 4th and 4 on Grendzynski’s 26 yard pass to Nock, taking the Bulldogs to the one yard line. Grendzynski called his own number from one yard out for the touchdown and after Jake Politowski’s extra point, this game was tied at 14 with 9:47 left in the game. After taking possesion at their own 30 yard line, two plays later, Baughman deftly navigated through would-be tacklers and found the end zone for a 70 yard TD run. On the extra point attempt, the long snap bounced to Baughman and Larj’s extra point attempt was blocked. Wadsworth led 20-14 with just over 9 minutes left.
Wadsworth’s defense bent but did not break over the course of the first three quarters, even with the loss of NT Cole Lamp. However, the Bulldogs were able to slowly wear down the Grizzlies up front. The Bulldogs completed just one pass on the ensuing drive, getting to the Wadsworth 16 yard line. Facing a 4th and 3, Grenzynski tossed a jump ball up to Nock in the end zone. The ball fell incomplete, but Blackburn was called for pass interference. With new life, Luke Lombardo bullied his way into the end zone to tie the game at 20 with 3:28 left in the game. Politowski’s extra point sailed through the uprights and the Bulldogs held a 21-20 lead over the undefeated Grizzlies.
With their backs against the wall for the first time all season, Wadsworth took over on their own 35 yard line. Baughman called his own number on three straight runs, gaining 7 yards and setting up the play of the season. On 4th and 3, Baughman found a familiar face in Blackburn with enough for the first down. Unfortunately, Blackburn could not get his feet in bounds as he was pushed to the sidelines and the Grizzlies turned the ball over with just under 2 minutes left in the game. The Bulldogs forced Wadsworth to expend their timeouts and ground out a first down. Olmsted Falls was able to go into victory formation, pulling off the 21-20 upset of the Wadsworth Grizzlies, and advancing to the Division 2 Region 6 finals.
The Bulldogs successfully executed their game plan of keeping the potent Wadsworth off of the field, rushing 61 times over the course of the game. Wadsworth ran just 6 offensive plays in the fourth quarter. This was compounded with Wadsworth’s mistakes, including dropped passes, untimely penalties, and the missed extra point. QB Joey Baughman ends his illustrious career completing 16 of 29 passes for 243 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception. He was the game’s leading rusher with 19 carries for 172 yards and 2 TDs. WR Mitchell Blackburn did his best to make up for missing WR Christian Szalay, catching 9 passes for 159 yards and a TD. Wadsworth’s season ends with an 11-1 record, tying the single season records for wins.
Olmsted Falls two headed monster of RBs Jack Spellacy and Luke Lombardo, coupled with excellent decision making by QB Teddy Grendzynski, each produced a TD. Spellacy rushed 17 times for 102 yards and a TD while Lombardo rushed 27 times for 91 yards and a TD, his 21st of the season. Credit the Bulldogs defense for containing Baughman and forcing three turnovers, mostly by keeping their linebackers in overage and spying Baughman to limit the frequency of big plays. With the win, Olmsted Falls improves to 11-1 overall and will face off against #1 Avon in a rematch of their Week 2 battle, a 31-7 victory by Avon.
|Division 2 Region 6 Semifinals||1||2||3||4||Final|
|#3 Olmsted Falls||7||0||0||14||21|
|OF – Jack Spellacy 11 run (Jake Politowski kick)|
|W- Joey Baughman 5 run (Ryan Larj kick)|
|W- Baughman 22 pass to Mitchell Blackburn (Ryan Larj kick)|
|OF – Teddy Grendzynski 1 run (Politowski kick)|
|W- Baughman 70 run (kick blocked)|
|OF – Luke Lombardo 2 run (Politowski kick)|