By VINCE PELUSO — firstname.lastname@example.org
For the Star Beacon
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP —
Those who think football has evolved into a passing game obviously weren’t in Andover Township on Friday night to see backyard rivals Grand Valley and Pymatuning Valley battle it out.
Perhaps no better example of that was Mustangs coach John Galvickas’ decision to go for it on fourth and one from his own 28 with 44 seconds remaining in the game and his team leading, 15-12.
The first-year coach’s decision paid off as Sean Szitas plowed through the Lakers defensive line to pick up 3 yards and seal the victory for GV (4-3, 1-0).
“We decided as a coaching staff that were going to keep it in our kids hands rather than let them decide the game,” he said. “The kids felt they could get it and they got it.”
Szitas was the key cog in the Mustangs ground attack as he ran for 123 yards on 17 carries leading an offense that racked up 219 yards rushing.
GV got the lead early in the fourth quarter when Kyle Orgovan scored from 3 yards out and Szitas rushed for the 2-point conversion to put the Mustangs up.
This came after Quintin Ratliff scored 12-unaswered points for the Lakers (2-5, 1-1) after a first-quarter Mustangs score.
Ratliff scored from 73 yards out in the second then from 46 yards with 5:15 remaining in the third.
The starting quarterback did it all for PV, lining up at tailback, in the slot as a receiver, as well as his natural position under center, as he ran for a game-high 158 yards on 13 carries.
“He really stretched the defense for us and the blocking with J.T. Willis and the line gave us a little bit of a spark there for a little bit,” PV coach Neal Croston said. “It was nice to see that out of them.”
Next to GV’s fourth-down conversion, perhaps the biggest play of the game came on a second quarter sweep play to the junior late in the fourth quarter with PV driving that the Mustangs defense snuffed out and dropped for a 12-yard loss.
That knocked the Lakers out of field-goal range, forcing them to go for a long fourth-down attempt they wouldn’t convert, handing the ball over to GV.
“That was a big play right there for us,” Glavickas said. “They have a great kicker (Austin Nowakowski), too. We were able to get in there and knock them back. Could’ve been the difference in the game. Ratliff is a heck of an athlete, he’s got so much speed. We did the best we could to keep him under wraps and he still found seams.”
That marked the second time in the game PV lost an opportunity to put points on the board behind the strong right foot of Nowakowski, in the first half the Lakers knocked themselves out of field-goal position thanks to a false start when they lined up for a 38-yard attempt.
That field goal in the first half we jump offsides it knocks us out then we get a penalty on a late hit for 15 yards (on a separate drive), knocks us out,” Croston said. “It’s just some situation football we didn’t do what we needed to.”
All told, the teams combined to rush for 466 yards on 75 attempts while just throwing for 45 yards on 14 attempts.
Glavickas said there were plenty of Mustangs fans that would enjoy seeing that statistic.
“It was old school football, I’m sure there’s a lot of fans over there (motioning toward the visiting stands) that are happy we brought our run game back,” he said. “It was an old school feel, it’s a Grand Valley-PV week. There’s nothing like it for us. It’s like a playoff atmosphere every time, regardless of the records. It could be 0-9 against 9-0, when you come on to this field or they come to our field, it’s great football.”
Croston said he wasn’t surprised with the style of football nor Glavickas’ decision to go for a fourth down on his own 28.
“We told our guys right there, we were moving the ball, they were going to lose it with their offense out there not our offense so we knew they were going to do it,” he said. “We blitzed the house and they picked it up. They’re a physical team, we’re out three lineman now, so we knew they were going to run at us pretty good.
“It comes down to stopping the run and if you’re able to run the ball. They did a little better job of that.”
After losing a decorated senior class from last year’s team and moving into his first year as a head coach, Glavickas is happy with where his team stands after seven weeks of football.
“We do feel pretty good about things,” he said. “This senior class, they’ve lived in the shadows for a long time. They haven’t had to make those plays because they’ve always had kids who have made those plays for them. So this was a great night for them to come out of those shadows.
“They always believed they could be very successful, we believed in them, but people outside of us didn’t always believe because we were losing a great class. This class still has a lot of football left in them.”
Click here to subscribe to The Star Beacon print edition.
Click here to subscribe to The Star Beacon replica edition.