WESTFIELD TWP. — In what looked like a shootout between the Earps and Clantons at the OK Corral, Tallmadge’s football team defeated Cloverleaf 55-35 Friday in a high-scoring Suburban League contest.
The Blue Devils (6-2, 4-1) did a good job playing the part of the Earps, as they had most of the firepower. Quarterback Anthony Gotto led the attack, passing for 286 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 40 yards and a score.
Nine Tallmadge runners carried the ball, amassing 278 yards on 40 carries, while nine receivers played catch with Gotto.
“That is key for us,” Tallmadge coach Joe Vassalotti said. “We like to share the ball and switch off who is running the ball or who is the key receiver. That way it keeps the opponents from keying on one player.”
For most of the game, that was the problem facing Cloverleaf (3-5, 0-5), as its leading rusher, Devin Cunningham (20 carries for 60 yards; 4 receptions for 50, 2 TDs) was a target every time he touched the ball.
In the first half, Cunningham was limited to 2 yards on eight carries. Except for a 78-yard touchdown pass from Garrison Flora to Tyler Beery, the Colts had 12 yards on 15 plays in the first half.
By contrast, Tallmadge had 328 yards on 39 plays and led 27-14.
“Tallmadge was keying on Devin the whole game and we couldn’t get anything else going elsewhere,” Colts coach Bob Lake said. “We had some chances, but we dropped a few passes and missed some blocks and just couldn’t get the offense going.”
The Colts’ other first-half score came on a 75-yard interception return by Brandon Zajaczkowski.
Things weren’t much better for Cloverleaf in the third quarter, as Tallmadge struck three times to take a 48-14 lead.
Then, a funny thing happened. The Colts decided to play some football.
It started quietly enough when Garrison Flora (12-for-28, 194 yards, 3 total TDs) scored from 8 yards out with 11:23 left in the game to cut the lead to 48-21.
On the ensuing kickoff, Kyle Church recovered a Tallmadge fumble at the Blue Devils 26-yard line. On the next play from scrimmage, Cunningham scored around left end and the Colts trailed 48-28 with 11:09 remaining.
Church came to the rescue again when he recovered an onside kick. Seven plays later, Flora hooked up with Cunningham for a 26-yard screen pass and another touchdown at 8:36 and the Colts trailed 48-35.
On the next onside kickoff, Brandon Johnson recovered the ball at the 38. Cloverleaf moved quickly to the 16, but a pair of sacks for 19 yards in losses and an incomplete pass ended the rally.
“We gave it a big effort all night, but especially in the final quarter,” Cunningham said. “We came up short, but as a team we learned what we can do if we refuse to quit. It gives us a more positive attitude for our last two games.”
Tallmadge clinched victory with a score at 2:40 to wrap up the shootout.
“I knew we had to continue scoring tonight,” Vassalotti said. “Cloverleaf is never out of a game with their big-strike offense. They never quit and no lead is safe. We needed all of our points tonight. It was a battle to the end.”
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Tallmadge 55, Cloverleaf 35
TALLMADGE 13 14 21 7 — 55
CLOVERLEAF 7 7 0 21 — 35
T — Anthony Gotto 43 run (Kody Edwards kick), 10:43.
T — Daniel Ray 2 run (kick failed), 2:01.
C — Tyler Beery 78 pass from Garrison Flora (Noah Berg kick), 1:03.
T — Jonny Linn 27 run (Edwards kick), 10:46.
C — Brandon Zajaczkowski 75 interception return (Berg kick), 8:35.
T — Bryon Cook 24 pass from Gotto (Edwards kick), 0:40.
T — Gotto 1 run (Edwards kick), 6:19.
T — Zack Skraba 1 run (Edwards kick),1:05.
T — Zach Cleary 34 pass from Gotto (Edwards kick), 0:50.
C — Flora 8 run (Berg kick),11:23.
C — Devin Cunningham 26 run (Berg kick), 11:09.
C — Cunningham 26 pass from Flora (Berg kick), 8:36.
G — Ray 13 run (Edwards kick), 2:40.