Wadsworth's Joey Baughman (3) celebrates with Wadsworth's Nate Schickler after scoring on a long run against Northview during the third quarter. (RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE)
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WADSWORTH — The Wadsworth football team brought a goose to a dogfight at Art Wright Memorial Stadium.
Want to guess who won?
Mitchell “Goose” Blackburn flew all over the FieldTurf, broke records and took names Friday in a Division II, Region 6 quarterfinal against fiery underdog Sylvania Northview. The senior wide receiver even starred in minimal action on defense, leading the second-seeded Grizzlies to an otherwise defense-was-optional 61-42 slobberknocker that had everyone exhausted after 2 hours, 39 minutes.
Second-seeded Wadsworth (11-0), which rallied from a 14-0 hole, scored on nine straight possessions and won the fourth quarter 18-0, tied the school record for wins in a season and advanced to play No. 3 Olmsted Falls (10-1), a 26-23 winner over No. 4 Midview, at a site to be determined.
“It was awesome,” Blackburn said. “This is the first time I’ve played in a playoff game. It was a great experience. It was a dogfight. That’s a great team over there. They gave it their all.”
Blackburn tied a 56-year-old Medina County record with five touchdown receptions among a school-record-tying 13 for 137 yards. His final two scores put the Grizzlies up 49-42 and 61-42 will go on his highlight film, as the first was a questionable diving grab that covered 12 yards — “(The referee) said I caught it,” he quipped — while the second from 11 yards on a screen featured three broken tackles.
The 5-foot-11, 172-pounder, who also had a two-point conversion, filled the void left when 900-yard receiver Christian Szalay exited with a sprained left knee on Wadsworth’s second play from scrimmage.
Blackburn then entered at cornerback on the final two possessions by the Wildcats (8-3) and broke up fourth-down passes to finally seal the deal.
“When you have a player go down like that, it’s sad, but I had to pick it up and put it on my back,” said Blackburn, who also tied Adam Copeland’s 1999 school record for receptions in a season (71). “The line blocked forever, Joey (Baughman) gave me good balls and Jack Simmons, Grant Martinez, Nate Schickler blocking on the edge, I just did what I had to do.”
Both defenses were non-existent throughout, as the teams combined for 103 points — eighth in county lore — 989 yards (551 Wadsworth, 438 Northview), 50 first downs and endless blown coverages.
Wadsworth never trailed after Baughman (14 carries, 202 yards, TD; 21-for-25, 220 yards, 5 TDs) scored from 63 yards to open the second half and safety Brett Randolph followed by blocking a Northview extra point, but no lead felt safe for 3½ quarters.
Momentum finally flipped for good when seventh-seeded Northview went for broke on fourth-and-2 from its own 47-yard line trailing 49-42 with 9:27 to play. Imposing 6-7, 240-pound quarterback Brandon Leach (26-for-32, 334 yards, 2 TDs), who was on fire until that point, faked a handoff to tackle-breaking monster Dane Hullibarger (17 carries, 117 yards, 4 TDs) and fired a quick pass left to Trent Simms.
Simms initially broke an ankle tackle, but five defenders were there to clean up for a 1-yard gain and turnover on downs. Blackburn’s diving 12-yarder from Baughman followed and Wadsworth led 49-42 with 8:15 remaining.
“Our defense definitely struggled through the game, but we really sealed it up in the fourth quarter,” said end Joey Fernholz, who had a thunderous sack of Leach.
Blackburn then broke up two fourth-down passes — one on a tip, one on a big hit — that paved the way for running back Brock Snowball (15 carries, career-high 124 yards, 3 TDs) and Blackburn to cap the scoring.
“I used to play corner (as a sophomore and junior) so it’s nothing really different,” Blackburn said.
Wadsworth got off to a start nightmares are made of, as Hullibarger, who played with a cast protecting a broken wrist, broke multiple tackles and rumbled 50 yards to the house just 1:59 in.
The Grizzlies then committed 19 yards in penalties, lost Szalay and went three-and-out, with the Wildcats capitalizing on a Hullibarger 2-yard score to make it 14-0.
Never panicking but also never getting a stop, Wadsworth tied the game on 27- and 39-yard Blackburn scores that featured great blocking. The teams then traded four scores and went into the locker room tied at 29 after Northview kicker Luke Pawlak threw a miraculous two-point conversion to Alex Sample and Wadsworth matched with a flat-pass to Blackburn for two.
Baughman kept on a power option and sprinted for a score on the first play of the second half, but Leach kept chucking — the senior right hander completed 13 consecutive attempts for 206 yards, 11 first downs and two TDs at one point — and the Grizzlies were all but powerless to stop the rollout-heavy passing game, especially Ryan Remke (10 catches, 145 yards, TD).
But all it took was one stop — and a goose, of course — to finally end the madness.
“(Down 14-0) I was like, ‘We’re all right,”’ Blackburn said. “I know what our offense can do.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or email@example.com.
Wadsworth 61, Northview 42
NORTHVIEW 14 15 13 0 — 42
WADSWORTH 14 15 14 18 — 61
N — Dane Hullibarger 50 run (Luke Pawlak kick), 10:01.
N — Hullibarger 2 run (Pawlak kick), 4:26.
W — Mitchell Blackburn 27 pass from Joey Baughman (Ryan Larj kick), 3:10.
W — Blackburn 39 pass from Baughman (Larj kick), 0:07.
N — Hullibarger 1 run (Pawlak kick), 8:40.
W — Brock Snowball 1 run (Larj kick), 5:21.
N — Hullibarger 3 run (Alex Sample pass from Pawlak), 2:34.
W — Blackburn 6 pass from Baughman (Blackburn pass from Baughman), 2:34.
W — Baughman 63 run (Lark kick), 11:43.
N — Cam Corron 13 pass from Brandon Leach (kick blocked), 8:55.
W — Snowball 11 run (Larj kick), 5:16.
N — Ryan Rempe 10 pass from Leach (Pawlak kick), 2:06.
W — Blackburn 12 pass from Baughman (kick failed), 11:15.
W — Snowball 1 run (kick blocked), 8:15.
W — Blackburn 11 pass from Baughman (pass failed), 4:18.
First downs 21 29
Rushing 26/104 33/331
Rushing average 4.0 10.0
Passing 26/32 21/25
Passing yards 334 220
Total offense 58/438 58/551
Punting 1/32.0 1/37.0
Penalties 9/92 5/51
Fumbles 1/0 0/0
RUSHING: Northview — Hullibarger 17-117, Joey Okeke 6-12, Leach 3-(-25). Wadsworth — Baughman 14-202, Snowball 15-124, Dominic Loparo 2-15, Trent Shaffer 2-(-10).
PASSING: Northview — Leach 26-32-334-0. Wadsworth — Baughman 21-25-220-0.
RECEIVING: Northview — Rempe 10-145, Carron 7-77, Trent Simms 3-66, Sample 1-22, Ben Boyers 1-7, Hullibarger 1-7, Tyler Garn 1-5, Jarrett Batanian 2-5. Wadsworth — Blackburn 13-137, Jack Simmons 3-52, Snowball 2-13, Grant Martinez 2-11, Christian Szalay 1-7.