Gatrell’s three TDs pace Western Reserve against Columbiana


By ERIC FORTUNE

sports@vindy.com

COLUMBIANA

Andy Hake and Bob Spaite respect each other well enough and enjoy preparing against the other.

But Thursday night was the last time the Western Reserve Blue Devils and Columbiana Clippers will open the season against each other after the Blue Devils came away with a 27-12 victory to even the series at 2-2 over the past four years at Veteran’s Appreciation Night at Firestone Park.

“We respect each other,” Spaite said. “I don’t mind playing him. I just don’t want to play him out of the shoot. They are very difficult to prepare for.”

That proved true Thursday night as the Blue Devils took it the Clippers with Adam Gatrell finishing with 135 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

“We wanted to run the ball and control the clock,” Gatrell said. “We wanted to keep Cross contained. We had a spy on Cross. We were a man under. I think he had a hard time reading because we were always on him.”

The game plan worked with the Clippers going three-and-out on it’s opening three possessions.

The Blue Devils held Cross was held to 163 yards passing with two interceptions.

“The first defensive series I thought we were okay,” Spaite said. “They’re not knocking us around. We just didn’t get anything going. Ultimately, that’s my fault. That’s my responsibility. I’m the offensive coordinator. I’m the head coach. We didn’t perform well enough offensively to give our defense a chance.”

Western Reserve got on the board first when Jimmy Mayberry got past the Columbiana’s defensive backs as he scored on a 42-yard pass from Ryan Slaven to give the Blue Devils an 8-0 lead a little less than five minutes into the game.

Gatrell’s six-yard run midway through the second quarter extended the lead to 14-0 before the Clippers made it a one-possession game when Chase Franken hauled in a 57-yard pass from Jakob Cross just 12 seconds later.

Instead of seizing back momentum, the Blue Devils responded with 10 play, 60-yard drive to make it 20-6 at the half.

“We really got on our guys at halftime about finishing,” Hake said. “We have a lot of young kids on the field. We’re just trying to get better. We knew this was going to be a war. They had a lot of their kids back. They’re very skilled and coached well. We knew it was going to be a wild game. At halftime, our guys weren’t complacent.”

After a scoreless third quarter, Columbiana again got it within one possession after a one-yard run from Steven Anderson made it 20-12 with 10:22 left to play.

“Bob’s awesome,” Hake said. “You’re not going to catch him with his pants down.”

Again, Western Reserve responded less than two minutes later when Gatrell took it in form 40 yards out to push the lead back out to 27-12.

“Gatrell took over the game,” Hake said. “Our line got on them. That was the difference. We have some older guys that really refuse to be denied.”

The Clippers moved the ball again on their ensuing possession but saw the drive stall at the Western Reserve 31.

“We gave a lot,” Spaite said. “I thought we punched them back in the mouth. They hit us in the mouth, no doubt about it. I don’t think we backed down. I don’t feel that was the thing. We made way too many mistakes.

“We handed them the game and they took it and said thanks very much. You can’t make the kind of mistakes we made in the first half.”

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