By Pete Mollica
A year ago Western Reserve High posted a 10-1 record with basically a passing offense.
Friday night the Blue Devils showed that this year they are a very well-balanced football team.
Grinding out 260 yards on the ground, the Blue Devils (5-0) remained unbeaten with a 28-12 victory over Sebring in a ITCL contest.
It was a strange game, one that saw 16 penalties, 12 of them major infractions, and three touchdowns within a span of 32 seconds in the third quarter.
But it all came down to a crushing ground game by the Blue Devils, who dominated the Trojans in the trenches, while the Western Reserve defense held Sebring to just 12 rushing yards the entire game.
“I’ve never seen so many penalties called in a game,” said Reserve coach Andy Hake. “Still our kids hung right in there and our offensive line was just tremendous tonight.”
The Blue Devils also got an outstanding effort from senior Riley Sheptock, who starred on both sides of the football and also on special teams.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound wide receiver, defensive back and quarterback made his presence known all over the field.
He caught two passes for 40 yards, rushed for 69 yards on nine carries, returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown and had a pass interception which he returned nearly 50 yards. And he also completed both passes that he threw, one for a touchdown.
“He might just be the best all-around player in our league,” said Hake. “If he’s not the best, he’s one of the best that’s for sure. He does it all for us and he’s just an outstanding kid to boot.”
Sheptock was pleased with the team’s victory, but thought he could have done more.
“It was a good win, a sloppy one, but a good one,” he said. “It really wasn’t all me out there tonight. Our offensive line was just outstanding. It didn’t matter who was running the ball.”
The Blue Devils lost starting quarterback Jeff Clegg to an injury early in the third quarter and Sheptock was called on to take his place. Clegg completed 7-of-10 passes for 77 yards before he was hurt and had rushed for 43 yards.
“I’ve played a little quarterback here and there this year, but tonight the way our line was blocking it didn’t matter who was back there,” Sheptock added.
After a scoreless first quarter the Blue Devils went to the ground attack using a 13-play drive all, on the ground, to score first on a 1-yard run by Donnie Bolton. The Trojans tied the score on a 56-yard pass from Corey Baia to Seamus Johnson.
Another 13-play drive gave Reserve a 14-6 halftime lead. Sheptock’s 29-yard pass to John Rosati with 4:52 remaining in the third quarter made it 21-6, then the teams traded kickoff returns for TDs — Corey Garcia for Sebring and Sheptock for Reserve.