MEDINA — With its season on the line, Medina’s football team didn’t turn to star running back Jason Suggs or even its tried-and-true defense.
With 1:25 left and Medina clinging to a 14-13 lead against rival Brunswick, the 12th man came through with flying colors.
A deafening crowd at his back, Bees coach Larry Laird’s desperate attempt to call timeout failed and Blue Devils kicker Jon Zahn left a 43-yard field goal attempt just short, giving Medina an ugly yet hard-earned Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division victory.
In addition to ending a 12-game losing streak to Brunswick (5-5, 2-3), Laird’s number-crunching showed the Bees (8-2, 3-2) locked up a Division I, Region 2 playoff berth when Avon Lake held on to beat Amherst Steele 21-17.
“Oh, God. Thank God,” Laird said of the thwarted timeout bid. “In hindsight, I wanted to freeze the kicker. If we would’ve gotten the timeout, I would have been fine with that.
“We shouldn’t have been in that situation, anyways. We’ve got to play better offensively and our offensive line has to be more effective.”
Laird hit the nail on the head. The Bees gained just 94 yards outside of a game-winning 46-yard touchdown run by Suggs, completed more passes to Brunswick safety Scott Suren (2) than to their own receivers (1) and Medina was essentially minus-4 in the turnover battle thanks to two picks, a lost fumble and a kickoff recovered by the Blue Devils. The Bees also turned the ball over on downs on their first possession of the game.
The bottom line, however, was only two plays were needed to make the difference.
That’s where Suggs (23 carries, 110 yards) made his mark.
With just 17 carries for 39 yards at the time, Suggs took yet another pitch to the right and bounced to the sideline. It looked as if the 5-foot-10, 179-pounder had run out of real estate, but he broke a shoestring tackle attempt at the 32 and rumbled down the sideline for a 46-yard TD to put Medina ahead for good with 28 seconds left in the third period.
“I thought I was going down,” Suggs said. “I just kept my feet moving and ran.
“Coach Laird told me to just be patient and the holes would open up. In the beginning of the game they were stopping it and stopping it. You’ve got to be patient and the holes will open.”
The holes were just as hard to find for the Blue Devils, though Medina’s defense made sure they never opened.
Thanks to an interception by Ben Hamel (3 tackles for loss) that led to a 1-yard TD run by Aaron Wilson, a beautiful tackle of Brunswick’s Tevin Jackson by Hamel on fourth-and-2 late in the first half and three more stuffs behind the line of scrimmage by defensive tackle Werner Ostmann, the Bees bent but didn’t break.
Brunswick struck first on a short pass from Danny Yohman (4-for-15, 92 yards, TD, int.) that diminutive running back Eric Fox (21 carries, 67 yards; 3 receptions, 75 yards) took 55 yards to the house. From there, the Blue Devils couldn’t move the ball and had zero first downs in the third quarter.
Had it not been for the impressive leg of Zahn, who kicked field goals of 44 and 34 yards, Brunswick wouldn’t have owned a 13-7 lead as its three-pronged running attack of Fox, Nick Roberts (7 carries, 14 yards) and Tevin Jackson (10 carries, 12 yards) was ineffective.
“We knew they were going to run the ball,” Hamel said. “They got Tevin back and we knew we had to shut him down. They weren’t going to pass on us. They’re a running team, so if we shut them down, we knew we were going to have a shot.”
Even so, the Blue Devils still had a shot after Medina quarterback Mason Schreck fumbled on his own 30 on third-and-2.
Brunswick’s Jake Maurer fell on the ball at the Medina 28 with 8:20 to go and Fox took the ball down to the 16 on a key third-down run.
That’s where the drive stalled, as the Blue Devils were called for a crucial 12-yard holding pen-alty and Yohman’s option pitch on the next play was batted backward by Medina safety Will Hite-shue for a 15-yard loss.
It was a huge momentum swing, as Brunswick was forced to send Ray J. Brown out to punt in-stead of lining up Zahn for another field goal.
“We thought at that time we had some momentum,” Blue Devils coach Luke Beal said. “In the second half, that was real key for us. It took us out of field goal range and it was a huge penalty. If we could have recovered and got something, we could have been all right.
“It’s obviously a tough loss to end the season, but we gave everything we had. … It’s two evenly matched teams and it’s unfortunate someone has to lose a football game like that.”
Someone had to win, too. Now, the Bees will await their fate as they will likely to travel to the winner of tonight’s Massillon-Canton McKinley game.
“This is great. This is the best feeling ever,” Hamel said. “I’ve never thought we would get here after so many hard years. This is awesome for our program.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Medina 14, Brunswick 13
BRUNSWICK 7 3 3 0 — 13
MEDINA 7 0 7 0 — 14
M — Aaron Wilson 1 run (Nick Bavaro kick), 6:11.
B — Eric Fox 55 pass from Danny Yohman (Jon Zahn kick), 7:59.
B — Zahn 44 field goal, 11:55.
B — Zahn 34 field goal, 9:41.
M — Jason Suggs 46 run (Bavaro kick), 0:28.