The Boardman football team will never object to being one of the teams playing in the Division I state playoffs.
One thing the Spartans may object to, however, is drawing Cleveland St. Ignatius in the first round of the tournament. The last time Boardman had a playoff invite was in 2009, but that RSVP also was returned to St. Ignatius. Boardman lost that game 17-0 two seasons ago. Things weren’t much better this past Saturday night in Parma. Despite taking an early 7-0 lead, the Spartans allowed 29 unanswered points to exit the playoffs with a 29-14 setback. The Spartans’ season ended at 7-4 and they are now 7-8 overall in playoff games.
It was no secret that seventh seeded Boardman was an underdog against the second seeded Wildcats -- especially on St. Ignatius’ home turf. To combat that inequality, first-year Boardman head coach Mark D’Eramo decided to resort to some “trickeration” at the beginning of the ballgame. Boardman kicker Ian Simmons executed a perfect squib kick on the opening kickoff and it was recovered by teammate Mike Witte in good field position. Fueled by that game starting momentum, quarterback Ryan Pollifrone hit Allen Starkey on a picturesque 34-yard pass that put Boardman deep inside enemy territory. One play later running back Devin Campbell punched the ball in from one yard out to put the Spartans ahead and to stun the yet-settled in St. Ignatius crowd.
Unfortunately for the Spartans, that would be the last time they had control of the contest. St. Ignatius scored its first touchdown with a little more than five minutes left in the first quarter and kept adding on before Boardman got a Pollifrone-to-Campbell 34-yard touchdown pass in garbage time.
Pollifrone, playing in what turned out to be his final game as a Spartan, connected on 10 of 27 passes for 137 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Campbell completed his Boardman career with four catches for 63 yards and a touchdown plus the short touchdown on the ground. Senior Starkey also said goodbye to Spartans fans with two catches for 52 yards. Campbell was named to the All-Federal League first team earlier this week. Pollifrone and Starkey were 2nd team and honorable mention selections respectively.
Besides those three twelfth-graders there are other senior Spartans who will no longer be making an impact on the football field. Players such as Dan Popio, Dayne Hammond, Zach Machuga and Zach Zidian are a few of the letterwinners who will walk across the graduation stage this summer. Popio, Machuga, Zidian and Hammond all joined Campbell as All-Federal first teamers. Senior lineman John Kuczek was a 2nd team pick. This class of Boardman seniors endured a lot of highs and lows including a couple playoff appearances, the departure of their first head coach D.J. Ogilvie, the arrival of rookie head coach Mark D’Eramo, the self removal of Hammond from the team just before the start of the season and the subsequent returning a few days later and some struggling early in the season before making a nice mid-season charge to capture a share of the Federal League championship only to lose the chance for an outright title when they were handled by Canton McKinley on Oct. 21.
Boardman will attempt to defend that co-championship with a perhaps wiser D’Eramo at the helm for his second season. It actually may be tough for the sophomore coach to better his rookie campaign since he was named the Federal League Coach of the Year. Junior linebacker Justin Babos was also part of the All-Federal first team after leading the Spartans in sacks and gathering the second most tackles. Juniors Chris Riwniak and John Babos will be back after garnering second team All-Federal honors. Junior defensive back Les McIntosh and junior linebacker Doug Brandt earned an All-Federal honorable mention and both will be back to bolster Boardman’s defense next season.
With such terrific talent in the fold as well as some other hungry Spartans waiting in the wings to help, finishing at or near the top of the Federal League is certainly a possibility for Boardman in 2012. Then maybe the Boardman boys can concentrate on slaying St. Ignatius.