Newton Falls gets 3rd win in a row

NEWTON FALLS — For the first time since 2009 the Newton Falls Tigers have started 3-0. The Tigers won 28-15 over the Mineral Ridge Rams Friday night after a big second-half performance from quarterback Ivan Howard.

“It was a hard-fought game,” Tigers head coach Mike Gillespie said. “The last three weeks we haven’t played very well in the first half, a lot of penalties. In the second half some of our kids put up some big plays.

“They’re capable of doing that and have been for three games now. It feels good to start 3-0, but I’m happier for the kids.”

Gillespie has returned to the Newton Falls helm after serving as head coach from 1979-90. He also was the school’s athletic director for 19 years and retired in 2012 after 35 years of teaching.

Also returning to Newton Falls this weekend are members of the 1968 Tigers team which won the first-ever Trumbull AA League championship 50 years ago.

Mineral Ridge held a 9-7 advantage going into the half. Running back Nathan Chiclowe opened the scoring when powered his way up the middle for a 32-yard touchdown during the first quarter. Chiclowe ran for 86 yards on the night.

Rams kicker Gil Blair nailed a field goal in the waning seconds of the half to put Mineral Ridge back on top.

Howard impressed with his performance, completing 10 passes on 14 attempts for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Both scoring passes went to Preston Rapczak. The first touchdown was a quick 7-yard strike to close the gap to 15-13 before a two-point conversion tied the game.

The second touchdown pass was a 43-yard bomb to score the go-ahead points, giving the Tigers a 21-15 edge.

Running back Mitchell Harley also impressed. Shrugging off numerous tackles for a total of 82 yards on his 15 carries, and seeing the end zone twice. Harley pinballed his way through the Rams defenders for a 28-yard touchdown to score the final touchdown of the game.

The Rams look to get their first win when they face off against Lowellville next weekend in their Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference opener. Both teams are searching for their first win, with the Rockets dropping a contest to Richmond Heights on Friday.

The Tigers head on the road to face the undefeated Rootstown Rovers, who could prove to be their toughest competition yet.

“They were in the playoffs last year, and they’re under a new coach this year,” Gillespie said. “I think they’re good. Probably the best team we faced so far and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Having reached the 3-0 mark for the first time in 10 seasons, can the Tigers start thinking of a playoff berth, which would be their first since 2002?