COPLEY TWP. — The most lethal safety combination in the Suburban League lived up to the hype.
Austin White and Ryan Looser were in the middle of every big play Friday and led Wadsworth’s football team to a rugged 28-7 SL victory over Copley that took just 94 minutes.
Since losing 24-23 to Highland, the Grizzlies (7-1, 4-1) have won their last four games by a combined 147-19 count.
“It seems like we always start out slow, but we turn it up in the second half and show them what kind of team we really are,” Looser said. “We’re not going to slack around the whole game. We’re trying to put it all together soon.
“We just know what’s coming at us because we have really good scouting reports and we study what the team is throwing at us. Our defense is always showing up. That’s three scores over the past four games, and we show up because we are the best defense around.”
White intercepted John Kromalic on the first play from scrimmage, added a 2-yard pick-six later in the first quarter and put the game on ice with this third INT, while Looser set up excellent field position on each of his seven fearless punt returns.
The All-Gazette duo also spearheaded a defense that held the Indians (4-4, 1-4) to 75 yards on 45 snaps outside of a fluky 64-yard touchdown pass that Milton Greer bobbled twice shortly before halftime.
“It’s all on the coaches,” White said. “The coaches give us all the plays and dedicate all their time to us. For us as players, we study everything. That’s it.”
While Looser did most of the dirty work, the 6-foot-3, 198-pound White came up with the momentum-changing moments in an offensively challenged first half.
Outstanding pressure led to White’s first interception when Kromalic underthrew a pass along the Copley sideline.
The second INT was a thing of beauty.
On the first play after Scott Campbell (6 punts, 40.5 average) pinned Copley at its own 6, Kromalic turned left to throw a screen to Brian Reinke, but showed complete disregard for White. White then stepped in front of Reinke, snared the pigskin and took one step into the end zone for one of the shortest pick-sixes in Medina County history.
“Like I said, the coaches gave us the formation on that play,” White said. “When I saw No. 5 (Reinke) up on the line, I knew I had to come up. I saw (Kromalic’s) eyes and I came up and made the play.”
White also showed off his athleticism to help kick-start an offense that went the first 17:43 without a first down.
Wadsworth faced fourth-and-19 from the Indians 29. Quarterback Adam Dennison locked in and threw a fade route to White, who jumped over 5-9 freshman Jaylon Doss for a 23-yard gain to set up a short score by Martice Jackson (24 carries, 158 yards, 3 TDs).
Though there were approximately 4 minutes left in the first half, White’s catch was only the third first down of the night. The others came on a Copley fake punt and 39-yard reverse by Wadsworth’s Hunter Williams that kept the Grizzlies from compiling negative rushing yards in the two quarters.
“Adam Dennison, the quarterback, threw a great ball to me,” White said. “I just went up and caught it.”
Looser didn’t have any eye-popping moments, but was a big reason why Kromalic finished 7-for-19 passing and the Indians gained just 40 rushing yards on 27 attempts.
The senior’s biggest contribution, however, was returning punts.
Looser fielded seven of Austin Finley’s eight attempts — the other bounced off his helmet into the arms of a teammate — and gained 141 yards. Looser’s returns gave Wadsworth the ball, on average, at the Copley 45.
A struggling offense that was held relatively in check by Copley’s pad-crunching All-SL linebacker Oliver Johnson, Reinke and Chance Jones only capitalized three times, but all seven of Campbell’s punts landed inside the Indians 21.
“I was trying to break one, but it’s going to happen soon, though,” Looser said. “We think that special teams are a very important part of the game, and we obviously practice that and try to be the best.”
Wadsworth’s offense didn’t do anything special outside of Williams’ reverse and had four false starts, two holding penalties and an illegal formation.
It overcame the miscues because of an adjustment coach Greg Dennison made at halftime.
With Copley honing in on Wadsworth’s base runs out of the I-formation, Dennison countered with strong-side powers that saw pulling left guard Chris Byers and fullbacks Campbell and Wil Rock lead the way through holes created by beefy linemen Tyler Erbse and Chandler Martinez and tight end Nate Bergan.
The move worked wonders for Jackson, who had 154 of his 158 yards over the final 24 minutes. It also was the play Jackson used to rumble 47 yards to the house just 1:45 into the second half.
Jackson finished the scoring by capping a grueling nine-play, 40-yard drive with 40 seconds left in the third quarter. He also moved into eighth place in Medina County history for career rushing yards (3,449).
“We just did things a little better up front,” Dennison said while deflecting credit to his players. “We didn’t do a whole lot different. We just did things a little better and more physical.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or email@example.com.
Wadsworth 28, Copley 7
WADSWORTH 7 7 14 0 — 28
COPLEY 0 7 0 0 — 7
W — Austin White 2 interception return (Arthur Castro kick), 4:15.
W — Martice Jackson 1 run (Castro kick), 3:42.
C — Milton Greer 64 pass from John Kromalic (Austin Finley kick), 1:50.
W — Jackson 47 run (Castro kick), 10:15.
W — Jackson 7 run (Castro kick), 0:40.
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