By MIKE SHAFFER
For the Star Beacon
For the Conneaut football program, this season is not about where it’s been, but where it is going.
Nobody knows that better than quarterback Troy Colucci. Colucci led the Spartans by rushing for 202 yards and threw three touchdown passes as the Spartans defeated Ledgemont, 36-7, Friday night at Conneaut Stadium.
The win evens the Spartans record at 2-2. A year ago they were 0-10 and have only one win over the past two seasons.
“It feels amazing right now,” Colucci said. “I feel like our team worked hard enough over the offseason to be able to win games like this. We came out a little shaky in the second half, but pulled together and the work put in in the off-season paid off, we fell back together and we got the win.”
Third-year coach Rocco Dobran has been telling his team if they keep putting in the work, the results will come.
“It’s hard to believe that when you keep losing,” Dobran said. “But the kids are believing in what we are doing, they know if we keep doing what we do, practicing like we practice and play hard, good things will start happening. They’re starting to see that this year.”
Ledgemont coach Joe LaRosa, who’s squad beat Conneaut last year, knows Dobran has things going right, as well.
“Hats off to them,” LaRosa said. “We played those guys last year and they didn’t play like that. The coaching staff over there has done a fantastic job.”
The Spartans jumped on the Redskins (1-3) early, scoring a pair of touchdowns in the opening quarter.
C.J. Rice capped off a seven-play, 63-yard drive off the opening kickoff by scoring on a 15-yard run.
The Conneaut defense then forced Ledgemont into a three and out and had the ball back in the hands of the offense.
The Spartan offense struck quickly, going 59 yards on just two plays. Rice took a carry 27 yards, then on the next play, Colucci found him breaking open in the secondary for a 32-yard touchdown pass.
Rice would compliment Colucci’s performance by rushing for 127 yards and had a pair of receptions for 37 yards.
“He is fast,” Colucci said. “He may be the fastest player on the football field on any given night and anytime you can get him in the open field, look out”
Colucci threw his second touchdown pass on a 5-yard toss to Sam Distelrath late in the first half to put the Spartans up, 21-0. The scoring drive was set up by a bad snap on a punt attempt by the Redskins to give Conneaut a short field.
Ledgemont looked like they might get back in the game early in the third quarter when Jarrett Young took a pitch and went around the left tackle for a 24-yard gain on the first play of the second half. Young scored on the next play on a 37-yard scamper over the right side. The sophomore was battling illness the whole game.
“I knew he could make some big plays, but he was sick tonight,” LaRosa said. He spent a lot of time on the sideline puking tonight.”
Young was back on the field again, however, after the Redskins stopped Conneuat on downs and got the ball back at their own 29. Young took the first play 51 yards and it appeared Ledgemont would make it a one-possession game. The Redskins advanced as far as the Spartans’ 14, but had a holding penalty stall the drive.
Conneaut gave the ball back on a fumble, only to have Ledgemont return the favor by throwing an interception.
Following the turnover, the Spartans took control of the game, marching 76 yards in nine plays while chewing up more than five minutes.
Colucci found Tyler Cox on a 5-yard touchdown pass for the score.
“Last year, quite possibly, we could have let them back in the game,” Dobran said. “I told the kids we have to learn how to finish games because we’ve never done that before. We’ve never been in that position before. They came out a got that quick score and put us on our heels a little bit. But coach (Aaron) Johnson had a great defensive plan tonight that we stuck with and were able to hang in there tonight.”
Colucci capped off the scoring with an 11-yard run and, for good measure, ran in a 2-point coversion when the snap got away from him on the extra point.
Shaffer is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.