By VINCE PELUSO
More often than not, big plays decide the outcome of games.
For the Edgewood Warriors on the Friday night, big plays were, well, a big part of their 31-10 win at Beaver Local.
The Warriors had six plays of 35 yards or longer, including touchdown runs of 88 yards by Riis Smith and 98 yards by Anthonie Magda to get them back to .500 on the season as they won their third-consecutive game to move to 3-3.
“It’s amazing, it’s almost like we’re in a brand new season,” first-year Edgewood coach Josh Franke said. “These kids are thriving off the fact that every week they’re fighting for a playoff spot. The defense came out and played probably their best game overall.
“Offensively, another effective night for us. I think we had over 500 yards total (507). It’s coming together every week.”
In a game of big plays, none was bigger than Magda’s run.
After the Warriors took a 19-0 lead into the half, the Beavers responded with a 24-yard touchdown run by Robert Johnston with 7:24 remaining in the third to cut the deficit 12.
Two possessions later, following an Edgewood turnover on downs and a Beaver Local punt, the Warriors were pinned back at their own 2 with 1:32 remaining in the third.
On the first play of the drive, Magda looked to be stuck in his on end zone on a pitch, but broke free and got into the open field to race 98 yards for the score, effectively ending any momentum the Beavers had gained.
"He’s a heck of a ballplayer,” Franke said of Magda. “He’s tough as nails, refuses to go down and that’s what you want out of a big back. When we’re on the 2 yard line, that’s the kid you want with the ball cuz you know he’s not going to get tackled. Break three or four tackles then bust a 98-yard run, one of the best runs I’ve seen since I’ve been coaching.
“(I’m) extremely proud of him, he did an exceptional job. On a night where he’s just gotten some recent recruiting attention at running back, I think he’s just going to add to that list. “
On the night, Magda had 7 rushes for 169 yards, but wasn’t even Edgewood’s leading rusher.
That distinction went to Smith.
The speedy senior racked up 195 yards on just 11 carries, including scoring scampers of 37, 88 and 33.
On three-consecutive plays in the second quarter, the Warriors weren’t tackled and a scoreless game turned into a 19-0 Edgewood lead.
Smith opened things with a 37-yard scoring run with 7:59 remaining in the first half.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Magda took it 36 yards for a touchdown, then Smith hit an 88 yarder on the first play of the next drive.
“We’re very fortunate that we have two exceptional running backs in Anthonie Magda and Riis Smith,” Franke said. “They’re kind of that thunder and lightning, with Anthonie that’s going to pound it in there and Riis that’s going to juke you out and make you miss. They both had exceptional nights.”
Beaver Local coach Jeremy McElroy agreed the big plays decided the game.
“They got a couple athletes, they made some excellent plays; hats off to them,” he said. “Big plays were really a huge difference in the game.
“We started to get ourselves back into the game at 19-7 then they have a big 98-yard run and we missed tackles. That was big.”
Smith capped the scoring with a 33-yard touchdown with 7:46 remaining in the game.
While Edgewood’s offensive continued to strike from distance, its defense limited the Beavers.
Beaver Local (2-4) totaled just 160 yards on 60 plays and never seemed to find any rhythm offensively.
“The defense played really well,” Franke said. “We knew they were going to play a couple different offenses against us as far as Maryland-I and pistol. I gotta give credit to my defensive coordinator, Steve Deimer. He did a great job defensively with the game plan.”
The Edgewood defense forced seven Beaver punts, one interception and two turnover on downs, limiting them just 2.6 yards per play.
The win sets up a showdown for the Warriors with Brookfield next week, a team they’re quite familiar with as the Warriors of Trumbull County knocked them out of the playoffs last season, also defeating them in the regular season.
Franke says he knows what his team faces next week, but likes that he coaches a confident group that’s on a winning streak.
“We have a big opponent in Brookfield coming in next week and that’s a very important game,” he said. “That’s going to give us a lot of points if we’re able to beat them, so we’re going to take it serious and get back to work (today).
“These kids have had three impressive wins, there really haven’t been any close games these last three weeks and I think we’re finally starting to realize how the offense works. They’re playing with more confidence and you’re starting to see it on the field.
“I’ll put it this way, the feeling now is a whole lot different than it was in Week 3, when we lost to Kirtland.”