Saturday, September 1, 2018
By Steve ruman
A few weeks ago, Poland junior Jake Rutana was expected to play a backup role to senior Nico Lattanzio in the Bulldogs backfield.
However, a preseason injury sidelined Lattanzio and quickly thrust Rutana into the spotlight.
Rutana has responded in a big way.
Last week, Rutana ran for 138 yards in Poland’s win over Marlington. Friday night at Bo Rein Stadium, Rutana again proved to be a workhorse in the Bulldogs’ 34-7 win over Niles.
Rutana rushed for 158 yards on 26 carries, leading a Poland offense which churned out 349 total yards.
“I just knew I had to always be physically and mentally ready for anything, you never know when you’re going to be needed” Rutana said of his added role. “Honestly, it was the offensive line that created all the yards tonight. They opened up some huge holes. I just followed their lead.”
Rutana’s steady game was needed in a contest which featured eight turnovers, including five by the Red Dragons.
Niles turned the ball over three times in the first half, but the damage was somewhat negated by a pair of interceptions on the defensive end. The mistake-filled first half resulted in a 10-7 Poland advantage at intermission.
Poland took the early advantage with a 16-play, 65 yard drive which consumed 7:20 of the first quarter. The drive was capped when quarterback Cole Kosco scored from a yard out.
Mikey Kushner added a 23 yard field goal to give Poland a 10-0 advantage, but Niles cut its deficit to three points when Zach Leonard hooked up with Trent Johnson on a 21-yard TD pass just before halftime.
“We knew we had to make some adjustments at the break, we knew we had to come out and play solid football because that Niles defense was stepping up big time,” said Poland coach Ryan Williams. “We felt that if we came out and executed, if we came out and played our game in the second half, we’d be okay.”
Niles turned the ball over on its first two possessions of the second half, and this time the miscues were costly. Poland had a short field on both ensuing possessions, and scored both times to pull away. Kosco capped each drive with TD runs of 3 and 15 yards.
“We’re going to kick ourselves when we watch the film of this game,” said Niles coach Jim Parry. “We should have went into halftime with the lead. But still, three turnovers and to only be down 10-7, we have to be able to take advantage of those situations. We need to learn from this.”
Parry was also disappointed in his team’s physical condition.
“We have to take better care of our bodies,” Parry said. “We were cramping up all over the place, they weren’t. They were in better shape than us, and it cost us. We have to work our kids better for these situations.”