Garfield runs past top-seeded South Range

NORTH LIMA — Entering their Division V, Region 17 first-round playoff matchup against Garfield, it seemed the key for the South Range Raiders was to slow down the G-Men’s 2,000 yard passer Dalton Fall.

Few could have predicted that Garfield’s running game would actually be South Range’s undoing.

The eighth-seeded G-Men blistered the top-seeded Raiders for 337 rushing yards — including 241 in the second half — on their way to a 31-21 upset Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

“We came in focused on stopping the pass and we did that, we just couldn’t stop the run,” South Range senior Nathan Daniszewski said. “We thought they would run a little bit, but not as much as they did.”

Garfield (8-3) advances to take on fourth-seeded LaBrae in a second-round matchup at 7 p.m. Saturday at a site to be determined.

For South Range (9-2), the loss was a hard pill to swallow in the final game at Memorial Stadium. The Raiders will move into their new facility across from the high school next season.

“It’s real tough to take,” Daniszewski said. “It hasn’t sunk in yet that this is the last game of my high school career.”

“This is not what we expected,” junior quarterback Aniello Buzzacco said. “We all were hoping to go far in the playoffs. It’s a heartbreak, but I love my team and I love everything we accomplished. I’m so proud of everyone.”

The Raiders limited Fall to just 2-of-7 passing for a mere 37 yards, but were confounded by the trio of running backs Dalton Michael, Kyle Borelli and Anthony DeNigris who blew past the Raiders on a series of draws and sweeps.

Michael finished with 162 rushing yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Borelli added 97 yards and a score on 20 carries, while DeNigris zipped for 79 yards on just three carries.

“You work all week at defending the pass and then they break some big runs on you,” South Range coach Dan Yeagley said. “It was a great job by their coaching staff getting their team ready and they executed very well.”

With the score tied 7-7 early in the third quarter, DeNigris set the tone for the second half when he sped 38 yards on a reverse to set up a 10-yard touchdown run by Borelli to give the G-Men their first lead at 14-7.

The Raiders quickly responded with touchdown runs of 1 and 35 yards by Daniszewski to edge in front 21-20 with 1:40 left in the third quarter.

It was at that point that Michael struck for his biggest play of the night when he broke loose for a 71-yard run on a draw play down to the 1-yard line. He barged into the end zone on the next play and Borelli cashed in a two-point conversion to give the G-Men the lead for good at 28-21.

South Range was forced to punt on its next possession, backing the G-Men up at their own 6. Garfield quickly raced deep into South Range territory, however, on a 35-yard reverse by DeNigris and a 35-yard run by Michael. A 22-yard field goal by Zach Gorby gave the G-Men a 31-21 lead with 5:56 left. South Range never seriously threatened from there.

“We were a little caught off guard with some of their stuff,” Yeagley said. “We knew they had some good backs, but it wasn’t their first choice. All of a sudden that was their first choice tonight and they did well. That’s good coaching on their part.”

In addition to the running game, Garfield also hurt South Range with big plays on defense and special teams.

Late in the second quarter, South Range held a 7-0 lead and moved the ball to the Garfield 31 following an interception by Brian Robinson. On 3rd-and-1, Buzzacco tried to float a swing pass for a first down, but Garfield’s Seth Morgan read the play perfectly and raced untouched into the end zone for a 69-yard interception return to tie the score at 7.

Morgan came back to haunt the Raiders again in the third quarter. The Raiders had just tied the game at 14 on Daniszewski’s 1-yard touchdown, when Morgan muffed the ensuing kickoff at the 10 but proceeded to take it 90 yards to the end zone, putting Garfield back in front 20-14.

“You can’t make mistakes against good teams.” Yeagley said. “You had the pick six and the special teams breakdown, which we haven’t had all year. Their good athletes took advantage.”

Daniszewski led the Raiders offensively with 135 rushing yards on 19 carries. Buzzacco completed 9-of-21 passes for 106 yards and added 45 rushing yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.

Buzzacco got the Raiders on the board first when he rammed in a 1-yard touchdown on 4th-and-goal early in the second quarter.