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Defense defines the day in Boardman's win in Howland

September 5, 2018
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

Whoever theorized that the team that wins the turnover battle usually dominates a football game must have been thinking of the Boardman Spartans.

Last Friday night in Howland, the Spartans stunned a usually reliable Tiger offense by causing four interceptions and two lost fumbles. When the follies ended, Boardman left Trumbull County with a decisive 31-17 victory. It gave the Spartans a 2-0 start to the season for the third year in a row. It also gave their head coach goose bumps as he watched his defense attack the Tigers' offense.

"Our defense was swarming," said coach Joe Ignazio after the win. "We preach fly to the football and we did (against Howland). We demand it all the time."

Defense was in high demand from the outset of this contest. Less than six minutes into the game, Boardman's Connor Miller picked off an errant Howland pass and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown.

"(The interception) was big, we needed it," Ignazio said.

A second Spartans interception set up a 66-yard drive that culminated with an offensive Miller touchdown early in the second stanza. Another touchdown and a 24-yard Tommy Fryda field goal gave the visitors an insurmountable 24-0 halftime lead. Fryda was fantastic all night connecting on that one field goal and hitting all four of his extra point attempts.

Joining in on the defensive domination was Boardman linebacker Brandon Zagotti, who had two sacks, a fumble recovery and two tackles for loss. Mike Fetsko and Kareem Hamdan also had an interception each.

Another credo the coach preaches is the "next man up" mandate when a teammate is stricken with injury. The most important member of Boardman's offense, quarterback Mike O'Horo, fell victim to the injury bug in last week's win over Youngstown East. Although it was a very minor malady and O'Horo probably could have started in Howland, Coach Ignazio decided to go with junior Wrentie Martin instead. The move to Martin paid off handsomely as the fill in went 10 for 14 passing for 104 yards and a 40-yard touchdown pass to Che Trevena in the second quarter. Most importantly he didn't commit the mistakes like the Tigers did. Although O'Horo should be all right this Friday, it's nice to know that Ignazio can call on Martin in a pinch.

"We were just being cautious," said Ignazio. "Mike practiced late in the week and looked good, but Wrentie has been a good backup. We had confidence in Wrentie that he can get the job done and he has."

Running back Josh Rodriguez also got the job done against the Tigers rushing for 140 yards, including a 48-yard third quarter touchdown run that made the score 31-3 in favor of Boardman. That long scamper put the icing on the Spartans cake. Only two late Tiger touchdowns kept the score relatively respectable.

Boardman's most grueling early season game will be played this Friday when Massillon Jackson makes its way to Mahoning County. The 1-1 Polar Bears are coming off a 28-17 win at Mayfield and are a potentially powerful bunch.

"(Massillon Jackson) will be the toughest team we've played all year," said Ignazio. "They have big time athletes and are well coached."

Ignazio's bunch edged Jackson 39-36 in a thriller on the road last Sept. 8. The Massillon men made things tough on the Spartans in 2016 with a 21-14 win. These recent games are indicative of how evenly matched these two schools are and how exciting this Friday night's matchup may be.

"Our battles over the years have gone back and forth," said Ignazio. "This one should be just as close."



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