POLAND — Ursuline had heard a lot about the tough, physical brand of football that Poland likes to inflict on its opponent going into their Division IV, Region 13 semifinal.
The Irish made sure the Bulldogs got a taste of how they play football when the two met in a Mahoning Valley postseason showdown.
Ursuline scored 35 unanswered points in a dominating 35-7 victory at Dave Pavlansky Field in Poland on Saturday.
“We just really wanted to attack them and show them that we’re here to play, and we’re the physical team,” Irish defensive end Luke Campbell said. “We wanted to hit them hard, like we know how to play, and just take it to them.”
The Bulldogs (7-2) got off to a strong start, nonetheless.
They struck first following an interception of Brady Shannon by Christian Colosimo on Ursuline’s third play. It was Colosimo who set up the score on offense as well, catching a pass out of the backfield for 23 yards on fourth-and-3. Jack Fulton punched it in from 2 yards out a few plays later.
The momentum changed shortly after that, and the Bulldogs could never get it back.
Ursuline running back Dante Walker sparked the Irish (7-2), who had great field position after Poland had to punt from inside its 10-yard line. Walker accounted for all 30 yards of the drive, including a 14-yard TD run to tie the game at 7.
The Bulldogs faced third-and-6 on their next drive, and as Colosimo was being wrapped up for a sack, he attempted to throw the ball away, but he was hit and the ball tumbled out of his hand. Campbell caught it and ran in for a TD from 6 yards out for a 14-7 lead.
“I’m going to be honest, I don’t know what exactly happened,” Campbell said. “(The ball) just fell into my arms, and I was like, ‘Oh, let’s run and try to get a touchdown.’ I couldn’t have done it without (the rest of the defensive line). I’ve got to give them credit.”
Ursuline kept pouring it on.
One of the biggest plays of the game was a tricky one. The Irish faced third-and-5 from their own 36 when Shannon threw a lateral to Matthew Reardon. Reardon caught the backwards pass and fired a perfect 41-yard bomb to running back DeMarcus McElroy for a first down at the 23. McElroy scored on the next play for a 21-7 advantage.
The Bulldogs came undone shortly after that. There appeared to be a miscommunication on a failed fake punt by Poland from its own 39. The Irish took advantage, going 42 yards on six plays, with Walker giving them a 28-7 lead on a 17-yard run.
A team built on running the football and playing stout defense, Poland ran for just 92 yards and was never able to execute its game plan.
“Penalties and turnovers are devastating when you’re trying to stay on schedule,” Bulldogs coach Ryan Williams said. “A lot of what we do is run the ball and play-action pass, and when you’re behind the sticks with penalties and turnovers, it’s tough.
“They’re a good football team, and in the playoffs, there’s a finality to it, so it is hard (to get the momentum back).”
Poland received the second-half kickoff, but things went from bad to worse.
The Bulldogs fumbled, their third fumble of the game (all of which were recovered by Ursuline), on the first play from scrimmage. The Irish, who host Mentor Lake Catholic next week in a regional final, scored on the next play. McElroy, who ran for 119 yards and two TDs, ran around the right side for a 28-yard, game-sealing TD.
“Our kids did a good of just continuing to play,” said Ursuline coach Dan Reardon of capturing and keeping the momentum. “The momentum comes because you keep playing and doing your job and playing with passion, and our kids did that.”
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