No late-game magic in store for the Spartans
By MIKE McLAIN
There would be no late magic this time.
A week earlier the Boardman Spartans used a successful onside kick to rally for a huge win over the Cardinal Mooney Cardinals. In the final minutes of a non-conference game against the Massillon Jackson Polar Bears on Friday, the Spartans again tried to coax magic out of the tricky bounces of an onside kick in the hope of pulling off another come-from-behind win.
As fortune would have it, the kick off the left foot of Stephen Taylor didn’t travel the required 10 yards when a teammate inadvertently kicked the ball. The Polar Bears were awarded possession at the Spartans’ 49, from where they ran out the clock on a 21-14 win.
Jackson had what appeared a comfortable 21-7 lead in the fourth quarter when running back Dillon Dingler fumbled trying to pick up a first down. Steven Amstutz recovered for Boardman at the Jackson 31.
Two plays later sophomore quarterback Michael O’Horo found Gaven Strines open on a 28-yard touchdown pass. The point-after kick was good, cutting the Polar Bears’ lead to seven points.
Suddenly, visions of the Mooney game ran through the minds of every player along the Boardman sideline.
“Our kids aren’t going to give up,” Spartans coach Joe Ignazio said. “We do a good job of getting them to play hard for 48 minutes. I’d rather it didn’t come down to a situation again like last week.”
The game wasn’t a thing of beauty on either side. Jackson (3-0) lost two fumbles and quarterback Jaret Pallotta had one pass intercepted. Boardman (2-1) lost one fumble, and O’Horo was picked off twice, including a theft by linebacker Trey Mihok that he returned 30 yards for a touchdown to give the Polar Bears a 21-7 lead in the fourth quarter.
“I thought we capitalized okay on turnovers, but we gave up too many,” Ignazio said. “Then you’re fighting with your backs up against the wall. Overall the night came down to we made too many mistakes.”
While the Spartans were hoping for late magic, the Polar Bears staged some magic on the first play from scrimmage. Pallotta threw what was a lateral to Dingler, who was lined up near the numbers to the right of the formation. Dingler then threw a deep pass to a wide open Joe Childers, who made the catch and sprinted into the end zone. The point-after kick failed.
“I’ve always thought that in big games you have to come out and do something to show your kids you’re confident in them,” Polar Bears coach Beau Balderson said. “Boardman is a great defensive team, and why they’re great is they run to the ball. We noticed their corners were making tackles in the backfield. We thought that we could get them to jump and that we’d have an opportunity to make the throw.
“Having Dillon Dingler there as a quarterback that’s playing receiver gives us a chance to do things like that.”
The Spartans showed signs of offensive life following an interception of a Pallotta pass by Jason Clinkscale at the Spartans’ 27 in the second period. Boardman proceeded to march 73 yards on 11 plays. Koby Adu-Poku, who rushed for 105 yards on 23 carries, scored on a 3-yard run. The point-after kick gave the Spartans a 7-6 halftime lead.
Jackson was handed a gift early in the third quarter when it recovered a fumble on a poor handoff between O’Horo and Adu-Poku. Assuming possession at the Boardman 17, the Polar Bears scored when Pallotta connected with Dingler from 14 yards out on a fourth-and-7 play. Pallotta’s pass to Dingler for the extra two points gave Jackson a 14-7 lead.
Mihok’s interception came when O’Horo was rushed into an errant throw.
“We played a great defensive game,” Balderson said. “That’s a good offensive line, mobile quarterback, big receivers, great runner.”
Jackson running back Jack Dear had 102 yards on 27 carries.