By Marcus barkley
Safety is one of the dirtiest words in football for a team on the receiving end of the dreaded two-point miscue. It shows weakness, a lack of mental focus and physical ineptness over an opponent.
But for Western Reserve in a Division VI, Region 21 quarterfinal against Shadyside, it was a safety against the Blue Devils that coach Andrew Hake had planned for that led the visitors to a nail-biting 19-18 victory against the undefeated Tigers.
“I didn’t want to give them the ball,” Hake said of punting. “We punted like five yards earlier. So I gave it to [Tim] Cooper to run out the clock for us.”
Following a 15-point, fourth quarter comeback by Shadyside after a near complete breakdown for the normally staunch Devil defense, Western Reserve found itself at fourth and 20 near its goal line with 15 seconds to go after three kneel-downs.
Instead of punting, Hake called for quarterback Nick Allison to pitch to Cooper, who proceeded to charge back into the end zone and run away from Tiger defenders until finally being wrestled down.
This pulled the Tigers to within one point, but left only enough time for a desperation heave after the ensuing punt by the Devils. It was on that final play that Cooper was again tasked with saving the day. As Tigers quarterback Chase Kinemond hurled the ball at 6-foot-5 sophomore Austin Dorris, who already had a touchdown grab and 100 yards, Cooper stepped in front to secure both the game for his squad and his eighth interception of the season. The pick gave Cooper 21 for his career, which broke the Western Reserve school record.
“You just jump and have to get your hand between his arms,” Cooper said. “He’s a big guy, like 6-5, so he’s a tough player, but we had a bunch of guys around him that made it harder for him to get it.”
Cooper ended the game and also gave his team a huge surge of momentum to begin it, as the senior took the opening kickoff 95 yards for a TD to give Western Reserve a lead it kept all night.
“It was electrifying,” Cooper said. “Our team was already pumped up and that fed us for the rest of the half. It gave us confidence and it shut [Shadyside] down a little bit.”
Following the early score, the Devils dominated both sides of the ball early, holding Shadyside to just a field goal in the first half and adding two more scores for a commanding 19-3 lead at the half. The Devils made it 13-0 when Dan Zilke blasted through for a 1-yard score and 19-0 when Allison (8 of 12, 82 yards), ran 3 yards for a TD.
After a scoreless third, the Tigers proved why they were undefeated on the season and nearly unbeatable in recent years at home with a pair of TDs to pull within a field goal with six minutes to play. Kinemond (17 of 36, 420 yards) connected first with Ian Baker on a 55-yard strike and then Dorris on a 46-yard bomb. Kinemond averaged almost 25 yards per completion.
The Devils then seemingly put the Tigers away for good as Cooper, who also led his team in rushing with 67 yards on 16 carries, broke through for a 58-yard run to the Shadyside 1. But a seldom called assisting the runner penalty negated a touchdown and Cooper, with his only mistake on the night, fumbled the next handoff.
Shadyside converted several third-and-long plays and a fourth-and-11 before a huge holding penalty took the Tigers from the edge of the Devils’ goal line and forced them into a fourth-and-17. On that play, Kinemond fired to the end zone for Dorris, but a host of Devils broke up the play.
SDLqThat team is a great team and I don’t ever want to play here again,” Hake said with a big laugh. “That was too much for me. They just kept coming back — they’re relentless.”