By Matthew Peaslee
On Ryan Grier’s first touch of the Division VI, Region 21 semifinal, he ran 23 yards for a score.
Getting the pitch from Emmett Underwood after the quarterback faked a handoff to Drevon Green, Grier broke two tackles for a potential six points.
But it was called back due to holding.
Grier got the chance again in the third quarter, off the same play, where he ran 46 yards on third down into Malvern territory.
No flag, no penalty, just a celebration. It secured Youngstown Christian’s 25-20 win over the Hornets.
“We came back to that play,” said YCS coach Brian Marrow. “Coach [Jared] Vrable called it first on the touchdown that was called back. We were trying to get to the edge a lot because we like when Ryan carries it in space. He got to the edge and did what he does best.”
After being limited to just 26 yards in the first half, Grier exploded for 191 in the second half. The senior running back had TD runs of 43 and 17 yards.
“He played with tremendous heart,” Marrow said. “Not only him, all of our guys are playing with heart.”
The Hornets (9-2) jumped out to a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Youngstown Christian (9-2) scored on its next possession when Nick Gonda hauled in a 28-yard touchdown pass from Underwood.
Marrow called it a “heck of a catch.”
“That was all adrenaline,” Gonda said. “I had to focus and just reach and grab it. I knew I had to jump higher than the defender. I had to jump up higher and bring it in.”
Underwood finished with 190 passing yards, completing 9 of 20 passes. He also had a 40-yard TD pass to Darien Townsend in the third quarter.
“He’s getting comfortable in the pocket and making nice passes,” Gonda said.
Malvern answered after the Underwood-to-Townsend score with a 61-yard scoring pass from Trey Tucci to Max Kapron. That made the score 20-19 with 2:42 left in the third.
Grier closed the scoring less than two minutes later.
In the back-and-forth fourth quarter, the Eagles’ defense rose up once again.
In last week’s first-round playoff win over Warren JFK, Youngstown Christian had key stops that secured the win.
Back-to-back sacks of Tucci by Grier and Melvin Gregory forced a Malvern turnover on downs in the final three minutes. Tucci was sacked four times and Malvern running back Cobin Plessinger was held to no gain seven times.
“Stopoping them like that again felt great,” Gregory said. “It all felt great. There’s nothing like it, especially on a big stage like this. This is a great stadium and a lot of fans came out to see this.”
Plessinger finished with 166 yards on 36 carries, but was limited to just 44 yards in the second half.
“The defense really rose to the occasion,” Marrow said. “The D-coordinator, Dave Gessler, really gets them fired up. He does an awesome job. All my guys do a great job to prepare them.”
Ryan Coyier caught five passes for 76 yards and Green added 23 yards on the ground. The Eagles will face Mogadore in next week’s regional final.