Poland's football team entered last Saturday night's playoff game against Marlington losers of its last three contests with the Dukes.
Usually the third time is considered the charm, but in Poland's case, it was looking for an extension on that old saying. In week 1 this season, Marlington won a defensive battle 10-3 over Poland so the Bulldogs were not only looking to gain revenge from that setback and the previous couple, but they also had their sights set on advancing in the Division III playoffs. Consider all three of those losses expunged. The eighth-seeded Bulldogs scored early and often and demoralized the top-seeded Dukes, 38-0 to continue on in the postseason. This week, Poland will play Dover in round 2.
Last weekend's playoff game was moved from Marlington to Uniontown because of deplorable playing conditions and the Dukes played like they weren't informed of the venue change. While Marlington, like Dorothy, believed "there is no place like home," the Bulldogs believed there was no place like the end zone last Saturday night. Poland scored five touchdowns and added one field goal while exorcising its demons against the Dukes.
Anthony Marchionda set the tone for the Poland offense by scoring a pair of TDs on the night. The super senior's first score came on Poland's opening drive when he caught a 55-yard pass from quarterback Jake Wolfe. That touchdown started Poland's blowout and Marchionda's second one, a 9-yard pass from Wolfe just before halftime making the score 24-0, sent the Dukes packing. Marchionda would destroy the Dukes with 69 yards receiving and those two touchdowns. Wolfe was wonderful when he needed to be completing 60 percent of his passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Junior running back Ross Gould was also golden versus Marlington scoring on touchdown runs of 15 and 7 yards. He finished the night with 114 yards on the ground. Poland's other touchdown came thanks to the strength of Mike Turnbull who bulled his way into the end zone on a short run.
While the Poland offense was seemingly playing with the Dukes' defense, the Bulldogs' defenders were dishing out punishment on the heretofore-efficient Marlington offense. Marlington, who enjoys pounding the ball at opposing defenses using dynamite Michigan recruit Dymonte Thomas, was kept under 100 yards rushing by the ferocious Bulldogs. Poland's defensive front seven treated Thomas as rudely as a Wolverine fan on High Street during Ohio State/Michigan weekend, holding him to only 79 yards. Marlington was also forced into four three-and-outs on offense and turned the ball over twice.
The Bulldogs will need to play defense like that again this week if they are to advance to week 3 of the post season. Dover does things on offense that most schools can only dream about. The 9-2 Tornadoes twisted their opponents with over 400 points this year. Included in that output were three games when the Tornadoes scored 56 points and two others when they eclipsed 40 points. Dover is directed by quarterback Nathan Mammarella who has made mincemeat of opposing defenders this season with his strong throwing arm. Mammarella made last week's playoff mate Granville grumble when he torched it for 266 yards passing. The sharp signal caller is joined in the backfield by running back Demetrius Farmer who had three touchdown runs in the Tornadoes' first round win. Dover is also adept in the kicking game with Felipe Bravo who the fans applauded for when he hit a game-tying field goal at the end of regulation against Granville then hit the game-winner in overtime.
Defensively, Dover can dish out some punishment too. The Tornadoes blew out five foes this season including Poland's archrival Canfield 56-0 in week 3. Dover has allowed only 177 points making its offense look much more explosive.
Kickoff for this Saturday's showdown at Infocision Field in Green is set for 7 p.m.