By BRAD VanFOSSAN
It was a tale of two offenses between Champion and Conneaut on Friday night at Flashes Stadium. But in the end, it was the Golden Flashes prevailing, 36-19, over the Spartans.
“Our offense was very physical, our line controlled the line of scrimmage,” Champion coach Terry Howell said. “We have a lot of work to do still, our front seven played really well.”
Conneaut (1-1), running the spread offense, came out firing on the game’s first drive, scoring on its fifth play from scrimmage, connecting on three of four pass attempts, ending in a 30-yard scoring strike from quarterback Troy Colucci to running back C.J. Rice, giving Conneaut the early 7-0 lead. It turned out to be the Spartans’ only lead of the game. The only pass play that wasn’t completed on that first drive was ironically an interception by Champion’s Joe Batcho, which was fumbled and then recovered by Conneaut.
Champion (1-1), unlike Conneaut, ran the ball early and often, and drove down to the Conneaut 6 on its first possession, only to have the drive stall on a failed fourth-down attempt. But, on their second drive, the Flashes went 72 yards, all on the ground, capped off by a 4-yard touchdown run by running back Brandon McFarland. The PAT failed to make it a 7-6 game. McFarland went on to rush for 127 yards with three touchdowns, getting most of the carries filling in for the injured Mike Cyrus, who left the game in the second quarter with 68 yards on 10 carries.
The Flashes opened up the second quarter, using a strong ground attack once again by completing a 67-yard drive, highlighted by quarterback Jacob Rasey’s 16-yard touchdown scramble. Rasey also ran in the 2-point conversion, putting Champion ahead for good at 14-7.
Conneaut did try and rally back by using its passing game. Colucci (14 of 25 for 260 yards with two touchdowns and one interception) connected with wide receiver Alex Gerdes for a 24-yard touchdown, completing an 82-yard drive, making it 14-13 Champion after a failed PAT, which was the score at the half. Gerdes caught nine passes for 189 yards and a touchddown.
“We played well early, had a hard time running the ball,” Conneaut coach Rocco Dobran said. “Alex Gerdes had a huge game for us, as did our quarterback, Troy Colucci. He took what was open and made plays from that.”
On their first possession of the third quarter, the Spartans drove down to the Champion 1, only to be called for a false start, pushing the ball back to the 6, and forcing a field-goal attempt on fourth down. That’s where momentum swung in the direction of Champion, as Brennan Grace blocked Kyle Sprinkle’s attempted field goal.
The Flashes took control of the game, going 85 yards via the ground. McFarland put the finishing touches on the drive, scoring from 3 yards out and Rasey ran in another 2-point conversion, giving Champion a 22-13 lead. Just like McFarland, Rasey compiled 127 yards on the ground and added a touchdown.
Early in the fourth quarter, Conneaut’s special teams faltered again as Rasey ran back a blocked punt 39 yards for another Flashes’ touchdown, making it a 30-13.
However, the Spartans did not go quietly as they went 75 yards, the last three gained by Colucci on a quarterback keeper. The point-after pass attempt failed, making it 30-19 Champion. Champion scored one last time for good measure, with McFarland’s third touchdown of the game.
Champion finished with 357 yards rushing to Conneaut’s 14, but on the other hand, Conneaut threw for 291 yards, to Champion’s zero through the air.
VanFossan is a correspondent for the (Warren) Tribune Chronicle.