NEW MIDDLETOWN Turnovers cost E.P. as Springfield wins first game of 2002 season
Dan Schuler had a solid all-around game for the Tigers.
By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NEW MIDDLETOWN -- In leading the Springfield High football team to its first win of the season, Dan Schuler was one busy senior leader.
Schuler booted a 33-yard field goal in the first quarter Friday to give the Tigers the early lead against East Palestine.
The 6-5, 191-pound quarterback also completed 13-of-17 passes for 133 yards. One of them was to senior wideout Seth Sarty covering 34 yards, a play that set up sophomore running back Melio Rios' 5-yard touchdown run for a 10-0 halftime lead.
Schuler also rushed for 71 yards on 16 carries in the Tigers' 16-0 victory.
Despite those accomplishments, Schuler was happiest about his two interceptions of Bulldogs quarterback Joseph "Smitty" Kendrew.
"Interceptions are big momentum plays, and that's what we really needed tonight," said Schuler, whose Tigers opened the season with losses to Poland and Columbiana.
"We needed to gain the momentum and keep it," Schuler said. "They were driving."
Schuler's second pick came just before intermission.
"We went into halftime thinking we're getting the ball back, we had a great stop on defense," Schuler said. "Both of [the interceptions] set up our offense and kept our momentum going."
The game turned late in the second quarter when Schuler scrambled in the backfield then fired a pass that Sarty hauled in at the East Palestine 5.
"Guys were coming and I knew I had to get rid of the ball," Schuler said. "At the last second, I saw [Sarty] get behind his defender and I just threw it up. I thought I threw it too far inside, but he went right over the defender and made a great catch."
Sarty caught five passes for 73 yards.
Springfield coach John Smith praised Schuler's play-making skills.
"Anytime Danny Schuler is back there, he gives us a chance," Smith said. "It feels like the monkey is off our back, but it probably puts a bulls-eye on us along with Lowellville going into [Inter-County League play]."
The Bulldogs, who began the season with wins over South Range and Wellsville, had three drives into Tigers' territory in the first half.
But five turnovers -- four interceptions by Kendrew and a fourth quarter pass that was ruled a lateral/fumble by backup quarterback Andrew Reeves -- kept the Dogs caged.
East Palestine coach Brian Blevins said Kendrew is battling an injury to his rotator cuff on his throwing arm.
"Smitty was banged up in the Salem [scrimmage] and he got hit early and reaggravated it," Blevins said. "It was a battle deciding whether to pull him or not. It's hard to pull a kid who has worked as hard as Smitty has. But he's just not as sharp as he was before the Salem scrimmage."
Kendrew completed five-of-18 passes for 43 yards. Most of the Bulldogs' offense was provided by senior running back Jonathan Powers, who rushed for 80 yards on 20 carries.
Rios made his first varsity start, replacing Jon Vivo, who suffered a hand laceration against Columbiana. Rios stunned the Bulldogs for 42 yards on his first carry and led the Tigers in rushing with 87 yards on 15 carries. He also scored a 1-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.