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Boardman falls in close nail-biter, 20-21

October 24, 2018
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

The playoff chances for the Boardman football team dropped last Friday night in Austintown. With the score standing Fitch 21-Boardman 20, Boardman kicker Tommy Fryda lined up for a potential game-winning 33-yard field goal. The junior's boot was blocked at the point of impact. A bad snap didn't help matters for the Spartans. As rain fell from the Austintown sky, it was the Fitch kids that were celebrating a clinched playoff spot. The Spartans, conversely, felt their season slip sliding away. It wasn't just this one loss to the rival Falcons that has left them on the brink of elimination.

"We've lost three big games by a total of 11 points," said Spartan head coach Joe Ignazio. "We have not gotten it done in crucial situations. Teams have won games on our mistakes. You shake your head and wonder how you didn't win."

Boardman's coach didn't have to wonder much how his team lost to the Falcons. After each team traded touchdowns starting in the first quarter, the game had the feel that whoever owned the ball last would come out victorious. The team possessing the pigskin with a chance to win was Boardman. The Spartans ignited their final drive of the night with a long pass from quarterback Mike O'Horo to running back Joe Ieraci. That connection would take the Spartans to the Falcons' 23-yard line. Boardman's inability to get into the end zone, however, stalled the drive and set up Fryda's fateful field goal attempt. Coach Ignazio cited his club's failure to cash in on scoring drives as a huge reason why they've struggled against powerful opponents.

Article Photos

Photos by Jim McCreary, Town Crier

Boardman senior Josh Rodriguez hauls in a Mike O'horo pass in the flat in a close 20-21 game with rival Austintown on Friday.

"It comes down to not executing in or near the Red Zone," Ignazio said. "So then you put pressure on special teams and we have not gotten it done there when we have to. We have definitely played well enough to win, but haven't."

The Falcons got on the scoreboard first midway through the opening quarter, but Boardman bounced back five minutes later on a short Josh Rodriguez touchdown run. It seemed that each time the Spartans would score, the Falcons would find an answer. Fitch followed the Rodriguez touchdown run with one of its own to take a 14-7 lead. That touchdown came less than a minute after Boardman tied the game and was set up by a 65-yard run by quarterback Bobby Cavalier. The Spartans tied the game before halftime thanks to a 6-yard run by O'Horo, but Fitch's Roddell Bebbs would break free for an 81-yard scoring jaunt in the third quarter to put the Falcons ahead to stay. The ease in which Fitch executed large chunks of yardage frustrated Coach Ignazio.

"We've allowed too many big plays," he said.

The big plays will need to come from the Spartans this Friday night if they have any hope of returning to the postseason. Thankfully, all predictions have Boardman having a huge night when it travels to 2-7 Ashtabula Lakeside. The Dragons will have some momentum due to their 44-37 win over University School last week, but if history is any indication, the Spartans will destroy them. Boardman hasn't lost to Lakeside since putting the school on the schedule. Included in that unbeaten streak is a 42-6 annihilation of Ashtabula last October. That victory clinched a Week 11 contest for Ignazio's group. He is hoping for the same this year.

"Friday is a must win now, then it's up to the playoff Gods," Ignazio said, noting his team may still need help even if it is triumphant on the road. "It's unfortunate we're in that position, but I'm still proud that we are in a position to be the only team in school history to be an OHSAA playoff qualifier in back-to-back years."



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