By BRAD BOURNIVAL
MACEDONIA â€”Through two games of the 2008 high school football season, Boliantz Stadium has been the land of opportunity for Nordonia.
In a tight non-league game against Wadsworth on Friday, the Grizzlies gave the Knights a few gifts and Nordonia responded with a 24-14 win.
Outmatched and outplayed for the better part of three quarters, the Grizzlies (1-1) found themselves still alive against the Knights (2-0) until they flirted with danger one too many times.
Nordonia, which caused seven turnovers against Tallmadge a week ago, was clinging to a 17-14 lead at the 6:17 mark of the final quarter when it was able to finally stick the dagger in a resurgent Wadsworth team.
Grizzlies quarterback Caleb Busson faced second-and-4 from the Wadsworth 42 when center Jayse Capello sent the snap just out of the signal callerâ€™s reach.
The fumble â€“ Wadsworthâ€™s sixth of the game â€“ was recovered by Nordoniaâ€™s Jamil Pickens on the Wadsworth 22. Five plays later John Hamilton (31 carries, 235 yards, 2 TDs) put it in the end zone from 9 yards out.
â€œWe finally did something right offensively, had a nice defensive stand, got the ball back and were moving when it happened,â€ Wadsworth coach Greg Dennison said. â€œWe made too many mistakes. We had a chance to stay in there, but theyâ€™re a good team. Theyâ€™ll capitalize if you give them the chance. Thatâ€™s why they win.â€
That attitude came back out on the next possession, when the Knights forced another turnover, thus ending any chance of a comeback.
Without the use of wide receiver Anthony Schrock â€” the junior went out with a strained MCL in the third quarter â€” Busson (4-of-15, 114 yards) was forced to throw and John Spooney grabbed his second interception of the season, allowing Nordonia to salt the game away.
â€œItâ€™s tough sledding when you come into Nordonia,â€ Knights coach Al Huge said. â€œYouâ€™re in for a dogfight every time you play here.â€
Except for a 78-yard flea flicker from Busson to Louden Gordon in the first half, Wadsworth was outgained 207-15 through 24 minutes. The Grizzlies finished the game on the wrong side in plays (60-40) and yards (366-148) and were outmanned by a very physical offensive line and staunch defense.
Everything Wadsworth tried â€” except for the trick play â€” was met with a hammer, as the Grizzlies managed just one first down through the first two quarters.
The Knights had a 14-7 advantage at the break thanks to touchdowns from Zak Alders and Hamilton and were looking for the knockout blow.
But Wadsworth made a game of it when Bart Randolph scored his second 2-yard touchdown of the contest to knot things up at the 46-second mark of the third quarter.
The Knightsâ€™ Eric Vukmanic untied it with 7:18 remaining on a 24-yard field goal.
Nordonia, which had largely ignored Hamilton in the third quarter after a 140-yard, 17-carry first half, went back to its horse after that.
â€œIt was just feed the beast and keep going hard,â€ Huge said. â€œHeâ€™s pretty good. Iâ€™m glad heâ€™s on our side. Games like tonight typify how hard he plays.â€
Hamilton played hard, picking up another 85 yards in the second half while putting the final points on the board in the fourth.
â€œHeâ€™s got speed and quickness and can make guys miss,â€ Dennison said. â€œWhen youâ€™ve got a guy like that, he can make it hurt.â€
Up Next: Nordonia (2-0) travels to Kenston; Wadsworth (1-1) entertains Medina.
Bournival may be reached at email@example.com or 330-721-4045.