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South Range likes fit in Northeast-8

After playing as an independent for the past two years, South Range is enjoying life as a member of the Northeast-8 Conference. Despite being the small fish in the big pond, Raiders coach Dan Yeagley couldn’t be happier with the new setup.

“It’s a great league, and our coaches, players and fans have enjoyed visiting the different venues, playing the different teams that we’ve never played in the past,” Yeagley said. “It’s provided a lot of excitement for our program.”

South Range (5-3) owns a 3-2 league record. It lost to Poland and Niles (in overtime). The Raiders own league wins over Girard, Jefferson and Lakeview.

“We’ve been in some great conferences in the past, but as things change it was time to move on,” Yeagley said. “At one time we were one of the bigger schools in a small-school league. Now we’re kind of on the opposite end of things, but we love the fit.”

South Range’s 2018 enrollment figures include 156 male students (grades 9 through 11). By contrast, Niles — the largest school in the league — had an enrollment total of 310 male students. Niles is a Division III school in football. South Range and Jefferson are Division V. All other league members belong in Division IV.

“There are times when we’re going to be pretty outsized, we’ll face some very tough match-ups,” Yeagley admitted. “But the kids love the challenge. This league has some tradition-rich football programs and some of the area’s best coaches. I’ve had players from past (South Range) teams come up to me and say, ‘Boy, I would love to know how we would have competed in this league.'”

South Range is currently 10th in region 17. It closes the season with games against Struthers and Hubbard.

McDONALD MOVING

In early September, it appeared as though the McDonald High football team was in full-blown rebuilding mode. The Blue Devils entered the season having lost 12 seniors — 10 of whom were three-year starters. The inexperience showed in back-to-back losses to Brookfield and Columbiana.

However, McDonald has rebounded to win five of its last six games. At 5-3, the Devils are currently in seventh place in the Division VII, Region 25 computer rankings. With two games left in the regular season, they control their own playoff fate.

“After losing to Columbiana and starting out 0-2, we felt like we were playing from behind and that we had to pretty much treat every game like a playoff game from that point on,” junior quarterback Dominic Schadl said. “Our offensive and defensive lines took charge. They started playing lights out and the rest of the team fed off that.”

While the line play may have kick-started the McDonald engine, Schadl has provided the spark to keep it running at full throttle.

Through eight games, Schadl has rushed for a Trumbull County-best 1,294 yards (8.9 yards per carry). In Friday’s 35-8 win over Jackson-Milton, Schadl led McDonald with 250 rushing yards on 21 carries. He scored three rushing touchdowns. He also completed his only pass attempt of the night — a 20-yard touchdown throw to Cameron Tucker.

“There’s no question we lost a lot of talent from last year’s team, including a couple of rare players in Josh (Celli) and Alex (Cintron),” Schadl said. “I think we have a lot of talent on this team, we just had to gel. We had to learn to play as a team at the varsity level.

“I know personally, I had some bad moments early on. I had four turnovers against Columbiana. But that loss seemed to really get us moving in the right direction.”

McDonald visits Lowellville (6-2) on Friday, then ends its season at home against Springfield (8-0).

“There are always high expectations in McDonald,” Schadl said. “Some people think it’s asking too much to live up to those expectations, but I think it’s a good thing. It provides motivation. We’re playing the best we’ve played all year. We just have to keep it going.”

HOME ON THE RANGE

NOTES FROM THE SIDELINES

After finishing 9-1 and failing to make the playoffs a year ago, Springfield (8-0) has already clinched a post-season berth. …. In the past two weeks, LaBrae sophomore Devin Carter has rushed for 502 yards and nine touchdowns. …. After losing eight straight games dating back to last year, Chalker has now won back-to-back games. …. Austintown Fitch and Jackson-Milton are both 3-5 after both schools began the season with three straight wins. …. Warren G. Harding’s next opponent — West Toronto Prep — plays an all-United States schedule. It includes games against teams from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Maryland. The Golden Warriors are 0-7.