The score: Wadsworth 14, Ashland 7. The scenario: First-and-10 from the Ashland 41-yard line with 9:21 left in the third quarter. The stakes: Starting the season on the right foot.
Arrows slot receiver Jacob Allton ran out to block for what appeared to be a flanker screen. Instead, he cut up the sideline as quarterback Nick Zurcher pump-faked.
Grizzlies free safety Ryan Looser sniffed it out like a bloodhound.
Zurcher lofted the pass. An instant after Allton stretched out his arm to make the catch, Looser lowered his shoulder on a dead sprint. Allton was instantly decleated and both players crumbled at the Wadsworth 42 on the sparkling new FieldTurf at Art Wright Memorial Stadium.
The momentum-changing collision heard ’round Wadsworth was the inadvertent crack of their helmets.
“I was scared, actually. I knew someone wasn’t getting up after that,” said Grizzlies cornerback Scott Campbell, who had the best on-field view. “It lifted us, actually. It gave us more heart.”
Looser was treated for a very slight concussion after taking 4½ minutes to walk to the bench under his own power. He didn’t return to the game, but the message was sent. The Grizzlies are going to bring the axe. Try not to get chopped.
The Arrows were shut out the rest of the way in a 35-7 Wadsworth victory. Even sweeter, Looser cleared every test and was back in the starting lineup the next week against Wooster.
“I don’t remember much, to be honest,” Looser said with a grin. “I do kind of remember the ball being in the air, but anything before that or after that … Whenever I see the ball in the air like that, if I can’t get to the ball and intercept it, I try to (light up the receiver).
“I was scared because I didn’t want that to be my last game as a senior in high school. I wanted to finish the season. (Passing the concussion tests) was great because concussions are a big thing and people take that seriously.”
Game-changing plays like those are nothing new for the 6-foot-2, 179-pound senior, who has been flying around on defense since his peewee days.
Looser is a rare athlete who has played the same position his entire football life. He’s well aware of the responsibilities of being the last line. People notice when he screws up. Then again, the only thing people notice these days is Looser changing the complexion of a game.
“He helps us in so many ways — offense, defense, kicking game,” coach Greg Dennison said. “He’s the type that can make big plays everywhere.
“He wants to be on the field in everything. When you get an attitude like that along with his ability, that’s a special player.”
In his first year as a starter in 2012, Looser sparkled from the get-go. He led Medina County with six interceptions, broke up five other passes, compiled 638 all-purpose yards as a wide receiver/return man and his touchdowns covered 68 and 58 yards.
Looser was named second-team All-Suburban League for his efforts, but his swan song is off to an even better start.
“I love that football is the only sport you can take all your anger out on someone and hit someone as hard as you can,” he said.
Looser’s hit-of-the-year nominee against Ashland established his all-out attitude. Medina found out the hard way how physical he can be on the other side of the ball.
Simply put, No. 42 was all over the place. His 60-yard kickoff return set up an Aden Campbell field goal, his interception late helped fend off any Medina comeback hopes and his 16-yard touchdown grab, in which he outmuscled an initial defender and two others in the end zone, came on fourth down late in the first half.
The Grizzlies’ philosophy is to play conservative and fundamentally sound and big plays will happen naturally.
More often than not, Looser is making them.
“I just try to do my best,” he said. “I don’t try to do the best for me as an individual. I just try to do the best for my team. I don’t know how to explain it.”
Tonight, Looser and Wadsworth take on rival Cloverleaf in Suburban League play after losing to their nemesis, Highland, by a gut-wrenching 24-23 count.
While he didn’t have a big play in that one, Looser was part of defense that held reigning Gazette MVP Bruce Kinsey to 1-for-5 passing for 4 yards in a second half that was all Wadsworth.
It’s not hard to see how hungry the Grizzlies are after their dreams of a perfect regular season were dashed.
“I’m not going to forget that,” he said matter-of-factly. “Highland, that’s personally my biggest rival. I don’t like losing to Highland at all.
“It’s going to motivate me a lot coming back this week and every other game. It’s going to push me to play harder because I don’t ever want to lose again. I hate that feeling, especially against Highland. We want to show every team we don’t like losing.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.