By Steve wilaj
With 5:22 remaining in the third quarter and Lisbon clinging to 14-7 lead, the Blue Devils set up to punt after their drive stalled at their own 49 yard line.
On fourth and five, punter Zach Allen received the long-snap, then — to everyone’s surprise — tucked the ball and ran 12 yards for the first down.
The fake punt propelled Lisbon to an eventual touchdown. It also may have been the turning point in the Blue Devils’ 37-14 road victory over Leetonia in a prep football game Thursday night.
“We always preach here at Leetonia that special teams and turnovers are the differences between wins and losses a lot of times,” said Leetonia coach Matt Altomare. “I think [the fake punt] was a game-changer. They executed their fake really well.”
Ironically, the fake punt wasn’t even planned, said Lisbon coach Jim Tsilimos.
“That wasn’t supposed to be a fake,” he said. “It wasn’t a great snap. [Allen] picked it up, and made a big play.”
What was planned — and very well — was Lisbon’s rushing attack.
The Blue Devils rushed for a combined 283 yards on 53 attempts, led by junior Brandon Barnes.
Barnes totaled 168 yards and three touchdowns in his varsity debut.
“This is my first year playing varsity and this start is really nice,” Barnes said. “The line did really good tonight, amazing, and it was just awesome.”
Lisbon scored on its first drive of the game when Barnes broke off a 44-yard dash to the end zone.
Leetonia then answered when Zach Van Giesen scored from 1 yard out, set up by a 31-yard run by Brandon Datillio.
But the Lisbon ground game was too much, racking up 18 first downs overall, as Barnes also scored on runs of 6 and 4 yards. Zak Leko chipped in 49 rush yards, while Josh Lathrop had 47 yards and one touchdown.
“We just thought that if it’s working, we’re gonna do it,” Tsilimos said. “Everything was working. Off-tackle, stack-I, and then we got into our wing-T.”
As for Leetonia’s run defense troubles, Altomare is confident they can be fixed.
“We’re gonna have to get back to the films and look at some things,” he said. “There’s a lot of positives with this game along with the negatives, too. I told the kids after the game, it’s a loss on the scoreboard, but it’s a total loss if we can’t learn from this.”