POLAND Davanzo leads Bulldogs in opener, 19-0
The senior running back rushed for 174 yards and a touchdown against Springfield.
By ROB TODOR
VINDICATOR SPORTS EDITOR
POLAND -- Give Lou Davanzo a small hole, and chances are the Poland High senior running back will gain some yards. Give him a big hole, as the Bulldogs' offensive line did Friday night, and Davanzo will gain a lot of yards.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Davanzo rushed for 174 yards and scored one touchdown, leading the Bulldogs past Springfield 19-0 in the season opener for both teams before a full house at Poland High Stadium.
Davanzo was a workhorse, carrying the ball 24 times. Seven of those attempts came on Poland's first possession of the game, and covered 54 of 67 yards, including the final 6, as the Bulldogs took a 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.
Keyed drive: Davanzo also keyed Poland's other touchdown drive, rushing six times for 67 yards, but it was a scoring pass of 3 yards from Sean Clayton to Jake Bajerski that made it 16-0 with 31 seconds remaining in the first half.
"I have a great confidence in my offensive line," said Davanzo. "They opened holes for me every where."
Davanzo said Poland's edge in experience and size of the rosters played a role. The Bulldogs dressed 70 players, twice as many as their rival from the Inter-County League.
"We were able to bring fresh guys in all night," he said.
Penalties hurt: The rest of the game was a struggle for both teams, though. Poland hurt itself with 10 penalties, measuring 90 yards, and turned the ball over three times inside the Springfield 20.
"The defense played real well and our special teams were outstanding," said Poland coach Paul Hulea. "Our offense did a nice job until the 15 [yard line].
"We saw some good things out there. The offensive line played real well. But, we kind of struggled with turnovers and penalties."
Poland especially hurt itself with some unsportsmanlike conduct calls.
"I don't mind aggressive penalties, because they're correctable," said Hulea.
The youthful Tigers, meanwhile, never seemed to get in a rhythm after Patrick Birch returned the opening kickoff to the Poland 45.
Springfield, playing its first game for new coach John Smith, managed just seven first downs and 82 total yards.
"Poland's defense is phenomenal," said Smith. "They're just a very physical group."
Still, Smith said he could take some positives from the contest.
"We had to have a lot of kids prove themselves and they did that. And we held a very good football team to three points in the second half."
Add safety: Poland also scored a safety when a Tiger punt snap rolled through the back of the end zone, and Shawn O'Halloran kicked a 27-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
"We really struggled with our special teams," said Smith.
Poland, meanwhile, controlled the line of scrimmage. Seniors Brendan Moran and Gaby Dibo were both in on a number of tackles for loss.
The Bulldogs' Jim Mitolo added 51 yards rushing, as Poland finished with 229 yards on the ground. Junior quarterback Sean Clayton, making his first start, was 8-of-16 for 72 yards and a TD.
Springfield's Bobby Zitkovic rushed 14 times for 43 yards.