BRUNSWICK — The Brunswick football team is on the verge of returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
The Blue Devils sacked Strongsville quarterback Bobby Cole six times Friday night, including a game-clinching putdown with 1:16 left, to beat the Mustangs 28-25 in Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division action.
Brunswick (6-3, 2-2) entered the contest ranked 14th in Division I, Region I, but picked up enough computer points against archrival Strongsville (5-4, 1-3) to put itself in prime position to lock up one of the 16 berths.
“This was a great win for our seniors, our team and our school and community,” Blue Devils coach Luke Beal said as several hundred students celebrated with his players on the field. “Strongsville and Brunswick has always been a classic rivalry — regardless of the records — but tonight, with both teams playing for possible playoff spots, wow, that’s what a rivalry game is supposed to be like.”
Running backs Joe Pinzone and Michael Bekeny scored first-half touchdowns for the Blue Devils, who were playing their final home game.
Quarterback Steven Ficyk joined in the fun late in the third quarter with a perfect 10-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Zach Parker. It came on fourth-and-9 and gave Brunswick a seemingly safe 21-10 lead.
Ficyk also ran in the Blue Devils’ final touchdown from 1 yard out with 8:20 remaining in the fourth, restoring their 11-point advantage at 28-17. The score was set up by David Kelty’s 51-yard punt return two plays earlier.
“What more could you ask for in a rivalry game on senior night and the last time we’ll play on our home field?” said Kelty, who had 144 return yards. “The blocking was tremendous, both with our offensive line against Strongsville’s big old defensive line, and the ‘Blue Wall’ that set up for me on returns. This just feels great.”
The Mustangs made things very interesting as time wound down, as Cole threw two touchdown passes to wide receiver Jordan Sedivy. Their second connection occurred with 6:06 left and cut Strongsville’s deficit to 28-25 after Cole found Jake Oblak for the two-point conversion.
Following two changes of possession and with the crowd whipped into a frenzy, the Mustangs regained the football at their own 37-yard line with 2:29 left.
It only took Cole three plays to move the ball into Brunswick territory at the 40, but Strongsville did not gain another yard. Parker broke up a deep pass to Drew Robertson on first down, Cole misfired badly on second down and cornerback Mac Gore followed with a clutch deflection away from Sedivy.
On fourth down, Cole was swarmed by a pack of Blue Devils as soon as he took the snap and was sacked. It was a storybook finish as senior defenders Justin Boey, Jake Ambrose, Elijah Galloway and Tyler Laffin, and junior Eliot Laisure embraced their teammates in celebration.
“The stars all fell into place for us tonight,” Parker said. “When we looked up in the stands at the end, everyone was going nuts. Talk about an adrenaline rush. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
The victory was especially meaningful for Ambrose, one of Brunswick’s team leaders. His mother, Lynn, was honored before the game for her courageous fight against breast cancer. The school’s student section also recognized her by wearing pink.
“I’ve been thinking about this game all week, knowing I would be playing for my mom and all the people in the stands,” said Ambrose, who recovered a fumble and had 1½ sacks. “I started playing ball when I was 4, and knowing how much support that everyone showed us tonight, I’m honestly having a hard time keeping it all inside.
“I did my best to play with fire, intensity and passion. I’m so proud to be part of this group and this school.”
Putting the cherry on top of the sundae, Beal sent wide receiver Brandon Broa onto the field while Brunswick ran out the clock in the victory formation. The senior suffered a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in late August, but wanted to be in uniform for his final home game, allowing his coach to surprise him in the best way possible.
Ficyk threw for 77 yards on 7-of-14 passing, while Parker had five receptions for 57 yards. Senior running back Richie Norman Jr. added a game-high 83 yards on 24 punishing carries for the Blue Devils.
“I’ll be feeling those hits tomorrow, but it’s all worth it,” a beaming Norman said. “This really is the best feeling in the world.
“After not coming out for the team last year, every second I’ve spent with these guys is a huge blessing. I can’t tell you how much this night means to all of us.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brunswick 28, Strongsville 25
STRONGSVILLE 0 3 14 8 — 25
BRUNSWICK 0 14 7 7 — 28
S — Drew Shephard 38 field goal, 6:20.
B — Joe Pinzone 37 run (Alex Sabetta kick), 4:02.
B — Michael Bekeny 3 run (Sabetta kick), 1:51.
S — Dominic Lombardo 29 run (Shephard kick), 9:47.
B — Zach Parker 10 pass from Steven Ficyk (Sabetta kick), 3:19.
S — Jordan Sedivy 40 pass from Bobby Cole (Shephard kick), 1:34.
B — Ficyk 1 run (Sabetta kick), 8:20.
S — Sedivy 12 pass from Cole (Jake Oblak pass from Cole), 6:06.