August 26, 2011 football game between Springfield at McDonald.
By Tom Williams
Wearing a black sweater vest and orange tie for the season opener, Springfield coach Sean Guerriero paid tribute to Jim Tressel, his football coach for three seasons at Youngstown State.
But the play that threw momentum solidly into the Tigers’ corner looked like it came out of Steve Spurrier’s playbook.
The play came late in the second quarter of Springfield’s 29-0 victory over McDonald. With the Tigers nursing a 9-0 lead, Springfield quarterback Nick Russell switched plays at the line of scrimmage, sending wide receiver Joey Ohlin racing down the sideline into McDonald territory.
Russell hit Ohlin on the fly for a 61-yard touchdown that put Springfield ahead 16-0 with 1:17 to go before halftime.
“It was a checkoff,” said Guerriero of Russell’s ability to read defenses.
Russell said the play originally was supposed to be a more Tressel-like smash route (in layman’s terms, a 5-yard stop).
“But we changed to a go-to because [the defensive back] was playing up on him and I hit him deep,” Russell said. “It felt real good, we knew we had something good [going].
“We do that quite a bit, we check a lot,” said Russell who completed 12 of 16 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns.
The gutsy call sent a dagger into the Blue Devils’ comeback hopes.
“We knew he’s good,” said McDonald coach Dan Williams of Russell. “We saw him play basketball last year, we knew he’s an athlete. And we watched him in two scrimmages — he can throw the football, no question about it.”
Russell also gained 67 yards on 10 carries, including a 51-yard scramble that helped set up Lexi Zubick’s 21-yard field goal late in the first quarter for a nine-point lead.
“We knew we had to contain him and keep him from getting outside and loose,” Williams said. “At times, we didn’t do that. He was the best athlete on the field, without question.”
After each team exchanged punts to start the game, Springfield struck on the next play when Russell hooked up with wide receiver Tommy Mastran for a 45-yard score.
Late in the third quarter, Russell connected with Jeremy Weingart for a 77-yard touchdown and 22-0 lead. The Tigers’ other touchdown came on a 4-yard run by Christian Feezle.
Guerriero credited the players around Russell.
“The wideouts were picking up some blitzes and our line protected him well,” Guerriero said.
Defensively, the Tigers allowed the Blue Devils to 110 yards on 47 carries.
Linebacker Lenard Lewis, who along with Derrick Gbur led the Tigers’ defense, said they were nervous taking the field.
“But once we got the game going, we were ready to go,” Lewis said.