The first game in the head-coaching career of Boardman's Joe Ignazio did not go very well.
Ignazio took his Spartans southwest to play Hilliard Darby and returned home with a 31-7 loss. The longtime Boardman resident, student, player and coach seemingly waited his whole life for his shot as top Spartan, but when the time finally came last Friday night, his dream became a nightmare.
Darby scored on each of its first five possessions to take an insurmountable 31-0 lead. Before Boardman finally got on the scoreboard right before halftime, the possible party for the Spartans and their new coach had the plug pulled from it.
"We came out flat," said Ignazio after watching film of Friday night's tilt. "We couldn't get things rolling. We had too many three-and-outs on offense and not enough three-and-outs on defense."
About the only time in the first half when Boardman was not held in check was when senior Darius Sanders slithered in for a 6-yard touchdown run on the final play before halftime. That score shined a glimmer of hope to the Boardman faithful that traveled nearly three hours to see their kids play.
"We finally had a drive at the end of the second quarter and we did better the rest of the game," Ignazio said. "We had some young guys who made some mistakes early."
Sanders, who was the Spartans' starting quarterback, ran for 36 yards while completing 14 of 25 passes for 175 yards. Two mistimed interceptions, however, interfered with an otherwise nice opening performance. Senior wideout Turel Thompson was on the receiving end of many of Sanders' shots finishing the night with six catches for 73 yards. Despite those nice numbers, Boardman's offense left a lot for coach Ignazio to desire.
"There were times we lined up incorrectly," Ignazio said. "We have been stressing to the kids that we have a game plan and to believe in that game plan. They need to do a better job of that."
If these Spartans are to make believers out of the rest of the world then they will have to get by rival Cardinal Mooney this Friday night in the Spartans' home opener. The Cardinals should be seething when they face the Spartans because they were manhandled in their opener 49-21 by a charter school from Philadelphia. There should be no signs of "brotherly love" this weekend when these arch enemies engage in battle in Boardman.
"Every game is important," Ignazio admitted, "but this is a game the kids can certainly hang their hats on. (The Mooney) kids are kids that our kids will see in the community. A lot of them grew up together so it will be special."
It will be even more special if the Spartans can right some of the wrongs from their showing in Hilliard and clip the Cardinals on Friday night.