The last thing the Poland football team wanted to do against underdog West Geauga in its Division III playoff opener was get off to a slow start.
Yet, midway through the second quarter, there sat the Bulldogs down 21-0 to the upset-minded Wolverines. The Poland players would have to dig deep into their inner fortitude to forge back and capture a win to keep their season alive. The Bulldogs would also have to dig into their bag of tricks in overtime. A Wolverine touchdown on their first possession of the extra period gave them a 28-21 lead. On Poland's overtime possession, Ross Gould crossed the goal line from three yards out. Instead of kicking the game-tying extra point and heading to a second overtime, Poland head coach Mark Brungard was persuaded to go for two points and the win. That persuasion came from his own players.
"Our kids pretty much made the call," said Brungard to reporters after the game. "I was going into double overtime."
Photos by Mike Capps, Town Crier correspondent
Poland quarterback Dom Petrony (2) gains important yardage and ball control as his linemen clear the way as Jake Hawkins (55) tumbles over his opponent, Liborio Ricottilli (73) flattens his man and Trey Ellis (54) controls his man during the second quarter as the Bulldogs began to move the ball in the first round of the Division III Region 7 playoffs. The Bulldogs traveled to West Geauga in Cleveland, on Friday, Nov. 11 and won in overtime by beating West Geauga 29-28 and move on to the second round tomorrow by playing Akron’s St. Vincent St. Mary.
It is said that today's youth are tomorrow's leaders. Well, let's all hope that the choice made by the youthful Bulldogs last Friday night is a foreshadowing of some great decisions in future years. Gould bullied his way back into the end zone for the second time in two carries, which also carried the Bulldogs into the second round with a 29-28 victory. The will displayed by his boys after a sluggish beginning inspired coach Brungard.
"We kept playing hard and stayed calm," explained the coach about the comeback.
For the first 18 minutes it seemed as if Poland's visit to the postseason would be a short one. West Geauga jumped ahead by 21 points on three rushing touchdowns. Making that score even scarier was that the Bulldogs' play was about as sloppy as a kiss by an over-affectionate St. Bernard. Poland punted four times on its first four possessions, failed on a fake punt and turned the ball over twice in the first half. A spark was needed to snap the Bulldogs out of their somnambulant state and that wake-up call came from the combination of Dom Patrony and George Chammas.
Playoff tickets available
The Poland High School Athletic Department will be selling playoff tickets for this week's Div. III playoff game against Akron St. Vincent St. Mary. The game is being played at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15 at Ravenna High School. The tickets can be purchased at the athletic office or at Trolio's Sporting Goods from 8 a.m. Wednesday through noon Friday.
Pre-sale tickets are $7 for both children and adults. All ticket sales at the gate are $9. Directions to the game are available at either location. For more information, call 330-757-7021.
With just under a minute left in the second quarter, quarterback Patrony pelted a 20-yard touchdown pass to Chammas to put Poland on the board. Following a muffed squib kick by the Wolverines, Poland received possession of the pigskin again with a few seconds remaining in the first half. Once again, Patrony partnered with Chammas on a 10-yard touchdown pass and suddenly the Bulldogs were only down one score at halftime.
Gould would then take over the Poland offense in the second half. Although he was kept way under his average rushing total with just 20 carries for 55 yards, Gould tied the game at 21 when he scored on an 11-yard run in the third quarter. He would later win the game for the Bulldogs with his overtime heroics.
There is little doubt that Poland must be more efficient in its second round game this week against unbeaten Akron St. Vincent St. Mary. The incredible Irish are averaging nearly 40 points per game this year over their 11-game winning streak including a 52-7 blowout of Kenston last week. The only win in which the Irish didn't score at least 28 points was ironically in a 25-0 shutout of Cardinal Mooney in September. St. V's also smothered local Irish-mates Ursuline 40-7 a couple weeks ago. LeBron's old school has an NBA team's fast break quality to the way it plays. If Poland falls behind this Friday as it did last Friday against West Geauga, there may not be any chance to climb back ahead because the Irish keeps their offense pushing no matter the score.
The showdown between the 10-1 Bulldogs and 11-0 Irish will be this Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Ravenna High School.