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November 3, 2012

A Vince Peluso column: An experience in a single word: ‘Wow!’

GIRARD — There was little expected of the Edgewood Warriors when they traveled to Arrowhead Stadium in Girard to square off with undefeated and top-ranked Brookfield on Friday night for a Division IV, Region 13 quarterfinal.

After all, not only had Edgewood lost to Brookfield, 49-13, in Week 7 of the regular season, but it also had to deal with a court hearing that ruled it was out of the playoffs then back in, all of which transpired in the final 29 hours leading up to kickoff.

Yet, as Edgewood headed to the locker room for halftime, it found itself down just 8 points — 14-6 — a score most probably wouldn’t have expected to last past the first 5 minutes of the game.

Yes, Brookfield adjusted and outscored Edgewood, 24-8, in the second half for a 38-14 win, but in the grand scheme of things, that mattered little.

Edgewood’s season ends while Brookfield’s continues, but given what Edgewood had to deal with this week, there was little to hang its head about.

“I think our kids handled (the adversity) outstanding for 15-, 16-year -olds to be told, ‘You’re in the playoffs, you’re not in the playoffs, you’re in the playoffs,’” Edgewood coach Dom Iarocci said. “I had a hard time dealing with it as an adult, I can’t imagine how they felt. They came through it. I thought we were ready to play Wednesday night then they called Thursday and said, ‘Hey, we’re not in the playoffs.’

“(But) that’s not the reason we got beat. They’re a better football team than us.”

Still, Edgewood didn’t look like an emotionally battered football team.

When Brookfield took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, it seemed that Edgewood would have every excuse to pack it in for the night and submit to Brookfield, as many other teams had this season when facing the Warriors of Trumbull County.

But a 73-yard kickoff return from Dylan McCaleb set up a Riis Smith touchdown run and suddenly, Brookfield found itself in a game going into the half.

“At halftime, we came in here and ripped and chewed some butts,” Brookfield coach Randy Clark said. “They were ripping us up a bit up front and we made some adjustments.”

Those adjustments paid off, as Brookfield scored the first 24 points of the second half to effectively end any comeback hopes Edgewood had.

Edgewood did make it interesting, though.

The Warriors defense forced four turnovers and played remarkably well, considering Brookfield started every second-half possession it had in Edgewood territory with the exception of one.

“I thought our defense fought very hard,” Iarocci said. “This is a team if you can’t move the ball on, it’s going to be tough. I think giving them the short field in the second half kind of let the air out of our balloon a little bit. It was going to go out of the balloon sooner or later with all the emotions that were displayed this week.”

While the past 24 hours were difficult on Edgewood as it waited to find whether it would still be playing football come Friday night, don’t think its Warrior counterparts were immune to the effects.

Brookfield knew it would be playing someone at Arrowhead Stadium on Friday night, the only question was, who?

“The last 24 hours, my hats are off to my assistant coaches,” Clark said. “We were up until 1, 2 a.m. watching Beachwood film. A couple of my assistants took off work today and were putting together a game plan for Beachwood. The kids had the deer-in-the-headlights look when they found out yesterday.

“They were just stunned. Once the announcement was made at 2:15 today that we’d be playing Edgewood, it was electric. I can’t say whether it effected the way we came out or not, though.”

Regardless of what effect court cases had on the outcome of the first playoff game in Edgewood history, what cannot be understated is the impact reaching the playoffs had on the Warriors’ program.

Even 60 minutes before kickoff, the energy could be felt from the sidelines up to the stands.

With that in mind, Iarocci said the loss doesn’t tarnish anything the experience gave him and his team.

“There’s 192 teams that start this tournament and only six don’t lose their last game,” he said. “This whole week has been... I can’t even describe the experience. From everything the administration did for us, getting us the Spire to practice in. Our superintendent (Joe Spiccia) going to court yesterday. The pep rally today was totally unbelievable then seeing all the people to send us off.

“Wow! The only word I have is ‘wow’ for the whole week.”

From the simple fact that Edgewood was even in the playoff conversation after a 1-2 start to the season, to the absurdity of almost losing out on a playoff spot because of legal procedures on the day before a game, there really is only one way to sum up the 2012 Warriors’ season:

Wow!

Peluso is a sports writer for the Star Beacon. Reach him at vpeluso@starbeacon.com.

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