TALLMADGE — Tallmadge quarterback Anthony Gotto proved to be too much for Highland on Friday as the Blue Devils won 35-21 in Suburban League action.
Gotto, a senior, showed why he’s getting the attention from Division I college programs, tossing for 203 yards and touchdown passes of 56, 11, 6, 5 and 5 yards to three different receivers.
While Gotto was brilliant with his arm, he also damaged Highland (3-3, 1-2) with his legs and led all rushers with 64 yards on 13 carries.
“I think I’m at my best when I use my legs and scramble around to give my receivers time to get open,” he said. “I’m very slippery in the pocket, so it’s hard for teams to bring me down. But it’s really about letting my receivers get open.”
Highland coach Tom Lombardo knew what to expect from Gotto.
“He hurt us scrambling back there,” Lombardo said. “And we knew that’s what his game was coming in.”
After a strong start by Highland stunned the home crowd, things went downhill quickly in the second quarter.
Tallmadge (5-1, 3-0) started the game with the ball but was forced to punt. The Hornets, led by junior quarterback Bruce Kinsey, drove 55 yards in five plays and took a 7-0 lead on Kinsey’s 15-yard pass to sophomore Tanner Houska.
On Tallmadge’s next series, Highland senior Ricky Esker intercepted Gotto on the Hornets’ 18-yard line and returned the ball to the Highland 39, and the Hornets capitalized on senior Adam Kluk’s 1-yard dive to take a 14-0 lead with just over 5 minutes to play in the quarter.
The drive was aided by a pass interference penalty against the Blue Devils, but Kinsey was the catalyst, scrambling for 13 yards on one play and then hooking up with senior tight end Austin Adams for a 34-yard pass on the next.
But while the Hornets took the early momentum in the first quarter, three second-quarter turnovers led to three touchdowns by Tallmadge.
“That killed us,” Lombardo said. “We came out great. We had all the momentum, and then the ball pops right into their hands. We really controlled the first quarter, they controlled the second and the second half was pretty much an even game.”
The first miscue was a fumble that popped into the air into the hands of Tallmadge senior Zach Skraba, who returned it 22 yards to the Highland 49.
After a holding penalty against the Blue Devils and a 6-yard run by senior Johnny Linn, Gotto hooked up with senior tight end Jacob Wood for a 56-yard touchdown pass.
Senior Cordt Skraba then picked off Highland passes on back-to-back possessions and returned them 55 and 50 yards respectively, setting up two more touchdown passes by Gotto to Wood.
Tallmadge scored two touchdowns in the final 2:00 of the half to take a 28-14 lead into halftime and never looked back.
Wood was unstoppable. At 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, the tight end was a mismatch against the Hornets secondary. Gotto was able to put the ball high where only Wood could go up and get it.
“He made some plays,” Lombardo said of Wood. “We were right there on him, too. You’ve got to give them credit. They made plays.”
Highland had a few near misses that could have changed the complexion of the game.
One was when Houska caught a pass in the open field and had plenty of green grass in front of him, but lost his balance and after a 19-yard gain.
Another missed opportunity was a turnover after a shotgun snap sailed over Kinsey’s head and was recovered by Tallmadge’s Davis Moore.
Kinsey finished with 13-of-22 passing for 169 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Like his Tallmadge counterpart, the Hornets junior quarterback led his team in rushing with 48 yards on seven carries.
Contact Eric Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tallmadge 35, Highland 21
HIGHLAND 14 0 0 7 — 21
TALLMADGE 0 28 0 7 — 35
H — Tanner Houska 15 pass from Bruce Kinsey (Joe Simonis kick), 8:35.
H — Adam Kluk 1 run (Simonis kick), 5:02.
T — Daniel Ray 5 pass from Anthony Gotto (Kody Edwards kick), 11:50.
T — Jacob Wood 56 pass from Gotto (Edwards kick), 6:40.
T — Wood 11 pass from Gotto (Edwards kick), 1:31.
T — Wood 5 pass from Gotto (Edwards kick), 0:15.
T — Bryon Cook 6 pass from Gotto (Edwards kick), 7:35.
H — Dylan McVay 11 pass from Kinsey (Simonis kick), 3:57.