By Rick Shultz
Olmsted Falls, OH- A second season was all the twenty-two seed North Royalton Bears needed to get going as they find themselves heading into the quarterfinals of the Division 2 Region 6 OHSAA playoffs. The Bears entered the playoffs with an 0-6 record and last week traveled to tenth seeded Amherst Comets and shocked them in triple overtime 48-45. It was their first playoff win in school history. Last night the Bears just needed two overtimes to knock off another Southwestern Conference team on the road when they defeated the sixth seeded Olmsted Falls Bulldogs 33-27.
North Royalton and Olmsted Falls were once non-conference opponents for an 8-year stretch from 1994 to 2001 when the Bears were in the Pioneer Conference. The Bulldogs won seven of those eight meetings with the Bears ironically winning their only meeting in the 1995 season, 10-6 in overtime of course.
The game started out fast as the Bears received the opening kick and only took five plays to score as 6’2” 205-pound Junior running back Zadan Abuhamdeh broke free for a 61-yard touchdown. The Bulldogs needed just three plays as Sophomore running back Jack Pinchek made some nice cuts and outrunning the defense for a 51-yard scamper. A missed extra point had North Royalton leading 7-6. After a three and out and a short punt, Olmsted Falls looked to be locked in as they ran the ball five times and hit paydirt on a 25-yard run by another Sophomore Rocco Conti. This time the extra point by Senior Drew Kanaba was good, and the Bulldogs lead 13-7. Olmsted Falls defense held North Royalton once again to a punt, but this time the Bears defense held and got a stop that they needed to halt the momentum.
The second quarter was all North Royalton as the Bears took over at their own 40 after a nearly blocked punt. They then methodically marched down the field as it took 12 plays to go 60 yards where Abuhamdeh punched it in from the 1-yard line and the extra point was good by Sophomore Aleksandar Rajcevic making it a 14-13 advantage. The Bulldogs next possession was stopped after nine plays at the North Royalton 37 where they were forced to punt. North Royalton needed just three plays this time as Junior quarterback Mike Piazza found Senior wide receiver Omar Abuhamdeh for a 68-yard strike bring the score to 20-13 after the extra point was missed. Falls tried to answer as they were driving at the end of the quarter getting to the Bears 23-yard line but getting stopped on three consecutive plays to force a 39-yard field goal attempt. The Bears made sure the Bulldogs could not capitalize as several defenders got through and blocked the attempt.
The second half opened with Olmsted Falls driving down the field as Senior running back Andrew Parkowski powered his way into the endzone from the 3-yard line and with a good point after, the score knotted up 20-20. It seemed the Bulldogs had the edge in the half as they drove down the field on their next two drives but turned it over on downs at the Bears 25-yard line. Their next possession they drove the ball down to the North Royalton 25-yard line once again where they missed the go-ahead field goal with 1:26 remaining. As their offense only mustered 71 total yards in the half, the Bears defense refused to give up any big plays and kept their team in position to win.
North Royalton got the ball to start the first overtime where they took just four plays to score as quarterback Piazza snuck it in to take the 27-20 advantage. Olmsted Falls’ Conti evened up the score at 27 with a 6-yard run of his own, his second of the game.
The Bears’ defense was certainly the difference in the game as they intercepted Olmsted Falls Junior quarterback Charlie Ciolek after forcing them into a third and long and put their offense in position to make their second upset in consecutive weeks. The Bears needed just four plays as Piazza found Matthew Vansteenlandt for a 7-yard touchdown. The Bears win 33-27 in OT.
The 2-6 Bears will travel to 6-1 Avon Lake next week to take on the Shoremen who are coming off a 30-7 winner over Wadsworth. The Bears find themselves as one of the final 32 teams left in the Division 2 playoffs and will also be looking to go 3-0 against the SWC in this postseason.