By Tom Williams
After the South Range High football team clinched a share of its first league title in five years, head coach Dan Yeagley was in a grateful mood.
“[We’re] blessed to have two phenomenal backs,” said Yeagley referring to senior Billy Goodall and junior Joe Alessi. “[Actually, it’s] three because David McCabe is probably the best fullback in the league.
“And the reason these guys are running down the field is because we do have a great line.”
Thanks to a strong running attack, the Raiders (9-0, 6-0 Inter Tri-County League Tier One) zapped the Tigers for 324 yards in Friday’s 35-13 victory.
Goodall carried the ball 21 times for 145 yards while Alessi gained 142 yards on 13 tries.
“They both got hit pretty good tonight,” Yeagley said. “Springfield is a very a good team and they came after us very hard.”
The Tigers (6-3, 4-2), the number nine team in this week’s Division VI, Region 19 computer ratings for playoffs, were playing for their postseason lives. The Raiders own the top spot there as well.
“Huge” is how Goodall described the victory. “The line just blocked great tonight.”
Opening holes were left tackle Garrett Sorley, left guard Zach Baird, center Evan Schaeffer, right guard Ryan Haynes, right tackle Ben Farmer and tight end Adam Witmer.
“It feels awesome,” said Sorley, a senior. “But we’ve got one more game to go.”
A win over Lisbon or a Crestview loss to East Palestine next Friday will give the Raiders the title outright. In Week 4, the Raiders defeated the Rebels, 49-35. It was Crestview’s first league loss since 2009.
“That’s been our goal, since week one, to bring back the title,” Yeagley said. After each team exchanged punts to open the game, the Raiders seized control with a 14-play, 80-yard drive capped by Goodall’s 7-yard touchdown run.
After the Tigers went three-and-out, the Raiders struck quickly with a two-play drive. Alessi burst through the line for a 30-yard scoring run.
The Raiders closed the first half with another long march, this one taking 13 plays to go 73 yards. Goodall’s 9-yard touchdown run opened up a 21-0 lead.
“It was definitely tough for our guys,” Springfield coach Sean Guerriero said. “On both sides of the ball, they are an aggressive team.
“We couldn’t get off some blocks and get them down to the ground,” Guerriero said.
The mood in the South Range locker room was quietly jubilant.
“We were happy when we came in here,” Sorley said. “It’s not every day you’re 9-0 so we came in here with excitement.
“But we know we have to strap down for next week.”
Goodall and Sorley admitted that before their opening win over Warren JFK they had high hopes for their final varsity season.
“We dreamt it but no one really knew it was going to happen,” Sorley said,
Goodall said, “We had high expectations from the beginning and so did Coach Yeagley. We’ve proved him right.”
Alessi and Bryce Allen scored the Raiders’ second-half touchdowns.
Junior running back Ryan Kohler scored the Tigers’ fourth-quarter touchdowns. He rushed 14 times for 58 yards.
Defensively, the Raiders limited the Tigers to 54 yards through three quarters.