BERLIN CENTER - One week after rushing for a school record 315 yards, Southern Local running back Mike McKenzie was upstaged by the ball carrier on the other sideline. Western Reserve got over 200 yards of total offense and four touchdowns from running back Tim Cooper as the Blue Devils dispatched the Indians 28-6 at Western Reserve High School.
Southern Local (5-3, 3-2) is now effectively out of the running for the ITCL lower tier crown as well as state playoff contention.
"This loss hurts a lot for our seniors," said Southern head coach Mike Skrinjar.
"Our goal at the beginning of the year was to make the playoffs, and after not making last year, this one was really hard to swallow."
While Southern's hopes of playing in week 11 are dashed, Western Reserve's playoff chances are still very much alive. The Blue Devils (6-2, 5-0) are now in sole possession of first place in the ITCL lower tier and in control of their destiny. After opening the season with two straight losses, Western Reserve has now won six in a row.
"After starting out 0-2 we could not afford to let up in our focus," head coach Andy Hake said. "We had to treat every game like a playoff matchup because one more loss could drop us from contention."
Playing in their final home game of the season, the Blue Devils started fast scoring on their first possession when Cooper scored from 15-yards-out to make it 7-0. Southern responded on their next drive when McKenzie ran 45 yards untouched around the right side for a touchdown. After a blocked extra point it was 7-6 Western Reserve. Early in the second quarter it was Cooper again, scoring from 7-yards-out on a direct snap to make it 14-6. On the ensuing drive Southern drove all the way to the Western Reserve 12 before Cooper picked off quarterback Luke Griffith in the end zone. Western Reserve marched right back down the field and scored just before halftime when Cooper took it in from 6-yards-out to make it 21-6 at the break. Southern never seriously threatened in the second half as McKenzie and Griffith were bottled up by an agressive Western Reserve defense. McKenzie finished with 122 yards on 14 carries with the bulk of that yardage coming on two big runs.
With the playoffs and a league title no longer a possiblity, Skrinjar says that the focus for the rest of the season has to be on sending the seniors out on a winning note.
"We have to play these last two games for the seniors," Skrinjar said. "We have to focus on making sure that this team leaves behind a good legacy for other teams to follow. This program has come a long way over the past few years, and we have to use nights like tonight as a building block for the future."
Southern (5-3, 3-2 ITCL Tier 2) is at Leetonia next week, while Western Reserve (6-2, 5-0 ITCL Tier 2) travels to Wellsville.