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Bulldogs bite back

Resilient Poland rallies from 21-0 deficit to beat Salem

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Poland wide receiver Andrew Centofanti (2) tries to shake a tackle by Salem’s Donnie Oesch (6) on Saturday night in the Division IV playoff game at Poland.

POLAND — After trailing 21-0 early in the second quarter, the Poland Bulldogs rallied back, scoring 24 unanswered points to beat the Salem Quakers, 24-21, in the second round of the Division IV, Region 13 playoffs.

“I’m sure proud of my kids’ resilience,” Bulldogs coach Ryan Williams said. “That’s a darn good football team. They’re very well-coached, they had a good game plan coming in and their kids executed.”

Williams, who during the celebration was lifted off the ground by one of his assistant coaches in a postgame hug, cited a positive atmosphere in the locker room as a reason for the team’s success in the second half.

“We had to make some adjustments, and our seniors never got down,” he said. “We kept encouraging each other and had a real positive atmosphere in the locker room, just encouraging each other of what we could do in the second half.”

The Quakers had a dominant start to the game, scoring on three of their first four drives. Salem quarterback Jackson Johnson hit Jax Booth and Blaize Exline on 10-yard TD passes and then gave Austin Sinkovich his first touchdown reception of the year on a 72-yard strike.

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Quakers senior Jax Booth (21) hauls in a pass from quarterback Jackson Johnson to extend the Salem lead to 21-0 in the second quarter.

When asked about his team’s hot start, Salem coach Ron Johnson said he used doubt as a motivating tool for the Quakers.

“We told them that there’s nobody, not none of you rocket surgeons that are picking for the paper or the radio, or fans, or anybody gave us a chance in hell,” he said. “But we knew we were going to win.

“We had a great plan. We had kids that wanted to play their tails off. We were very confident that we were going to win and they came out and attacked it as such. We were just a step short.”

The turning point in the game came from the most unlikely of positions, the fullback.

Junior fullback Christian Colosimo sparked the Poland offense as a gadget quarterback with a 57-yard pass to Andrew Centofanti to get the Bulldogs their first points of the game on the board.

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Poland fullback Christian Colosimo is brought down by Jackson Johnson of Salem.

“It was a slow start for us, but we’re a team that’s always going to fight and never going to quit,” Colosimo said. “It was definitely a team effort for sure. I played my role, listened to my coaches and did what they told me to do, followed my offensive line, played defense well. Couldn’t be happier after this win.”

Peyton Mrakovich kicked off the second half with a 7-yard touchdown rush to cut the Salem lead to 21-12 after a failed two-point attempt.

Colosimo got to work on the ground, rushing the ball in from 11 yards out to further close the gap.

“I was real proud of his effort, real proud of his heart and proud of where he kind of rallied the troops there in the second half,” Williams said of Colosimo.

After a quick Salem three-and-out, Poland regained possession of the ball and powered down the field. A big run by Colosimo that included the junior carrying multiple Salem defenders on his back, got the Bulldogs to the 4-yard line.

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Salem's Blaize Exline (24) extends his arm as he approaches the endzone to score the opening touchdown for the Quakers.

Quarterback Jack Fulton then called his own number on the go-ahead touchdown.

The Quakers made their way down the field in the final 40 seconds, but the Poland defense held strong and the second-seeded Bulldogs will advance to the third round.

Salem has a couple of opponents in mind to play out their remaining schedule, but it all hinges on the way the postseason plays out.

Due to a last-second cancellation from Mogadore Field, Chagrin Falls automatically advances and will travel to Poland to take on the Bulldogs on Oct. 24.

“My heart goes out to that Mogadore Field team,” Williams said. “Our heart goes out to them and just hope that that community and those kids handle it and we look forward to seeing what Chagrin has to offer.”

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