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Blue Devils beaten by tricky Tigers

Correspondent photo / Charles Marsh McDonald quarterback Dominic Schadl runs for yardage Friday night against Springfield.

NEW MIDDLETOWN — McDonald High School football coach Dan Williams hasn’t seen many trick plays from Springfield this year.

The Tigers haven’t needed them.

Springfield, the Division VI state runners-up in 2019, dominated their first two opponents in 2020, winning by a combined score of 76-7. So, no trickery was needed.

That’s exactly why Williams and the Blue Devils never saw them coming.

The deception caught McDonald off guard and allowed the Tigers to pull away in a 49-13 Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference victory at Springfield High School.

Correspondent photo / Charles Marsh Nathan Gilligan of McDonald fights off a Springfield defender.

“They’re hard to defend,” Williams said. “You never expect them. We didn’t see them on film. If you see it on film once or twice, you can prepare for it and maybe have your kids eye balling certain things, but we haven’t seen anything like that from them.”

Junior quarterback Beau Brungard threw for 225 yards and four touchdowns for the Tigers (3-0, 3-0). He hit AJ Ross for a 16-yard strike on their first drive, and then connected with Clayton Nezbeth for 38 yards early in the second quarter for a 14-0 lead. Then the trickery began.

The Tigers ran a double-reverse pass to perfection, with Brungard hitting a wide-open Clayton Nezbeth down the sideline for a 38-yard TD and a 21-0 lead midway through the third quarter.

“We like to mix it up,” Tigers coach Sean Guerriero said. “We’ve got a couple of them in the back pocket, so we thought, if we don’t use them (they’ll go to waste). We install them and we go over them once a week.”

It looked like they practiced them much more than that.

McDonald (2-1, 2-1) was finally able to answer after the sneaky pass. Quarterback Dom Schadl, who ran for 180 yards on 22 carries, busted loose for his second long run of the game, going 67 yards to the Springfield 7. Three plays later, Schadl powered his way into the end zone for a 5-yard TD to get the Blue Devils back in the game with 41 seconds in the half.

The momentum didn’t last.

Springfield took over at its own 45 after a solid return on the kickoff, but it faced second-and-1 at the McDonald 43 with 15 seconds left in the half. Brungard faked a swing pass to the running back, and then hit Jakob Joyce on a curl route. Just as Joyce caught the ball, he flipped it to his right, and Lukas Yemma snatched the ball out of the air and raced down the sideline for a 43-yard touchdown on a well-executed hook-and-ladder.

The score made it 28-7, Springfield, with 6 seconds left in the half. It was a deflating blow for McDonald.

“They’re backbreakers,” Williams said. “We’re in good situations. It’s 21-7, and then they got the hook-and-ladder. It was 14-0 when they did the Philly Special sort of thing. Those are backbreakers, and they were in situations where we’re looking to get a stop and get off the field.”

Springfield got the ball to start the second half put the game out of reach.

After picking up a first down on third-and-1, Nezbeth raced through a big hole in the middle of the McDonald defense for a 61-yard TD and a 35-7 lead. Clayton Medvec hauled in a perfectly placed 30-yard TD from Brungard later in the third quarter to start a running clock. Nezbeth finished with 102 yards and three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving). Brungard completed 11-of-19 passes and also ran for 55 yards on six carries.

Schadl made up most of the offensive attack for the Blue Devils, with running back Nathan Gilligan adding 43 yards on 12 carries. Williams said he was impressed with Brungard and the Tigers, saying, “They don’t have any weaknesses,” but he expects his Blue Devils be more balanced in the future.

“Schadl had some nice runs. Gilligan had a few nice run early on,” Williams said. “We needed to mix some throws in, but we just didn’t get the time. They’re that good defensively.”

McDonald welcomes rival Mineral Ridge next week, while Springfield hosts Lowellville.

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