COLUMBIANA - The atmosphere surrounding Friday's Columbiana-Mineral Ridge game didn't have the feel of one where both teams had a shot at the playoffs.
The game was supposed to be held at Mineral Ridge, but drainage problems at the Rams' home field pushed the game to Columbiana. Technically it was a home game for Mineral Ridge, but the scoreboard read: HOME 55, AWAY 7. The home team in this case being the Columbiana Clippers.
Columbiana (8-2, 5-2) acknowledged the dominating victory, but it remained overly cautious about talking about playing in the 11th week. In fact, it was more of a somber affair following the game.
Senior quarterback Austin Barbato sat with fellow seniors at the center of the Clippers' field following the game taking in the moment. He knew that some results in Division V, Region 17 had gone the Clippers' way, but he was prepared for it to be the end of the road on one historic career.
"It has been a fun run and I thank all my players, coaches and everything," Barbato said. "The way we looked at it, we had a 50/50 chance of getting in. We'll see what happens."
Barbato, who was already over 1,000 yards rushing for the season, had 16 carries for 131 yards and touchdowns of 36 and 28 yards. He did most of his damage in the passing game though as he completed seven of 17 passes for 173 yards and four touchdowns. The only disappointing part was that he didn't move over 1,000 passing yards for the season.
"He ended up just 23 yards short of 1,000 because we just had to stop throwing," Spaite said. "Hopefully we get another week in and he can get his 1,000. He deserves it. He holds every record we have as far as quarterbacks are concerned. I hope he's an all-league, all-area, all-district, all-state player because he has worked his tail off for three years."
Barbato's first pass from scrimmage was a 63-yard touchdown strike to Jake DeJong. He would throw a 43-yard touchdown to Trenton Solmen, a 24-yard touchdown to John Cramer and a 16-yard touchdown to Britton Steiginga. Those were all in the first half.
Mineral Ridge had no answer for it.
"This is the first positive thing we had happen (since last week's loss to Springfield)," Spaite said. "I was really worried about tonight because our seniors took that loss very hard. They're a great bunch of guys. I have been coaching 40 some years and this has been one of the real joys. These kids have done everything we have asked."
The change of venue plans started two weeks ago when Springfield coach Sean Guerriero showed Spaite pictures on his phone of the condition Ridge's field was in.
"It was like a lake in the middle of the field," Spaite said. "After we watched the film of Springfield and Ridge, it was obvious that the water was over their shoes. I know that field too. I know it doesn't drain worth a hoot."
Spaite called Mineral Ridge's athletic director and football coach last Monday offering Columbiana's field as an alternative site.
""I told them 'I'm not trying to insult you guys, but if you want to move the game our field is in pretty good shape,'" Spaite said. "I told them it was totally up to them. I didn't want to ruin senior night or anything like that. We traded film over the weekend fully prepared to play at Mineral Ridge."
Mineral Ridge took the offer under consideration, but didn't respond until Tuesday of this week.
"We were trying to hold out hoping we can play on our field because we had senior night and a few other things planned," Mineral Ridge coach Joe Stevens said. "We waited as long as we could. By Tuesday it was still real bad. The administration put their heads together and decided this was the best option."
Columbiana led 35-0 at the half and felt right at home despite being the "visiting" team.
"It was definitely to our advantage," Barbato said.
Stevens said the seniors were disappointed at first, but they got over it. The Rams will honor their seniors on Sunday with a ceremony and parade before a powder puff game.
"At least we can still do something for the seniors," Stevens said.
Columbiana, which had 513 yards of total offense, emptied the bench in the second half. Backup quarterback Nate Huk had a 66-yard touchdown run and Steiginga added a 67-yard kickoff return late to round out Columbiana's scoring.
Devine Redding's 77 yard touchdown run was the Rams' lone score.
- The original backup plan was to play the game on Saturday at Firestone Park, but that fell through because of some community events that were already planned in Mineral Ridge.
- Spaite said all the gate money went to Mineral Ridge.
"We're paying all the expenses and then just cutting them a check," Spaite said.
- Columbiana offered Mineral Ridge the use of the concession stand, but it told Ridge it had to provide the food and drink. Due to logistical issues of transporting the food and drink items, Mineral Ridge decided against it.
- The 50/50 prize was $150. It was unclear which school is going to benefit from that raffle though.
- The Columbiana band went first and played to its fans - which were technically the away side. Mineral Ridge followed and played to its fans.
- The stadium was stripped of most signage and the usual decorate flair associated with high school football.
- Columbiana running back Brandon Hacker went down with a high ankle injury in the first half. He did not return.
- Columbiana's playoff hopes were helped greatly by Campbell Memorial's loss to Struthers. That was the result the Clippers felt they needed. Other teams in the mix in Div. V, Region 17 with Columbiana - including Southern, Cuyahoga Heights, Ursuline, St. Thomas Aquinas and Sugarcreek Garaway - won. Columbiana, along with other teams in the region, will find out where everything stands on Sunday when the official pairings are released.