Blue Devils struggled to move the ball as Tomcats advance to state finale
In Saturday’s state semifinal game, the Western Reserve High School football team was out-gained out-hit and out-scored by Glouster Trimble.
For the first time in school history, Trimble advances to the Division VII state championship game after a 14-10 victory over Western Reserve at Red Devil Stadium.
For the second the time in school history and second time in three seasons, Western Reserve exits the state playoffs one win shy of the title game.
“Our kids played very valiantly and I’m very proud of them,” Blue Devils coach Andy Hake said. “They played very, very hard.”
Western Reserve was held to 21 total yards in the first half — all on the ground — and the only pass quarterback Nick Allison completed was to the Tomcats’ Austin Down.
That would become a theme throughout the game.
Downs drew the assignment of covering the Blue Devils’ top receiving target, Joe Falasca. The 6-foot defensive back shutdown the 6-foot-5 wideout for all but one first-down catch in the fourth quarter.
Downs picked off Allison three times, the last coming on a deep ball with about two minutes remaining to seal the victory.
“I told Coach, ‘this is what I live for,’ ” Downs said. “I [knew] I had a lot on my shoulders, but honestly it wasn’t all me. I had help on the inside with the linebackers, so I had the outside and our free safety was playing over the deep middle.”
It was the Tomcats’ offense that was off and running early as sophomore Justice Jenkins scored on touchdown runs of 11 and 16 in the first quarter.
The Blue Devils were able to add a 25-yard field goal from Parker Clegg between the scoring runs thanks to a Tomcats’ muffed punt deep in their territory.
Western Reserve struggled all game with penalties, constantly jumping offsides on defense, as well as getting beat deep forcing pass interference calls extending Trimble drives.
The Blue Devils had 10 penalties in the game for a total of 90 yards.
“We do that and it bit us in the [butt] this time,” Hake said. “You know they’re a quality opponent and we did not come out and play particularly well.”
The Tomcats’ defense plugged the holes in the Western Reserve running game as well, limiting the Blue Devils to just 95 yards on the ground.
Evan Nesbitt ran for 83-yard touchdown late in the third quarter.
The score was set up by a fourth-down stop of Trimble at its own 39-yard-line that was led by linebacker Jon Timko.
Two plays later, Nesbitt ran it in from 33 yards out to cut the score to 14-10.
“Big plays once you get a little momentum it changes the whole game,” Timko said. “We just needed more time — a minute — anything.”
The momentum had swung in favor of Western Reserve, but the Blue Devils were unable to capitalize. They had three possessions in the fourth quarter, but the Tomcats forced two punts.
Then with under two minutes remaining, Downs picked off Allison for the third time.
“They played well early on,” Hake said. “I sure wish I could have that first half back, but you can’t do that. Credit goes to them, they won the day.”