By JON HALL
For the Star Beacon
Conneaut wasted little time getting in the win column after a winless campaign in 2012 as the Spartans bested county foe Grand Valley 28-13, avenging last year’s opening eight-point loss to the Mustangs, 14-6.
For third-year Conneaut coach Rocco Dobran, it was his first opening game win as well as the Spartans first opener since beating Southington 13-12 in 2009 at Conneaut.
“My first game two years ago was on this field,” Dobran said. “It was probably the second longest game after today in time. But a lot different outcome than two years ago. I cannot be more excited for my coaching staff and my kids. They worked their tails off and my senior leadership was super in the last few weeks in scrimmages. Tonight it paid off.
“It was just a team effort. They play hard and didn’t quit. I cannot speak how great it feels (to win here).”
“Their kids made plays and our kids didn’t,” GV coach John Glavickas said. “ The whole atmosphere was lackadaisical. My hats off to Rocco. If we punch (those two lost fumbles in) and scored down in that end zone it’s a tie ball game or anybody’s ball game but… you cannot turn it over inside the five.”
Turnovers plagued GV as they coughed up the ball three times, but two of those were inside the 5 yardline, and hampered any chance of coming back in the second half after trailing 20-7 at intermission.
However, Conneaut senior running back C.J. Rice (11 carries, 149 yards rushing and a team-high three catches for 32 yards) was the main difference as he collected three touchdowns on 33- and 15-yard runs and a 12-yard TD catch from Troy Colucci.
“Most of the times I am one of the faster kids on the field,” Rice said. “You don’t really think when you hit the holes. You just run your fastest do that all the time good things will happen.”
GV marched 11 plays, 64 yards to the end zone on their first possession of the game as quarterback Jake Vormelker went in from the 6. Luke Baldwin’s extra point try was good at the 7:23 mark as the Mustangs looked to be in control right off the bat.
Conneaut came right back with just a 3-play drive covering 65 yards on Rice’s first unscathed touchdown run down the right side from 33 yards out. The extra point was botched with 4:33 left in the first.
The Spartans pooch kicked on the next play and as the ball recovered by R.J Nelson at the GV 35. That set up a 15-yard touchdown run for Rice.
Nelson’s attempted the two-point conversion run but was cut down short.
The Spartans went on a 13-play, 65-yard drive minutes later and on first down at the GV 12, Rice hauled in a 12-yard screen pass from Colucci and this time Nelson’s run was good for a 20-7 halftime lead.
Conneaut came out of the gates and got an intercepted pass by Steven Gaugh who returned 26 yards to the GV. After much confusion by the officials, scoreboard operator, and on-lookers they sorted out penalties and awarded Sam Distelrath a two-yard touchdown reception from Colucci, who also tacked on the two-point try with a run for a 28-7 lead.
GV scored with 42.5 seconds left in third on a Volmelker, 9-yard dive play to pay dirt. The Mustangs then proceeded to get the ball back in the fourth but fumbled inside the five effectively ending the game.
Hall is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.