Fumble recovery lifts South Range
Max Schlatter scored the game-winning touchdown in the 27-21 victory.
By JOHN BUTERA
ROOTSTOWN -- Just when it appeared that a pair of missed scoring opportunities had spoiled his team's chances, South Range High's Alex Grantz saved the day.
Grantz's fumble recovery on the Rootstown 41-yard line paved the way for the winning score Saturday as South Range edged the Rovers 27-21 in a Division V first-round playoff game.
Next Saturday at a site to be announced today, the Raiders (10-1) will meet Dalton (9-2), which advanced after eliminating Mineral Ridge, the only team to have beaten South Range during the regular season.
"I really wanted to play Mineral Ridge again," said South Range's Ben Johnston, "because I think we could have beaten them. But we are happy just to be going on."
It was Johnston who stepped it up following the fumble recovery, carrying the ball three straight times to give the Raiders a first down at the Rootstown 19.
Max Schlatter then raced that distance for the game-winning touchdown. He rushed for 93 yards on 11 carries, while Johnston had 119 on 23.
Quarterback John Less completed just 5 of 14 passes, but they were huge, covering 155 yards.
"We had to rely on a couple of big breaks and these kids really came through at the end of the game," said South Range coach Dan Yeagley. "At the half, I think the kids started to get really excited and I said, 'Here we come.' "
South Range gave an indication of how the game would go, when on its first offensive play, Schlatter turned an off-tackle play into a 56-yard touchdown run as the Raiders took a 7-0 lead at 10:24.
South Range's second play on offense was a 52-yard run from Johnston. With a first-and-10 from the 18, the Raiders couldn't take advantage of the field position and came away empty.
Rootstown then marched 91 yards in seven plays to tie the score.
South Range answered quickly as David Maxwell's 89-yard kickoff return made it 14-7.
Rootstown came up empty on a fourth-and-5 attempt from the Raiders' 47, but South Range wasn't able to capitalize on the opportunity.
With just 3:40 remaining until halftime, Rootstown tied it at 14 on a 66-yard run by Aaron Urchek.
South Range had another chance to score before intermission as Johnston and Chris Novak hooked up on an 81-yard pass play to give the Raiders a first-and-goal at the 9. The drive stalled as South Range had a 28-yard field goal attempt blocked.
After Rootstown went ahead 21-14, South Range came right back as Johnston caught a 27-yard TD strike from Less.
The strike not only tied the score at 4:48, but it also put Johnston over the 200-yard mark in total offense.