MASSILLON The Western Reserve defense had its hands full with Danville all game more specifically 6-foot-3 sophomore quarterback Ridge Durbin and his slew of receivers seven caught the ball on Saturday night at Massillon Jacksons Robert Fife Stadium.
However, when it counted the most, the Western Reserve defense made the two biggest stops of the game which is now allowing Western Reserve to play another week.
Western Reserve came back and held on to defeat Danville, 31-26, in a Division VII, Region 23 semifinal. The win gives Western Reserve a 12-0 record and a date with Norwalk St. Paul next Saturday at a site to be announced this afternoon.
Its great, we needed to play four quarters and to find a way to win, Western Reserve coach Andy Hake said. Thats a good team. Their line played exceptionally well and their quarterback, he is a big dude. Hes good, hes big and strong. Im just happy we won.
In the game, Durbin burned Western Reserve for 312 yards in the air and two touchdowns. Many of those plays were carefully-placed calls that took advantage of the aggressive Western Reserve blitzing defense. The result was Danville being able to battle back in the third quarter and take a 20-17 lead going into the final frame.
With its backs against the wall, and trailing for the first time in the second half in recent memory, the Blue Devils of Western Reserve had a decision to make fight or go home.
They chose to fight.
It was big for us to play as a team, and thats what we tried to do all season, Western Reserves Nick Tobin said. When they started to come back in the second half, it was hard, because weve never had a team to that to us before. But we stuck together and finished it out.
All of our coaches were saying, Seniors, this could be your last time. It was really heart touching.
Knowing what needed to be done, Western Reserve answered Danvilles go-ahead touchdown with an 11-play drive, which included a lot of running and a beautiful 26-yard catch by Joe Falasca from Nick Allison. The drive ended with a 6-yard touchdown run by Dan Zilke to take back the lead at 24-20.
Then came the defenses time to shine. Two Danville drives later, and knowing time was running out, Tobin intercepted a Durbin pass, giving Western Reserve the ball back at the Danville 22. Zilke ran the next play in to the end zone for Western Reserves final score of the night.
Danville wasnt done, however, and took five plays to cut the lead to 31-26 on Durbins second TD pass of the night. Western Reserve tried to eat up the clock, but couldnt get the first down, giving Danville one more chance with just less than 3 minutes left in the game.
Sack. Incomplete. Incomplete. Incomplete. Western Reserve moves on to its first regional final since the team went to the state final in 2011.
The defense played big, we gave them some big plays, but we got some big plays, Zilke said. It was a win-win. We ended up having more points.
Zilke and running back Evan Nesbitt had much better success running the ball in the second half. Zilke finished with 54 yards on 15 carries. Nesbitt was limited as well, gathering 62 yards on 18 carries.
While Western Reserve prides itself on the running game, Allison made huge plays throughout the contest, many times keeping drives alive. He finished with 11 completions on 22 attempts for 267 yards. Falasca had six catches for 170 yards many times while being double covered. Dan Rosati had three grabs for 80 yards.
While the defense had its troubles with the Danville (9-3) passing game, Western Reserve kept the Danville running game in check limiting it to 38 yards on 22 attempts.
Hake knows there are things to clean up (five penalties for 52 yards being the biggest) before next weeks matchup with St. Paul. But on Saturday, he and his Blue Devils were going to relish in the win and for not giving up when their backs were against the wall.
Well talk about our screw ups some other time, but Im just happy that when it counted the most, our kids got it done. Were 12-0. My kids are awesome.
W. RESERVE: 7-10-0-14 31
WR Danny Rosati 49 pass from Nick Allison (Parker Clegg kick), :31
D Austin Morehouse 65 pass from Ridge Durbin (Pass fail) , 2:44
WR Joe Falasca 63 pass from Allison (Clegg kick), :58
WR Clegg 32 field goal, 0:00
D Durbin 1 run (Pass fail), 9:51
D Cal Honabarger 17 pass from Durbin (Greg Briggs from Durbin), 2:23
WR Dan Zilke 6 run (Clegg kick) , 8:59
WR Zilke 22 run (Clegg kick) , 5:30
D Kenton Mickley 11 pass from Durbin (Pass fail), 4:25
RUSHING: Danville - Ridge Durbin 15-29, Freddie Hart 5-17, Greg Briggs 1-(-7); Western Reserve Evan Nesbitt 18-62, Dan Zilke 15-54, Nick Allison 8-(-2), Matt Mace 1-4.
PASSING: Danvillle - Durbin 21-35-1 312; Western Reserve - Allison 11-22-1 267, John Clegg 0-1-0.
RECEIVING: Danville - Briggs-9-137, Zach Wood 1-22, A.J. Winings-Hawk 1-2, Cal Honabarger 4-36, Austin Morehouse 2-79, Brandon Holt 1-8, Kenton Mickley 3-28; Western Reserve - Joe Falasca 6-170, Clegg 2-17, Dan Rosati 3-80.