The Blue Devils rallied from a 20-0 first half deficit.
By JOHN BUTERA
LEETONIA -- After trailing 29-6 in the first half, McDonald High scored 24 unanswered points, including 18 after halftime, to defeat Leetonia 30-29 in a non-league, season-opening football game Thursday.
Behind 29-24 with less than three minutes remaining, the Blue Devils' Mark Brown blocked a Leetonia punt and recovered it on the Bears' 12-yard line.
McDonald needed just four plays to score the winning touchdown, a 2-yard run by Greg Gustovich, who scored all of the Blue Devils' second-half points.
"We've been talking since day one how important it is to get off to a good start," McDonald coach Dan Williams said.
"Fortunately we were able to come away with a win."
Leetonia jumped on the board early behind the running of Joey Jenkins as the Bears built a 20-0 lead with 8:42 remaining in the second quarter.
Jenkins highlighted the Bears' early uprising with 113 yards rushing on 12 carries in the first half.
Second half rally
McDonald found a way to slow him in the second half as he gained just 43 yards on the same number of tries.
"You have to play four quarters and we only played two," said Leetonia coach Artie Altomare.
"I am unhappy with our conditioning," he added. "We had a lot of kids who had to come out of the game and that is my fault."
Gustovich started the comeback with a 10-yard TD run late in the third quarter.
He added his biggest play with 8:50 remaining in the fourth period. Quarterback Josh Camuso, on a third-and-5 on his own 25, found Gustovich on a pass play designed to pick up a first down.
The 5-foot-11 senior did much more as he caught the ball, avoided tacklers at about midfield, and turned the play into a 75-yard TD.
For Leetonia, the nightmarish second half included injuries that sidelined quarterback Matt Custer and running back Aaron Merrill.
"Leetonia's got a good team and they beat us up in the first half," Williams said. "In the second half, our kids were able to turn the tables on them."