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Connelly: Halftime adjustments drum up Reserve win

During halftime of Western Reserve’s 22-2 district final win over Norwalk St. Paul, an announcement came across the loud speaker at Ken Dukes Stadium in Medina.

“At this time you would normally hear the Western Reserve marching band, but due to the cold weather the keys on the brass instruments have frozen over. Instead, the drum line will play something for your entertainment.”

Those who made the 60-plus mile trek from Berlin Center to Medina applauded the performance that could be best described, in football terms, as an audible.

If it weren’t for the dominating play of the Blue Devils’ football team, the drum line may have stolen the show in Saturday night’s snow-filled playoff game.

Instead, they were overshadowed by the halftime adjustment of Western Reserve coach Andy Hake and his staff that allowed the Blue Devils to hold a decisive advantage in every statistical category imaginable.

They went into the locker room leading the Flyers 8-2, but outside of one drive in the first quarter — 11 plays that took 5:25 off the clock — the Blue Devils struggled to do much offensively. Quarterback Nick Allison, who threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns against Danville the week prior, was 1-of-5 and failed to connect with his favorite target Joe Falasca.

The rushing attack wasn’t much of an attack in the first half either, averaging around 3 yards per carry. It was evident a tweak in the offensive game plan was necessary as the winter elements became increasingly more of a factor.

So what did the Blue Devils draw up for the first play of the second half?

How about a quick three-step drop from Allison, allowing him to hit Falasca on a slant across the middle for a first down.

Talk about a confidence boost.

A few plays later running back Evan Nesbitt bounced a run outside the tackles and got the corner on the St. Paul defense to pick up 41 yards.

That will certainly help the rushing average.

Then, to cap a seven-play, 79-yard drive, Dan Zilke punched it in from 1-yard out, all but punching Western Reserve’s ticket to the Division VII state semifinal Saturday.

So, after gaining just 87 yards on 33 plays in the first 24 minutes, the Blue Devils were able to nearly double their total yards in under three minutes.

How, you ask?

Halftime adjustments.

It’s what separates the good coaches from the great ones. And after taking his team to its second state semifinal in the last three years — something only Cardinal Mooney coach P.J. Fecko can also say — the energetic, unabashed and often characterized as somewhat crazy Andy Hake can, and should, be characterized as just that.

Not to mention Western Reserve is doing it with, as he put it, “the kids from town”.

“Say that one. That’s all you need,” Hake told reporters as he jumped up and down and practically floated off the snow-covered field.

No need to, coach. Your team already did.

Kevin Connelly is a sportswriter at The Vindicator. Email him at and follow him on Twitter, @Connelly_Vindy.


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