By Jim Flick
Poland High School’s football team considered turnabout fair play in Friday night’s game against Niles.
The two teams played fairly even in the first half, with Poland gaining 137 yards in total offense, compared to 108 yards for Niles, but trailed by four points.
But the Bulldogs’ defense stymied the Niles offense, while the offense found a enough spark to give Poland (3-2) a 10-7 victory in the All-American Conference Red Tier game at Bo Rein Stadium.
In the second half, the Bulldogs ran and passed for 142 more yards, while Niles (3-2) gained only 3 yards in total offense.
Poland’s offensive spark largely came from senior running back Jerry Lawman, who gained 108 yards on 26 carries and scored the Bulldogs’ touchdown.
Lawman bulled 2 yards into the end zone in the third quarter to give Poland its first lead of the night.
Colin Reardon, Poland’s senior quarterback, completed 10 of 13 passes for 136 yards.
The brightest spot of Niles’ offense was the play of receiver Dillon Palmer, a senior who caught seven passes from senior quarterback Zack Bailey for 83 yards.
Palmer scored Niles’ only touchdown of the night on a 17-yard pass from Bailey in the second quarter.
Two key Niles defensive plays stopped Poland just short of the end zone.
In the first quarter, Stefan Yuhas intercepted a Reardon pass on the Niles 2.
Niles recovered a Poland fumble on the Red Dragons’ 3-yard line in the third quarter.
“We got away with one here tonight on the road,” said Poland coach Mark Brungard. “Our guys just made the adjustment at halftime that they weren’t going to run on us.
“Niles played with great passion and great heart. They didn’t give it to us by any means. They made us earn it.”
“Hats off to Poland,” said Niles coach Brad Yeager. “We believe in bend but don’t break and we only broke one time tonight.”
In fact, Niles scored first, taking a 7-0 lead in the second quarter when Bailey lofted a pass to Palmer, who strode into the end zone.
Justin Evans kicked the extra point to give Niles a 7-0 lead.
Poland put points on the scoreboard a few minutes later, when sophomore Conner McFadden kicked a 33-yard field goal to cut Niles’ lead to 7-3.
Lawman’s 2-yard scamper into the end zone in the third quarter, and McFadden’s extra point kick, gave the Bulldogs the lead.
Niles’ last gasp came with 2:50 left on the clock, but the Red Dragons could advance the ball only to the 30-yard line before Poland regained possession.