LISBON - The East Palestine came up with a late goal line stand to preserve a 20-12 victory over Lisbon Friday night at Memorial Stadium.
The Bulldogs stuffed 1,000 yard rusher Zak Leko on 4th-and-goal from the 2 yard line with 29 seconds remaining to close out the season with a record of 2-8 and 2-5 in the ITCL Upper Tier. Lisbon, meanwhile, concludes the season with an identical 2-8 mark and a 1-6 record in the ITCL Upper Tier. For the Bulldogs, it was an especially gratifying win considering that they were playing without their head coach Gare Mattes who was relieved of his duties for the time being. The
Bulldogs were led in the final game by defensive coordinator Dave Rankin-a former head coach at Crestview.
East Palestine QB Luke Cope gets a pass off while under pressure from a Lisbon defender. (Photo by Wayne Maris)
"Coach Mattes is still the head coach, but he is out for now," said Rankin. "I don't want to comment any further other than to say that it's a bad situation. I give a lot of credit to our team, they pulled together a one and had their heart set on finishing the year with a win."
The other big storyline of the evening centered on Lisbon senior running back David Leko, who was aiming to join his backfield mate Brandon Barnes as a 1,000 yard rusher. Leko needed 131 yards to cross the barrier and ended the game with 30 carries for 139 yards, getting over 1,000 on the second play of Lisbon's final drive.
After taking a 12-6 lead on a 46 yard run by Barnes on the first play of the 3rd quarter, Lisbon's defense was picked apart by East Palestine quarterback Luke Cope, who led his team on two long touchdown drives to give the Bulldogs a 20-12 lead entering the 4th quarter. Cope, a sophomore who knocked out of the game last week against Crestview finished the night 18-36 for 311 yards to go with a touchdown.
Lisbon's offense stalled for most of the 4th quarter until the Blue Devils took over to their final drive and marched to a 1st and goal at the East Palestine 6, only to be denied four times by the Bulldog defense.
"Hopefully this serves as a building block for our program going into next year," Rankin said. "We have a lot of kids that attend our games, and I hope what they saw tonight encourages them that there is something here to build on."