BERLIN CENTER - The Western Reserve Blue Devils used a tenacious defense and big plays on offense to take sole possession of the ITCL Lower Tier with a 28-6 win Friday night over visiting Southern Local night.
The Devils win, along with a loss by Columbiana now puts the Devils in first place with two weeks to play in the regular season.
The Devils were led by senior tailback Tim Cooper, who rushed for 148 yards and three touchdowns, and caught five passes for 113 yards and one more TD. He also had an interception on defense.
Southern Local's Luke Griffith throws a pass against Western Reserve on Friday. (Photo by B.J. Lisko)
"This was huge for us, not only because it was senior night, but if we didn't win this game there is a good chance that we're not going to make the playoffs," Cooper said about the importance of the win.
"I can't do it without the line, and a great quarterback in Nick Allison. The line just opened up these huge holes. Dan Zilke played fullback and center Micah Marra just leads. We have got a bunch of great players on this team."
The Devils wasted little time in getting on the scoreboard as they took their opening possession 62-yards on seven plays, and scored on a Cooper 15-yard run. The extra point gave the Devils the early 7-0 lead at the 6:10 mark of the stanza.
The score seemed to wake the Indians up as they
Reminiscent of last week's performance, Mike McKenzie took the ball around right end, broke a couple tackles and scampered down the field for a 45-yard touchdown. The extra point was blocked, and the Indians trailed by a slim 7-6 margin with 4:57 remaining in the first quarter.
Following an interception in the end zone by the Indians' defense on Reserve's next possession, the Devils came right back on the next possession. This time Cooper would run in from 7-yards out to push their advantage to 14-6 with 9:07 remaining in the second quarter.
Then just before halftime, the Devils may have put the game away. With only 1:27 remaining before intermission, Cooper scored his third rushing touchdown. The 6-yard run came one play after Allison hit Cooper on a long 49-yard pass down to the Indians 6-yard line. The score put the Devils up 21-6.
In the second half, the Devils went to the power running attack to shorten the game.
On their first possession of the second half, the Devils marched 80-yards on 10 plays, culminating in a 34-yard touchdown pass from Allison to Cooper.
The Devils continued to pound the ball throughout the third and fourth quarters, while the Devils defense held the potent Indians' passing game to only 100 yards on the night.
"It was not our night," Indians' head coach Mike Skrinjar said. "We came out and had ups and downs. We had points and opportunities, but that's football man.
"They needed this one to get over the hump. They need to continue to work for it."
"He's a good coach, and he gets his guys to play," Western Reserve head coach Andy Hake said about Coach Skrinjar. "And you know what, they have a heck of a team. They are big and physical, I just think our guys were up for the challenge."
Friday, the Devils (6-2, 5-0) travel to Wellsville (3-8, 1-4), while the Indians (5-3, 3-2) travel to Leetonia (5-3, 3-2).