RAVENNA - After starting the year 0-2, Western Reserve made a season out of proving people wrong. Friday against the top-ranked, four-time state champion Mogadore Wildcats, however, the Blue Devils were short of continuing the trend. Western Reserve's nine-game winning streak was snapped in a 28-7 loss in a Div. VI, Region 21 semifinal contest at Gilcrest Field.
The Blue Devils (9-3) rebounded from a 7-0 deficit and seemingly had the momentum going into the half. But turnovers doomed Reserve the final two quarters.
"That team could win the state championship," Western Reserve head coach Andy Hake said. "I'm just proud of my guys for what they did all season."
Mogadore (12-0) took the game's opening drive 67 yards in eight plays culminating in a 31-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Ricci to Kasey Beard on a fourth-and-14.
Western Reserve responded by driving deep into Mogadore territory on a steady diet of running backs Tim Cooper and Dan Zilke. But Evan Uhalley picked off a Nick Allison pass to end the drive.
Reserve forced a Mogadore punt to open the second quarter, and Allison found both Parker Warren and Dan Rosati to tally first downs. Tim Cooper finished off the 12-play, 70-yard drive with 1-yard touchdown run. Parker Clegg's kick evened the score at 7-7.
Both defenses were solid for the remainder of the second quarter as Reserve got solid pressure on Ricci and plugged up holes quickly for standout running back Gary Strain.
Reserve held Strain to just 45 yards on seven carries in the first half.
The second half was another story.
Following a Western Reserve punt on its first possession of the third quarter, Strain broke containment at the line of scrimmage and raced 75 yards on Mogadore's first play of the second half. The point after was good and Mogadore took a 14-7 lead.
Again Reserve responded using Cooper to move the ball deep into Wildcat territory. Hunter Van Camp picked off an Allison pass and returned it 50 yards to the Reserve 30.
Strain did the rest barreling the team to the 10, then eventually in for a 20-7 advantage.
"That really took some wind out of our sails," Hake said. "They played nine guys one way and it really wore us down."
After Reserve got Mogadore to jump offsides on its next drive on a fourth down in Blue Devil territory, Dan Zilke lost the handle on a run late in the third quarter and it was recovered by the Wildcats.
One play into the fourth quarter, Strain went 22 yards for another rushing score. Austin Pierce caught the two-point conversion pass to give Mogadore a 28-7 lead.
Mogadore again picked off passes on Reserve's next two drives, both by Pierce. Mogadore drove deep in to Reserve territory late in the fourth but lost a fumble on the Reserve five. The Blue Devils drove deep into Mogadore territory but time ran out.
Cooper finished with 134 yards on 20 carries and 87 yards on nine receptions.
Strain ended his night with 206 yards on 20 carries.
"I've got some great kids," Hake said. "Some of the best around and some great coaches. I couldn't be more proud of them."
Mogadore advances to play Youngstown Christian next Friday.
Salem News sports writer Jon Rudder contributed to this article.