That case was certainly made last Friday night in Minerva where the Poland Bulldogs were playing the first round of the Division III playoffs. Playing on the road against the undefeated and number three seeded Lions, the Bulldogs showed their grit by holding a 28-21 lead late in the fourth quarter. That is the time when cruel fate festered against the Bulldogs. Minerva scored a touchdown with 1:38 remaining in the game on a 4-yard touchdown run by Zach Wade. Trailing 28-27, the Lions coaching staff figured that instead of taking their chances trying to potentially outscore the Bulldogs in overtime they would attempt a two-point conversion to take the lead. Once again, it was Wade who took the handoff and steamrolled his way into the end zone to put his team up by one point.
Still there was more than a minute left for superstar senior Poland quarterback Colin Reardon to get his offense into field goal range. Getting deep enough into Minerva’s red zone would be a difficult challenge for Reardon and his mates since the Bulldogs had no timeouts remaining. Reardon did not allow that lack of time stoppages to stop him from leading his team back. Late in the drive, Reardon hit Jimmy Morocco on a 14-yard pass that got Poland to Minerva’s 20 yard line. From that spot on the field Poland would be attempting a 37-yard field goal, well within makeable distance for strong-legged Bulldog kicker Connor McFadden. Without those valuable timeouts, however, Reardon was not able to get up to the line of scrimmage fast enough to spike the ball so time expired ending Poland’s season.
Reardon was right on all night against the tough Minerva defense moving the ball well enough to set up three of Poland’s four touchdowns. The fourth Bulldog score came from Reardon’s rifle arm when he hooked up with Anthony Marchionda on the 80-yard touchdown that gave Poland its final lead of the evening. The three rushing scores came compliments of Tyler Evan and Jerry Lawman. Evan, who only scored twice all season, matched that total in just three quarters last Friday with scoring rushes of 36 and six yards. Lawman had Poland’s second score of the night with a 3-yard touchdown run.
While the Lions look to extend its 2011 unbeaten streak against Dover next weekend, the 7-4 Bulldogs begin to build towards 2012. Losing Reardon, who has thrown for more than 4,000 yards as a starter, will be the biggest blow for the Bulldogs to handle, but there are going to be other important losses as well. Lawman, Morocco, Jordan Smith, Connor Schultheis, Jordan Voitus and George Dibo are just some of the other powerful Poland players who will graduate in the summer leaving head coach Mark Brungard with some rebuilding to do as he enters his eighth season next year.
Trying to step up as senior leaders next season will be players such as Marchionda and McFadden. Sophomore scorer Evan and a few other soon-to-be juniors who got some varsity experience this fall will also make strong contributions next year.
One can be sure that all of the returning Poland kids will be looking back at what could have been this season if Wade did not plunge in for that terrorizing two-point conversion. Possibly for Poland, that one two-pointer is all it will need to motivate itself to capture more playoff success next November.
Photos by Mike Capps, Town Crier correspondent
Defensive tackle George Dibo lunges for a ball in the first round playoff game against Minerva. The Dogs lost by a nose, 29-28.