The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

October 9, 2012

Improving Spartans face tough task next

Unbeaten Brookfield comes calling Friday

The Conneaut Spartans couldn’t come much closer to victory without accomplishing than they did Friday night, when Gilmour Academy escaped with a 29-28 double-overtime victory at Conneaut Stadium.

Despite the loss — and despite the fact undefeated and state-ranked Brookfield comes calling Friday night (7, WWOW) — Dobran sees some light at the end of the tunnel.

And, no, the second-year coach doesn’t see that light as a freight train, either.

“It was a very good game,” the former Poland High School standout running back said. “Both teams battled for 48 minutes, plus two overtimes.

“I was very pleased with our O-line. They controlled the line of scrimmage all night long.”

The paved the way for some outstanding performances, too.

“Troy Colucci had a special night, rushing for over 200 yards and scoring four touchdowns,” Dobran said. “R.J. Nelson also added 120 yards on the ground.”

Colucci, a sophomore, in particular, stood out.

“That was definitely the best performance of a player since I’ve been here,” Dobran said. “He works extremely hard. He stays after practice just about every day to get extra work in and prepare himself mentally.

“Friday night, he did a great job of controlling the offense, being patient and following his blockers. He also is doing a great job of finishing runs and getting a couple extra yards on every carry.

Conneaut’s solid effort wasn’t limited to offense, however.

“Our defense played very well most the night,” he said. “They drove right down the field  on their first possession. After that, we played extremely well.

“Our front eight stopped the run very well. Gilmour scored another TD on a turnover by  us, giving them the ball on the 15. Then in the fourth quarter and in overtime, they spread the ball out and we had a hard time shutting down the passing game.”

Dobran realizes it was truly a near-miss for his thin, green 0-7 squad.

“A costly interception, a missed field goal and three missed extra points were enough to let the game slip away from us,” he said. “I was very proud of our guys and they left everything they had out on the field.”

With playoff-bound Brookfield, coming off a convincing 49-13 win against visiting Edgewood on Friday night, Dobran knows what his Spartans are up against. Brookfield leads the all-time series, 12-2, including a 35-7 win last fall at Brookfield.

“They are a very good team and they have some special players,” he said. “They run the ball very well. They have put up some amazing numbers.

On offense they spread the defense out and run the ball with their TB and QB.

“Defensively, they stay pretty basic with a 4-4 cover-3 scheme, but the play aggressive and run to the ball.”

The Warriors of seventh-year coach Randy Clark are by far and away the top-rated team in the Division IV, Region 13 computer ratings. They are averaging 47.7 points per game and allowing 12.6.

Quarterback Jeremy Quinlan and tailback Ryan Mosora lead the Brookfield offense, while Quinlan’s brother, Jimmy, anchors the defense from his middle-linebacker spot.

“Quinlan, the quarterback, is a great player, who is a great runner and can still pass very well, although they haven’t had to pass all that much this year,” Dobran said. “Mosora is an excellent tailback. His numbers speak for themselves. He is averaging more than 11 yards per carry.

“The other Quinlan, the middle linebacker, is a very good tackler and runs to the ball well.”

Dobran’s thought process toward hanging with the potent Warriors sounds simple, though actually accomplishing it certainly isn’t.

“Stop their run game — we must do that by controlling the clock and keeping the ball out of their hands,” he said. (That would) limit their offensive possessions.”

Though disappointing in terms of the final result, Dobran sees the experience gained in the double-overtime loss in a game that the Spartans scored the second-most points in his tenure will pay dividends, although they may not be this week, considering the opposition.

“We (had every opportunity to win the game), but we still had too many mistakes in key situations,” he said. “At the end of the day, it came down to them having a better PAT/field-goal team than we did.”

Playing without Cody Kirk (knee), who is out for the season, and Nick Blood being day to day with a hamstring after not playing against Gilmour, Dobran doesn’t see his Spartans hanging their heads after the tough loss last week.

“I think we will recover just fine,” he said. “(The Spartans) finally realized the potential we have.

“If anything, I think this will give us confidence moving forward the rest of the season.”

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