Indians on the hunt in EOAC
COLUMBIANA –Two years ago, the Southern Local Indians were a .500 team. Flash forward to now after a playoff season and share of a league title, the Indians are one of the more impressive teams in Columbiana County.
Southern used a methodical ground game to keep the potent Columbiana Clippers offense off the field in their 26-21 in Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference opener for both schools on Friday at Firestone Park.
Southern is 4-0 and 1-0 in the EOAC, while Columbiana is 1-3, 0-1.
“We knew we had to keep the ball,” Southern Local coach Rich Wright said. “It wasn’t the best-coached game I’ve done for sure. My players bailed me out. Good players make good coaches.”
Still, that strategy worked to perfection with 187 yards of offense to just 79 for the Clippers in the first half as they built out an 18-7 lead at the half. The Indians held the ball for over 17 minutes in the first half with 16 first downs to just four for Columbiana.
“All night long, they got just enough and did what they had to do,” Columbiana coach Bob Spaite said. “Hats off to them. They did exactly what they needed to do.”
The Indians set the tone from the get-go with Dylan Milhoan capping off a 67-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to make it 6-0 after the failed two-point conversion.
Columbiana responded on a quick drive that took up less than four minutes of the clock as Jakob Cross found Chase Franken on a 33-yard seam route down the Columbiana sideline to make it 7-6.
Again, Southern responded with an 80 yard physical, ball-consuming drive that was capped off with Cam Groudhaus’ 24-yard run to the corner of the end zone. The failed two-point conversion made it 12-7.
After the Clippers punted the ball on their second possession, the Indians started at their own 5-yard line. Southern’s offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage throughout the first half, but the Clippers started to buckle down a bit, but the Indians converted three fourth downs and overcame three fumbles.
No first down might have been bigger than the fourth-and-one from their own 27 that Rich Wright gambled on because his team had been pushing the Clippers defensive line around most of the first half. The 16-play drive end fortuitously with Jayce Sloan finding Grodhaus just short of the goal line.
Instead of the Indians turning the ball over on downs the ball bounced in the air on a suburb defensive hit from Joey Bable as Groodhaus was able to collect himself and somehow come down with the touchdown reception to make it 18-7 at the half.
“That whole drive was insane,” Grodhaus said. “We wouldn’t have gotten down there without the line’s movement. We just kept running it down the field. We needed a pass and I knew I had to come up big for my team. The ball got tipped and I turned around. God put it right in my hands.”
Columbiana responded with a quick 10 play, 67-yard drive that took less than four minutes and was capped off by Franken’s second touchdown of the night, an eight reception that was his 23rd for the Clippers and makes him the all-time reception leader for Columbiana.
“We knew we could move the ball if we could get it off of them,” Spaite said. “We screwed up the one opportunity to score. I don’t know if that makes a difference in the game or not. I think we missed two chances to score and in a game like this where you have limited possessions, you have to score every time. You have to produce. We slowed them down, but we couldn’t get them off the field.”
Those possessions after the Indians turned the ball over on downs, the Clippers got the ball down to the Indians 38 but couldn’t come up with a go-ahead score. Southern extended their lead to 26-14 when Bradley Sloan hauled in his brother’s pass at the goal line on 4th-and-15 with 8:37 left.
The Clippers again moved the ball inside the redone but came up short as Hunter Zentner couldn’t haul in a pass from Cross in the end zone with 6:08 left.
“They have a great offense,” Wright said. “We knew we had to keep the ball. They don’t ever quit. They got great skill players. We might have made just one more play. It really did come down to the end.”
Hence why Wright had his team punt the ball and gave the Clippers more opportunities to claw back in as Joey Bable’s 16-yard reception with 2:22 left to make it 26-21. Though the Clippers onside kick went out of bounds and the Indians ran the clock out.
“I’m so excited to watch the game of the week,” Wright said. “We’ve come so far. It’s come so far in the last five years.”
S — Dylan Milhoan 13 run (run failed), 7:12
C — Chase Franken 33 pass from J. Cross (Collin Schick kick), 3:19
S — Cam Grodhaus 24 run (run failed), 10:06
S — Grodhaus 15 pass from Jayce Sloan (run failed), :06
C — Franken 8 pass from J. Cross (Schick kick), 8:31
S — Bradly Sloan 15 pass from Sloan (Grodhaus pass from Sloan), 8:37
C — Joey Bable 16 pass from Cross (Schick kick), 2:22
First downs 24 12
Total Yards 343 252
Rushes-yards 49-178 19-38
Passing 165 228
Comp-Att-Int 12-14-0 14-22-0
Fumbles-Lost 3-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 2-17 2-22
RUSHING-Sourthern, Cam Grodhaus 9-63, Dylan Milhoan 15-62, Mark Soukup 3-24; Columbiana, Chase Franken 3-19, Jakob Cross 11-14, Hunter Woodring 4-4.
PASSING-Southern, Jayce Sloan 12-14-0-165; Columbiana, Jakob Cross 14-22-0-228.
RECEIVING-Southern, Cameren Grodhaus 9-63, Bradley Sloan 5-66, Dylan Milhoan 2-22; Columbiana, Chase Franken 6-157, Hunter Woodring 2-25, Joey Bable 4-23.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES-Southern 3 (Bradley Sloan 2, Jayce Sloan 1); Columbiana, 0.