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South Range falls in OT

NILES — The Niles McKinley Red Dragons practice a drill which they call “Irene,” a reference to the go-signal in the movie “Black Hawk Down.”

“It’s a drill where we put ourselves in end-of-game and overtime situations, just to better prepare ourselves for anything that might come up during a game,” explained Dragons coach Jim Parry.

On Friday, Parry acknowledged that his team “experienced about eight Irene moments” in its home game against South Range. In the end, “Irene” paid huge dividends, and the result was a Niles 35-34 overtime win over the Raiders at Bo Rein Stadium.

Niles scored on the first possession of overtime, After a penalty and a quarterback sack put the Red Dragons in a second-and-goal situation from the 18, a Zack Leonard-to-Romaro Baskin 17-yard pass play set up a third-and-goal at the one.

Leonard scored from a yard out, and a Chase Sudzina extra point gave Niles a 35-28 advantage — its first lead of the night.

South Range quickly responded. Facing a third-and-11, Raiders quarterback Isaac Allegretto hooked up with Chris Brooks for a 21-yard touchdown pass. However, the point-after attempt was missed.

Niles lifts its record to 5-1, including a 2-1 record in the Northeast-8 Conference. South Range falls to 3-3 (1-2).

The first half was all South Range. The Raiders outgained Niles in total yards 265-78 before the break in building a 21-7 lead at intermission.

“We challenged our linemen in the locker room,” Parry said. “We told them that what happened in that first half was unacceptable, and they agreed. We have four senior linemen who are mature and who were willing to step up and be held accountable.”

Like it did in the first half, Niles turned a South Range fumble into points. The Raiders’ first possession of the second half resulted in a turnover and gave the Dragons possession at the South Range 37.

Four plays later, Leonard hooked up with Sudzina on a 15-yard scoring pass to cut the Niles deficit to 21-14.

A one-yard Leonard run tied the game up at 21-21 on the first play of the fourth quarter.

The two teams then traded touchdowns, sending the game into overtime.

Leonard threw for 135 yards and rushed for 63 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Sudzina pulled in four receptions for 69 yards. Niles also benefited from the running of David Mays, who gained all of his 68 yards in the second half.

South Range gained 413 yards of total offense, including 236 passing yards from Allegretto. He threw touchdown passes to Brooks and Trey Pancake.

Patrick McCabe led the Raiders’ rushing attack with 82 yards.

“Our kids played hard, but they can’t make mistakes against good teams and Niles is a really good team,” said South Range coach Dan Yeagley. “We gave them opportunities to get back in the game, and they took advantage.”

“We know we can play with the schools in this league, but we have to play perfect football against these bigger schools and tonight we weren’t perfect.”

Yeagley admitted he considering going for the two-point conversion and the win in overtime.

“Hindsight is easy, yeah we thought about it but the bottom line is that a lot of things went on during the game to get to this point,” Yeagley said. “We didn’t lose just because of a missed extra point.”

Meanwhile, Parry was pleased with his team’s never-say-quit mentality.

“They took it to us early, but we kept fighting,” Parry said. “We took advantage of some opportunities, we played hard from start to finish.”

Niles returns to action next Friday when it visits Struthers. South Range will host Jefferson.