Wadsworth's Mitchell Blackburn makes a reception against Olmsted Falls' Josh Jaeckin during second quarter. (RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE)
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BRUNSWICK — Many will point to a blocked extra point as what ultimately ended one of the greatest seasons in Wadsworth football history.
The reality was that a 25-degree Friday night at Brunswick Auto Mart Stadium was much more complicated.
Making just enough mistakes at inopportune times, the second-seeded Grizzlies were upset 21-20 by big, physical and old-school Olmsted Falls in a Division II, Region 6 semifinal.
“I told (the players) the only reason they’re hanging their head right now is because they’re sad,” said second-year Wadsworth coach Justin Todd, whose team ended 11-1. “They’re going to miss this. They’re going to miss their teammates.”
The Bulldogs (11-1), who advanced to play top-seeded Avon (12-0), answered a 70-yard touchdown run by Wadsworth star quarterback Joey Baughman (19 carries, 172 yards, 2 TD; 15-for-28, 236 yards, TD, INT) with an 11-play, 70-yard drive that ate 5:48 and was capped by a 2-yard score by fullback Luke Lombardo (27 carries, 90 yards, TD).
Baughman carried for 7, minus-2 and 2 yards to set up fourth-and-3 from the Grizzlies’ 42 with 1:49 left. Baughman rolled left and fired a bullet into the chest of a leaping Mitchell Blackburn (8 catches, 152 yards, TD) on the sideline, but Olmsted Falls cornerback Josh Jaecklin, who shadowed Blackburn for all 58 plays, pushed Blackburn out of bounds before his feet could touch the ground.
A bang-bang play then went against Wadsworth, as Jack Spellacy (18 carries, 105 yards, TD) converted a short third down but appeared to fumble. The Grizzlies recovered around their own 25, but the side judge ruled Spellacy was down. A television replay in the press box confirmed otherwise.
Quarterback Teddy Grendzynski took two knees and the game was over.
“I wish we would have gotten the call towards us,” Grizzlies linebacker Jack Grice said, “but they made the call and we have to live with it.”
The call was the final impact play but certainly not the first.
Baughman’s 70-yard TD with 9:16 remaining was followed by an extra point snap that dribbled on the FieldTurf. Holder Baughman corralled it, but kicker Ryan Larj had no time to get off a good attempt and it was blocked at the line.
It was the second miscue by the field goal unit, as consecutive pass breakups in the end zone by Jaecklin set up a field goal to end the half, but a false start wiped out a Larj 27-yarder. The next snap was high and threw off Larj’s timing, leading to a spinning attempt that fell short.
“We could probably look at 50 different things that happened throughout the course of the game that led to that point,” Todd said.
Todd was right on the money, as Wadsworth lost fumbles on the Olmsted Falls 3 and its own 9 and an interception set up the Bulldogs’ first touchdown. A potential 92-yard touchdown reception was dropped late in the third quarter as well.
The Grizzlies, whose struggles with pass protection forced Baughman to throw the ball away multiple times, still finished with 418 yards — Baughman had all but 10 — but didn’t have another consistent threat besides their QB and Blackburn, as 950-yard receiver Christian Szalay was out with a sprained knee.
“We weren’t as efficient offensively tonight,” Todd said. “We made some mistakes. We couldn’t finish.
“Obviously it was the wrong night. We played our best game defensively of the year and our worst game of the year offensively. That’s what made it such a tough game. Sometimes that happens, right?”
Running their flexbone offense off-tackle well at times and possessing the ball for more than 30 minutes, the Bulldogs converted 3-of-5 fourth downs and Grendzynski (7-for-14, 114 yards) made clutch throws when needed. Fullbacks Lombardo and Spellacy combined for 45 bruising carries for 195 yards.
Wadsworth’s defense adjusted by moving free safety Brett Randolph to cornerback and inserting Grice as an extra linebacker. Led by linebackers Grice, Mason McMillen and Nathaniel Davis, the Grizzlies did a solid job of bending but not breaking despite losing starting nose tackle Teon Pickett and backup Cole Lamp to early leg injuries and stopped the Bulldogs on the Wadsworth 2, 7 and 9 via a lost fumble, line-of-scrimmage stuff and incomplete pass.
The biggest stop came late in the third quarter after Wadsworth lost a fumble on the Bulldogs 9. Randolph broke up a jump ball intended for Braden Galaska on third down, and Grendzynski’s fourth-down toss to Galaska was high to keep the score tied at 14.
“I thought our defense was outstanding,” Todd said. “They kept rising to the challenge over and over again.”
Olmsted Falls, which had 30 plays of 1 yard or fewer, opened the scoring after Baughman’s interception with an 11-yard Spellacy run off-tackle. Wadsworth needed just 1:14 to respond, as a 45-yard floater from Baughman to Blackburn set up a 5-yard Baughman TD.
The score remained 7-7 heading into the half after Larj’s missed field goal, but Wadsworth went ahead 14-7 with 1:33 left in the third quarter when Baughman slung a pass off his back foot that Blackburn corralled under tight coverage. The drive began after the fourth-and-goal stop of Olmsted Falls.
The Bulldogs came back with a Grendzynski sneak for a score, setting up a back-and-forth final 10 minutes in which the Bulldogs simply made one fewer mistake.
“This was a bad beat,” Grice said. “We were both good enough, but at the end of the day they got the better of us at the end. We tried our best. We really gave it our all.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Olmsted Falls 21, Wadsworth 20
Division II, Region 6 Semifinal
OLMSTED FALLS 7 0 0 14 — 21
WADSWORTH 7 0 7 6 — 20
O — Jack Spellacy 11 run (Jake Politowski kick), 3:39.
W — Joey Baughman 5 run (Ryan Larj kick), 2:45.
W — Mitchell Blackburn 22 pass from Baughman (Larj kick).
O — Teddy Grendzynski 1 run (Politowski kick), 9:47.
W — Baughman 70 run (kick blocked), 9:16.
O — Luke Lombardo 2 run (Politowski kick), 3:28.
First downs 19 16
Rushing 61/266 22/182
Rushing average 4.4 8.3
Passing 7/14 15/28
Passing yards 114 236
Total plays 75/380 50/418
Punting 4/32.3 3/39.3
Penalties 5/50 7/65
Fumbles 3/1 2/2
RUSHING: Olmsted Falls — Spellacy 18-105, Lombardo 27-90, Michael Howard 6-30, Nick Daily 4-25, Grendyznski 6-16. Wadsworth — Baughman 19-172, Brock Snowball 3-10.
PASSING: Olmsted Falls — Grendzynski 7-14-114-0. Wadsworth — Baughman 15-28-236-1.
RECEIVING: Olmsted Falls — Josh Jaecklin 3-52, Braden Galaska 2-28, Richie Nock 1-26, Lombardo 1-8. Wadsworth — Blackburn 8-152, Jack Simmons 2-51, Grant Martinez 3-14, Brock Snowball 2-19.
MISSED FIELD GOAL: Wadsworth — Larj 32 (SH).