Raiders avenge loss, win tier title

BOARDMAN – Lynn Bowden remembers it like it was yesterday. It’s hard to forget because the Internet has a long memory.

The Warren G. Harding senior saw the video in which Warren G. Harding’s Chris Clarke rushed through the Boardman line and blocked a potential game-wining field-goal attempt.

The only thing is, Harding left Adam Deeley’s blocked FG on the ground. There, Boardman’s Gaven Strines scooped the ball and went in untouched for a shocking victory in 2015 at Mollenkopf Stadium – giving the Spartans the All-American Conference Gold Tier title.

On Friday, prior to the rematch with Boardman at Spartan Stadium, Bowden and his teammates watched and learned from that painful reminder.

“That video went viral, got a couple thousand views on it,” Bowden said after Harding’s 46-15 thumping of Boardman, sending the Spartans (2-5, 0-1 AAC Gold) to their fifth-straight loss. “We watched it. Everybody walked out of the room and I knew it was game time.”

Bowden, like he’s done all season, made quick work of the opposition and avenged last year’s game by helping the Raiders take this year’s AAC Gold title.

After Marlin Richardson went 27 yards on the game’s first play, Bowden did the rest – slicing through the Spartans’ defense 48 yards for his first of four touchdowns. Bowden dominated with five carries for 213 yards – a 42.6 yards-per-carry average.

None of Harding’s drives, while the starters were in the game, lasted more than five plays.

“That’s what we’ve been all year,” WGH coach Steve Arnold said. “We have that capability and exhibited that all year.

“We want to get the ball to our playmakers, let them play football.”

This is the first time since 2003 the Raiders (7-0, 3-0 AAC Gold) have won their first seven games. That year, WGH went 11-0 to start the season before losing to St. Edward in the second round of the Division I playoffs.

There’s not much stopping the Raiders, even themselves.

Bowden threw a pass that was deflected by a Boardman lineman in the first quarter. The ball subsequently pinballed three times and eventually found its way back to Bowden, who was credited with a 3-yard pass to himself.

“I just wanted to do everything I could to keep the ball out of the other guy’s hands,” Bowden said. “I made a play.”

Bowden, who was 6-of-7 for 104 yards, found Richardson in the flat near midfield. The senior wide receiver darted upfield, like Bowden, weaved his way through the Boardman defense and found the end zone 46 yards later as the Raiders took a 25-0 lead with 9:21 left before halftime. Richardson, who had a 68-yard punt return in the first quarter, had two receptions for 73 yards.

Now the first three WGH scores had a failed run, pass and kick on the extra points, which is a concern to Arnold.

“Those can come back to haunt you in the playoffs,” he said. “We have to shore that up.”

Bowden finished off his night with a 52-yard scamper with 10:29 remaining in the third quarter. He looked upfield to throw, couldn’t see an open receiver, and took off with two Boardman defenders trying to tackle the shifty Raiders athlete.

Bowden dodged one Spartan defender, who fell to the ground. Another Boardman player befell the same fate. Bowden then cut across the field around the 30 and ran through a host of missed tackles en route to a 39-7 lead, leading to a running clock when a team is ahead by 30 points or more.

“That’s just a gift that he has,” Arnold said of Bowden’s vision. “Real simple. The great ones have that uncanny knack to visualize things before it actually happens. He possesses that quality. You’re watching him do those things and like, ‘Where’s he going?’ Next thing he’s cutting back.

“I sound like a broken record every week, but that’s what he does.”

Boardman coach Joe Ignazio said he was impressed with the Harding senior.

“I think he’s the No. 1 recruit in the state of Ohio for a reason,” Ignazio said.

The Spartans scored on Koby Adu-Poku’s 2-yard run set up by a WGH personal foul and pass interference penalty, along with an Adu-Poku 24-yard run with 4:25 before intermission.

On the next series, Adu-Poku was injured, helped off the field.

“Just the way the game played out, I didn’t want to risk anything,” Ignazio said. “He had a kid fall on the back of his foot and wasn’t pushing off of it like he should. He’ll be fine.”

This coming Friday, Harding returns to Mollenkopf to face Cardinal Mooney (4-1), which plays Buffalo (N.Y.) Canisius today in Youngstown. The Cardinals defeated Harding last year at Stambaugh Stadium.

Next Friday’s game will be a contrast between a hard-nosed running style and an up-tempo offense.

“We want to play basketball on the football field,” said Arnold, whose team plays Mooney, Youngstown East and Howland in Warren to conclude the regular season. “That’s what what we want to do against Mooney. They don’t want to do that. Who can impose their style next week is probably going to come out victorious.”

Like Friday, maybe WGH can avenge a loss like it did against Boardman?