LEETONIA-One of the toughest decisions a football coach can make with a game on the line is whether to kick an extra point for a tie or go for a two-point conversion and the win. However, in overtime Friday night against Columbiana it proved to be one of the easiest calls of the night for Leetonia coach Matt Altomare.,
Moments after a Zack Van Giesen 1-yard touchdown, Altomare dialed up a fake extra point, with Trent Ferry hitting a wide open Van Giesen in the end zone, to take a thrilling 22-21 victory at Leetonia High School.
"When we took over there was no doubt in my mind that we were going for two if we scored," Altomare said. "It's our home field and the kids worked too hard. I didn't want to see it go to another overtime. I told our kids we're going for the win."
The Bears (1-1) came out in their regular extra point formation, with quarterback Tent Ferry serving as the holder. As soon as the ball was snapped Ferry sprung up and found Van Giesen standing all alone in the end zone. The throw hit him right in the chest and Van Giesen was able to hang on as his feet gave out.
"My mind was completely blank on the play," Ferry said. "I wasn't thinking about anything else other than executing and getting the win."
The Bears were in position to win thanks to a big game from Van Giesen. The senior rumbled for 245 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns, with many of the yards gained over the right side.
""I have complete faith in my offensive line and we really got things going tonight," Van Giesen said. "We had a lot of confidence going."
Van Giesen's effort helped offset a disastrous night on special teams for the Bears. Leetonia fumbled the opening kickoff, which was returned for a touchdown by Logan Stilson. Two more fumbled punts followed in the first half, each giving the Clippers the ball at midfield. The Clippers then tied the game at 14 early in the fourth quarter on an 85-yard kickoff return by R.J. Rankin.
"We worked on special teams so hard which made tonight disappointing," Altomare said. "We can't give away that many points if we expect to win going forward."
Columbiana sputtered on offense much of the night. John Cramer led the Clippers on the ground with 33 yards on nine carries. Freshman quarterback Mitch Davidson was held to 24 yards on 11 carries and 31 passing yards. The only time the Clippers mounted a drive they were stopped on 4th-and-1 at the Leetonia 6 late in the third quarter.
"We struggled tonight no doubt about it." Columbiana coach Bob Spaite said. "We couldn't cash in on our opportunities and made too many mental mistakes. That's all on me as a coach. I need to have our guys prepared better."
With the score tied at 14, the Bears took over at their own 31 with 1:37 left in regulation. Two big runs by Van Giesen and a 14 yard pass by Ferry took the ball to the Clipper 25 with 10 seconds left.
Altomare brought on junior kicker Josh Faulkner for a 40-yard attempt. Faulkner-a late edition to the team-was not listed in the program and had not played since junior high. He was nearly the hero, but the attempt fell just short.
"It was really close," Altomare said. "From my vantage point I almost started cheering."
Leetonia won the overtime toss and elected to go on defense. The Clippers moved easily, taking five plays to score on a three yard run by R.J. Rankin.
The Bears quickly faced a 4th-and-10 after getting their chance, but Ferry-who only completed four passes-delivered a clutch 17 yard strike to Colton Gudat to extend the game and set up Van Giesen.
"Zack had a great block to keep the pressure off me and I hit Colton on a crossing route in man coverage," Ferry said. "He made a great run after the catch."
Leetonia moves to 1-1 and will travel to Mathews next week. Columbiana (0-2) Steubenville Central Catholic. The Clippers lost in the final minutes to Bridgeport last week.
"Two tough losses in a row," Spaite said. "We can go one of two ways from here. Either we will struggle or use this to rally together."
C-Logan Stilson 27 fumble return (Nathan Garofalo kick)
L-Trent Ferry 1 run (Tanner Tullis kick)
L-Zack Van Giesen 3 run (Tullis kick)
C-R.J. Rankin 85 kickoff return (Garofalo kick)
C-Rankin 2 run (Garofalo kick)
L-Zack Van Giesen 1 run (Van Giesen from Ferry)
First downs 818
Total Yards 149333
RUSHING- Columbiana, John Cramer 8-33; Leetonia, Zack Van Giesen 26-245, Bryce Turney 3-30, Trent Ferry 16-24.
PASSING-Columbiana, Mitch Davidson 7-15-39-0; Columbiana, Trent Ferry 4-11-41-0.
RECEIVING-Columbiana, Sean Congemi 2-18; Leetonia, Colton Gudat 2-28, James Shea 1-14.