The Bulldogs broke open a close game with a 21-point third quarter rally.
By CHUCK HOUSTEAU
CAMPBELL -- "We've come a long way," said Poland football coach Mark Brungard after the Bulldogs defeated Campbell Memorial, 33-6, to clinch a share of the Metro Athletic Conference championship Friday night at John Knapick Field.
The Bulldogs got touchdown runs from five different players and broke open the game by scoring 21 points in the third period to turn back the winless Red Devils.
Poland started the year 0-2 after finishing last year 4-6 but have won seven consecutive games to set themselves up for a chance to win the league title outright with a win at Canfield next Friday night.
"We are playing our arch-rival in week 10," Brungard said. "You can't ask for much more than that. There will be a playoff atmosphere and a lot of playoff points in the line."
Poland (7-2, 6-0) was rated 10th in Division 3, Region 11 prior this week but won't pick up many points from the victory.
Exciting for players
"Whatever happens they can't take away from us the fact that we are MAC champions tonight," Brungard said. "And that's so exciting for our players and especially our seniors.
"These kids have hung in there and bought into the system," he said. "We won some big games in the middle of the year and we were able to take care of some games we were supposed to and so everything is now right in front of us."
The Campbell contest mirrored the way the season has developed for the Bulldogs. It started slow and exploded after halftime.
Poland scored in the first quarter on a 5-yard run by Carl Davanzo but Campbell went on a 16-play march in the first and second periods that lasted over eight minutes but fumbled the ball inside the Bulldogs' 10-yard line.
Five Campbell turnovers
The Red Devils, playing with only 26 upperclassmen, turned the ball over five times but kept the game close for the first 24 minutes.
Poland regained the momentum, scoring just before halftime on a 59-yard run by Greg Sabol.
In the third quarter, Poland scored on a 57-yard run by Trent Vallinger, a 34-yard run by Tyler Vallinger and a 30-yard run by quarterback Chris Lovell as the Bulldogs rushed for 291 yards.
Campbell scored late in the game when Brandon Sibley broke free for a 50-yard run. The senior finished the night rushing for 124 yards on 21 carries.
"You can't turn the ball over five times and expect to win," said Campbell coach John Protapapa. "If we scored there in the second quarter and take the lead maybe things would have turned out different."
The Bulldogs have gotten strong leadership from players like senior captains John Gabriel and Andrew King.
"All our seniors decided it was time to stop the losing in this program," King said. "We stepped it up just like we did tonight in the second half."
"We tried in the off-season to make this a turnaround season," Gabriel said. "We wanted the MAC championship to come through us like it always used to."
Team has made progress
Brungard reiterated that the road has been long but the progress has been better than expected.
"We made a vow to get better each and every game and we've done that," Brungard said. "We figured out how to win a couple of close games and that was huge to our success because the last year and a half we weren't able to win.
"We aren't making mistakes and we are taking care of the football more," Brungard said. Those things are paramount when you are trying to build a winning program."