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Dogs fall to Battle of 224 rival

October 31, 2018
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

Hours before the annual gridiron showdown between Poland and Canfield a Hail Mary pass of sorts was thrown up and caught.

Administrators from both schools signed an agreement that would keep this legendary "Battle of 224" alive for the foreseeable future. Many believed last Friday night's historic 75th battle between the Bulldogs and Cardinals would be the final one since Poland is leaving the All American Conference for the newly formed Northeast 8 starting next school year. Thanks to the last minute reprieve, the two rivals will begin the 2020 season against each other, then play in Week 3 the following seasons. There will not be a game in 2019.

The host Cardinals scored five straight times before the Bulldogs could dent the scoreboard. Canfield's methodical, businesslike approach was too much for the overmatched Bulldogs to handle as their season ended unceremoniously 34-7. While the home team celebrated a fantastic season and number 1 seeding in the upcoming state playoffs, the Poland players walked off Bob Dove Field without an invitation to the postseason party.

Sophomore Dean Gessler scored on a 7-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter to put Poland on the board. Prior to that Poland touchdown, the Cardinals exploded for 34 points. If it weren't for Gessler's TD run, the Bulldogs would have ended the year with eight consecutive scoreless quarters.

Canfield held Poland to just five total first downs and less than 100 yards of total offense. It was surprising to see the Bulldogs like that on offense considering they averaged a tick under 30 points per game over their first five wins in 2018. A heartbreaking 22-21 loss to Struthers in Week 6 seemed to send the Poland boys' season stumbling out of control. Poland would only score seven points over its final four games, with three of those contests resulting in defeat. The 6-4 overall record is okay for some schools, but far below par for the proud Poland program.

So now the Bulldogs will embark on a new adventure. Six other AAC members will join Poland in the newly-formed Northeast 8 next fall. If the Bulldogs are to become the force in their new conference that they once were in the White Tier they'll need to do it without four-year starting quarterback Cole Kosco. The senior ended his sensational career at Poland as one of the school's most accomplished throwers. Replacing someone with so much experience behind center will be one of head coach Ryan Williams' main tasks heading into the summer. Perhaps Poland will lean more on the running game next season with the return of juniors Joel Alessi and Jake Rutana and the emergence of Gessler late in the season. Rutana ran for 65 yards to lead the team's offense against Canfield.

The loss of six-foot-five, 250-pound defensive leader Scott Campbell will leave a hole on that side of the ball too. Campbell should be an all-league selection for the second straight season. There was a lot of youth on defense behind Campbell so the experience that unit gained this year should help it finish stronger next season.

About the only good news to come out of last weekend for Bulldog Nation was the announcement of the continuation of the yearly series with Canfield. Maybe the one-year hiatus will allow the Bulldogs to rebuild their program and shake off their four season losing streak to their nemesis. That would make Poland's 2020 experience a lot better than the one it has had recently with its rival.



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