By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
CHAGRIN FALLS —
Madison’s plight at Chagrin Falls could perhaps be described as making one too many mistakes.
Especially against a very good football team like the Tigers, who have a recent history of going very deep into the playoffs, even if they lost many of their regulars from 2012.
The Blue Streaks gave the Tigers a good run in Friday’s season-opener, but bowed 27-21, with the winning score coming with 4:57 left when nose tackle Desmond Maddox scooped up a fumble after a teammate’s sack and rumbled 10 yards to paydirt to break a 21-all tie.
“We came out and played very hard, but we beat ourselves in certain situations,” Madison coach Tim Willis said. “Chagrin Falls is a very good football team, and I thought we had a chance, and an opportunity to be right there with ‘em, and we just didn’t make the plays when we had to. We were one play away.”
The score was the only one for Chagrin Falls in the second half despite the fact its offense totaled 172 yards in that span. Madison had just held the Tigers to a punt and taken the ball at its own 20 on a touchback, when the deciding score occurred.
It appeared to many, including seemingly the entire Madison fan base present, that quarterback Austin Burkholder was down before the ball popped out, but it was ruled a fumble. Willis made it clear he did not want to criticize the officials, but did relate that he thought the play was dead — although he did say he needed to look at the film.
Willis also disagreed with a call that came in the final minute of the third quarter. On that one, Nick Law fumbled a punt at his own 24, but grabbed the ball in full stride while appearing to break into the clear, but the play was whistled dead upon the recovery.
“It’s a fumble; it’s not a muff,” he said. “That’s a live ball; (Law) picked it up and was gone for the touchdown.”
The Tigers had taken a 21-13 lead at the half, but after that, the Blue Streaks’ defense bent but didn’t break. Law blocked a field goal attempt that would have made it a two-score game, and Burkholder (6-for-13, 207 yards, 2 TDs) hit Aaron Petrucelli for a 67-yard scoring bomb one play later.
Brandon Davis took it in for the two-point conversion to tie it with 2:08 left in the third quarter. Davis had scored both of his team’s other touchdowns on a 79-yard catch from Burkholder and an eight-yard run, the latter giving the Blue Streaks their only lead at 13-7 one play into the second period.
However, the Tigers, who had recovered a Madison fumble on the first play from scrimmage and turned it into a 22-yard Joey Casarona scoring run, regained the lead at 14-13 when Matt Iammarino fielded a line-drive punt and broke the return 81 yards for a TD.
“(The punter) kicked it where he wasn’t suppose to,” Willis said.
Chagrin stretched it to 21-13 when Ed Shelley connected with Lukas Sontich on a 47-yard scoring play 1:50 before halftime.
“If you looked across that line, the guys in white (Madison) were a lot bigger than the guys in black (Chagrin Falls),” Chagrin Falls coach Mark Iammarino said. “I was really proud of our guys holding ‘em down as much as they could.”
Following the winning TD, Jack Holl blocked the extra point. Madison moved it as far as its own 40 with the help of a penalty, but was forced to punt. The Tigers were able to run out the final 3:44, with the help of a running-into-the-punter penalty.
“They ran the ball better than I thought they were going to run it against us,” Willis said. “We had two pretty good scrimmages against Mayfield and Lake Catholic, and we did pretty well against the run. I thought they were going to throw the ball, but they ran the ball more (for 193 yards), which caught us off guard.”
“Before the game, (we had) jitters,” Mark Iammarino said. “Coaches can get ’em too, because (we have) a lot of new faces.”
“We’re a good football team,” Willis said, “We’ll get better as the year goes on. But we needed to beat a team like this.”
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.