ICL Lowellville thrives late

The Rockets didn't let up in the second half en route to beating Jackson-Milton.
NORTH JACKSON -- For most of Friday night, the skies were threatening storms and rain as the Lowellville High football team clashed with Jackson-Milton.
For most of the night, Lowellville threatened to rout the Bluejays, but it wasn't until the second half that the threat became a reality as the Rockets pulled away to a 35-13 Inter-County League triumph for their fourth straight victory.
Another big one: "We had a big win last week against McDonald," said Rockets coach John Protopapa. "I know Jackson-Milton's coach was going to have his kids ready to play.
"We went all week telling our players that, and I don't know in the first half if they took us seriously, especially up 13-0. So, we had to adjust their attitudes a little at halftime."
But things weren't entirely stagnant in the first half for Lowellville (4-1, 2-0).
On the first play of the second quarter, quarterback Mike Palumbo hooked up with Anthony Donatelli for a 15-yard touchdown, capping off a seven-play drive in just under four minutes.
Donatelli caught two passes on the night, both for touchdowns. It was the first time he has been in the end zone in his high school career.
"I haven't caught too many passes, but they wanted to get me in the offense," Donatelli said.
"I had a good game, and so did the rest of our team. We've got a real tough running game, and we just move forward from here."
Palumbo completed 4-of-7 passes for 85 yards and two touchdowns.
Weather factor: The driving rains finally came near the end of the second quarter, forcing the start of the second half to be delayed for a period of time.
"It's rough, especially trying to catch the ball and keep your hands dry," Donatelli said. "On defense, you're sliding all over the place."
The Rockets put the game away in the second half, scoring 22 points, set up by the running of Andy Peterson.
"We needed him to have a breakout night," Protopapa said. "We needed a spark from him. Once he gets going, the kids feed off of him, even though he's only a junior. The team feeds off of his energy."
Peterson finished with 142 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown.
Peterson, who plays both offense and defense, set up his score with an interception while on defense.
Peterson's brother, Jeff, also got into the act, rushing for 57 yards and a touchdown, a 32-yard scamper in the third quarter.
Credit the defense: But it was not just the offense that clicked on all cylinders. According to Protopapa, it was the defense that carried his team against the Bluejays and throughout the season.
"Offensively, we have to get a real identity yet," Protopapa said. "Defensively, these are the guys who need to keep us in the game.
"Interceptions, stopping them on fourth down a couple times. That really helped us.
"Pete Iuduciani, Ben Bestic and Joe Shaluga have really stood out -- they're all two-way players," he said.
Jackson-Milton (0-5, 0-2) managed 179 total yards for the game. Dan Hallas ran for 47 yards on 17 attempts, with one touchdown.
Bluejays quarterback Zack Nicholas threw three interceptions and completed 6-of-18 passes for 77 yards.

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