South Range romps past Springfield
By Tom Williams
Celebrating new digs and an independent lifestyle, the South Range football team’s 37-14 victory over Springfield on Saturday still felt like an old-school Inter-Tri County League showdown.
“That was a good-ol’ backyard brawl,” South Range head coach Dan Yeagley said of the Raiders’ opener against their archrivals. “I was pleased with how our kids got after it.”
The game was the Raiders’ first in their new stadium across state Route 46 from the school and as an independent. With the ITCL disbanding, Springfield is part of the new Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference. South Range wasn’t invited to join.
“It was a blast, going against our rival ... and putting on a show,” said Raiders quarterback Aniello Buzzacco, who passed for 208 yards and tossed four touchdown passes. He completed 12 of 18 passes.
Wide receiver Mathias Combs, who scored three touchdowns, called the victory “the biggest game of the year for us. Listening to 34-27 for a full year, it made us pretty mad.”
Combs was referring to last year’s overtime loss to Springfield.
Instead of playing Springfield late (usually in a contest with title implications), this year’s version opened the Raiders’ new adventure playing some bigger schools.
“We were worried because we had to play them Week 1,” Yeagley said. “They always play hard. Our kids rose to the occasion.”
The Tigers started off with a bang, scoring first. It didn’t last.
“You know they are going to fight,” Springfield coach Sean Guerriero said. “We’ve got to eliminate mistakes. I think we were tentative today.
“Our kids will fight back next week.”
Before a packed house, the Tigers rained on the party atmosphere midway through the first quarter when a high snap to punter Brandon Youngs led to a 24-yard loss. That reversal set up a a four-play scoring drive capped by Brannon Brungard hitting Brandon Walters with a 10-yard scoring strike.
The Raiders responded almost immediately, when Buzzacco hit Combs with a quick toss. Combs eluded the Tigers for an 68-yard score.
“He’s a great runner,” said Buzzacco of his favorite target. “He really knows how to put moves on defensive backs and linebackers to make kids miss.”
The Raiders dominated the second quarter, scoring three times. They took the lead after Yeagley gambled with a fourth-and-inches call from the Springfield 4. Instead of running, Buzzacco fired a strike to Combs falling into the end zone for a 14-7 lead.
Then the Raiders stung the Tigers with a two-play 75-yard drive that ended with Peyton Remish’s 35-yard run. Remish had 22 other carries to finish with 203 yards.
Not long before halftime, Brungard found Austin Trebella alone in the secondary for an 81-yard score to slice the South Range to 21-14. The Raiders responded with a 65-yard march on nine plays. Josh Stear caught a 7-yard pass to restore the Raiders’ 14-point lead.
Combs saved his niftiest moves for the third quarter. After Youngs kicked a 24-yard field goal, the Raiders threatened again at the Springfield 15. Buzzacco sent the ball to Combs near the sideline. Bumped by a defender, the 5-foot-9, 145-pound senior stayed upright, ran to the far side and then raced into the end zone.
“I remember getting hit pretty hard, and then ‘Buzz’ kept me up,” said Combs, who caught seven passes for 116 yards. “I reversed field and tried to make something happen.
“I really didn’t expect to score, I just kept moving forward.”
That’s his team’s next task as the Raiders face a schedule loaded with new teams.
“It’s a great win for us — this is something we’ve been talking about since last year,” Yeagley said. “It’s a very, very special time and a very, very special game.”
Brungard sparked the Tigers by completing 8 of 19 passes for 133 yards.
But South Range slowed Springfield’s rushing attack, limiting the Tigers to 60 yards on 30 carries.