By John Bassetti
Quarterback Aniello Buzzacco scored on runs of 3, 7 and 12 yards, Peyton Remish had 27 carries for 172 yards and Mathias Combs made three catches totaling 136 yards to help lift South Range over Crestview, 28-14, in a Division V, Region 17 quarterfinal Friday night.
The game was a rematch of a Sept. 29 game won by South Range, 34-7.
Combs, a wide receiver/slot on offense and cornerback on defense, had an interception with seven minutes left that eventually led to a Buzzacco-to-Combs touchdown play covering 54 yards.
Combs also caught a pass late in the third quarter that led to a 74-yard gain that gave South Range (11-0) possession at Crestview’s 7-yard line to set up Buzzacco’s TD, which put the Raiders ahead for good at 14-7.
“We were playing with a lot of emotion, so I was pretty mad toward from about halfway through the third quarter,” Combs said. “I decided that, every time I get the ball, I’m making a play.”
In describing the difference in halves, Combs, a senior, said, “We had a lot of penalties in the first half and that doesn’t help, so we tried to clean it up in the second half.”
For the night, the Raiders had 10 penalties for 122 yards and Levi Taylor had four successful PATs.
Combs spoke of Manchester, South Range’s next opponent whom the Raiders beat earlier this season.
“We beat them, but they are a very good team,” he said. “They were our toughest team all year and they have an insanely good running back. Unfortunately, their quarterback got hurt really bad a few games after ours, but their backup quarterback, from what I know, has done really well.”
Buzzacco gave this account of his team’s halftime strategy: “We came out and told each other that we need to execute our plays and we need to work together and fix all our little mistakes.”
Of Manchester, Buzzacco said, “They’re a very physical team, so we’ve got to play our best game. It was a close game last time [42-36], so it’s important to execute all our plays and stop their offense and stop their running back and play how we always play.”
South Range coach Dan Yeagley said that Friday night’s atmosphere was definitely playoff-caliber between two good teams and two good programs.
“We knew it was going to be that type of war with both of us banging each other. We knew it was going to be a 48-minute war. Luckily, we had some big-play people in big-time situations,” Yeagley said of Buzzacco, Combs and Remish.
“When we were down and needed something, one of those always stepped up.”
Yeagley said that Manchester’s running back, as well as other skill players, will be a threat.
“Their receiver [coach Francis’ grandson] who made big plays for them the first time we played them is now the quarterback and he can run and throw and make things happen. Last time it was 42-36 and it was a tough game to the end.”
After a 9-1 season in 2016, ,South Range lost its playoff opener against Garrrettsville Garfield.,
“It’s nice getting back in and nice winning that first-round game and, hopefully, we can get another one in the second round.”
Crestview coach Paul Cusick said that his Rebels, who bowed out 6-5, found themselves in poor field position in the second half.
“We did some things to put ourselves in bad situations,” Cusick said. “But I’m proud how our guys battled until the end. You’ve got to give South Ragne credit — they’re the No. 1 seed for a reason.”
The game was scoreless until South Range took a 7-0 lead with 3:56 remaining in the first half after Josh Stear’s interception at the Raiders’ 2-yard line just 10 seconds into the second quarter. South Range then marched 98 yards, capped by Buccazzo’s 3-yard touchdown run and Taylor’s point-after kick.
The game began with a slew of pass attempts and few running plays. On its first two series, Buzzacco had four pass incompletions and a completed pass to Combs for a two-yard loss. Buzzacco’s two rushes in those series amounted to one yard gained.
Likewise, Crestview quarterback Caleb Hill had five incompletions, while Andrew Yanssens’ five runs netted two yards.
The ground game didn’t emerge until each team’s third possession.
Crestview’s closest advance in the first half was to South Range’s 14-yard line, but Ethan Powell was thrown for a 5-yard loss, followed by Stear’s pickoff.