Lowellville QB Ballone ties state record
Becomes first Ohio QB since 2013 to throw 9 TD passes in a single game
For the past three years, Lowellville head football coach Andrew Mamula has seen senior quarterback Vinny Ballone grow up in front of his eyes.
During that time, the star signal-caller has put up some pretty dazzling numbers as he passed for 2,114 yards and 28 touchdowns last season as a junior while leading the Rockets in rushing with 870 yards on 90 carries.
So, Mamula has become used to seeing Ballone have big games. He’s come to expect it and Friday night was no different.
Ballone led the Rockets to a 62-20 victory over previously undefeated Jackson-Milton as he completed 29 of his 38 pass attempts for 442 yards and tied an Ohio state record for most passing touchdowns in a single game with nine.
“You know, I’ve been around the kid for three years and It’s kinda what we expect from him,” Mamula said. “We know how talented he is, we know how talented our receivers are. We’re just having a good time trying to coach and win some football games. We’re good at letting our kids play and do their thing and (Friday) night Vinny had a heck of a game.”
According to OHSAA record books, Ballone became the ninth quarterback in state history to accomplish the feat and is the first since Nattional Trail’s Garrett Griffin and Wayne Trace’s Colby Speice did it in 2013.
Ballone spread the ball around throughout the night, completing passes to seven different Rockets, five of whom caught touchdown passes.
He started it off with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Braylen Dabney before connecting with tight end Anthony Lucente from 1-yard out for his first of four touchdown receptions on the night.
“When you have a 6’3, 250 pound kid in Divison VII, you’re always going to have a mismatch,” Mamula said. “But when we call our routes, it’s not just one read. Vinny has the option to look at multiple options pre-snap. Obviously, we’ve been getting Anthony involved more as a tight end over the middle than we have in the past and since we have, he’s done a great job stepping up for us.”
In the second quarter, Ballone found both Lucente and senior wide receiver Brady Bunofsky for a score. Bunofsky finished with nine catches for 92 yards and a touchdown.
With Lowellville leading 27-14 at halftime, the Rockets wanted to pull away in the second half rather than leaving any doubt. Ballone found Dabney for a 20-yard strike, and Lucente for a 10-yard touchdown.
Ballone closed out the night with three more touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. The record-tying strike came on a 13-yard pass to Lucente, who finished with six catches for 92 yards.
Although Ballone and the Rockets have been putting up mind-boggling numbers this year — the Rockets are scoring 51.6 points per game and Ballone has thrown for 1,610 yards and 30 touchdowns in 5 games — Mamula said the plan wasn’t to necessarily attack the Blue Jays through the air at first.
“We thought we were going to be able to run the ball a little more because defensively we thought they were going to get upfield a little more and leave some running lanes for us,” Mamula said. “But unfortunately I think we had some fumbles in the run game that developed a little lack of trust and early in the first half we tried to run in the red zone and we got stuffed for a negative loss. So it wasn’t really the plan but it was kind of our best chance to pull away from them.”
Lowellville went on to outscore the Blue Jays 35-6 in the second half to cruise to victory after deciding to stick with the passing game after the break.
“We were having so much success throwing the ball and our offensive line was just giving great protection and I thought Vinny had a lot of time,” Mamula said. “There were plays where he was just standing back there with very little pressure so at that point, we thought we might as well just go with who we are and keep slinging it.”
The Rockets and Ballone will look to keep slinging this week when they host Waterloo at 7 p.m. on Friday.