Girard cooled off

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple Girard senior Michael Belcik catches a touchdown pass in the Indians’ loss to Perry Friday night at Twinsburg.

TWINSBURG — It was just another big play in a game full of them, but this one seemed to hurt a little more.

The touchdown as time expired in the first half stung even more than the biting cold temperatures that stormed across northeast Ohio on Friday. Perry’s last-second score gave the Pirates a 22-point lead at halftime, and Girard never seemed to recover as the Indians fell, 50-21, in a Division IV, Region 13 semifinal at Twinsburg Tiger Stadium.

Perry quarterback Kolston Brewster heaved a pass down the sideline as the final seconds ticked off the clock, and wide receiver Jaylen Anderson plucked it over a Girard defender and barreled into the end zone for a 35-13 halftime lead. The momentum swing was a big one as Girard had the ball just moments earlier and a chance to make it a one-score game.

The Indians (10-2) went from making a charge to suddenly looking overwhelmed.

“We were thinking of maybe getting in and scoring, making it a seven-point game,” Girard coach Pat Pearson said, “and all of the sudden we don’t convert, and as time’s running out, the kid made a heck of a catch over our kid, and now it’s a 21-point game. That’s a big turn there.”

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple Morgan Clardy looks for running room after getting away from Perry’s Cody Baranauskas, left. The Pirates beat the Indians, 50-21, in the Division IV regional semifinal.

The play was almost common for the Pirates (12-0), who were dominant offensively and made numerous big plays even when Girard was in position.

Brewster completed 18-of-22 passes for 374 yards and six touchdowns (tying his own school record for TDs in a game). His receivers certainly helped, with Jacob Allen grabbing five receptions for 123 yards and three TDs.

One of Allen’s touchdowns came after Girard tied the game at 7 in the first quarter. He was well-covered in the corner of the end zone, but Brewster dropped in a perfect pass over the defender and right into the arms of Allen. He was one of three Perry receivers with 100-plus yards in the game.

“It was just a matter of matchups,” Pirates coach Matt Rosati said. “We were able to get them into some situations where it was going to be difficult for them to cover our guys. We’ve got some pretty skilled guys, and for people to be able to match up with them man-to-man is pretty tough to do. We were fortunate, and Kolston was able to make some great throws.”

Girard’s dynamic duo of quarterback Mark Waid and receiver Michael Belcik did what it could to match the high-powered Pirates offense.

Waid threw an astounding 50 passes, completing 32 for 345 yards, three TDs and zero interceptions. Belcik was matched up with the Northeast Lakes District Defensive Player of the Year, Jake Reid, who had 14 interceptions entering the game. Belcik still made 12 receptions for 181 yards and two TDs. His second TD catch, a great, leaping snag in traffic, cut the lead to 21-13, and a shootout seemed inevitable. But the Indians just couldn’t slow a Perry offense that churned out 499 yards of total offense and was able score twice in the final 2:02 of the first half to pull away.

“Their quarterback’s a heck of a player,” Pearson said. “They’ve got a heck of a skill group, and they’ve been doing that all year long. Our kids did a great job preparing and putting themselves in the position, and they just came up a little bit short. But I’m proud of our guys and how they finished. There was no quit. They’ve had a heck of a season and a magical fall. They put Girard football back on the map and restored some pride in our community.”

Girard did put together a nice drive to start the second half, but a fumble inside Perry’s 20-yard resulted in the Pirates driving 85 yards (including converting after a first-and-46) and taking a commanding 43-13 lead.

Second-seeded Perry plays Steubenville, the top seed and unbeaten at 12-0, in a regional final at 7:30 p.m. next Friday at a site to be determined. The Big Red beat Perry, 51-27, in a state semifinal last year.