Tallmadge and junior quarterback Joseph Vassalotti fought back from a 23-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter and made it a game in the final minute, but the Blue Devils couldn’t overcome Ellet’s three-pronged rushing attack and the host Orangemen escaped with a 37-29 win.
Ellet’s running backs, senior Matt Geer, junior Jacob Ivery and junior Cle’Von Burch ran wild and opened up a 37-14 lead with only 6:42 remaining in the game.
Taking over possession at the 29-yard line, Vassalotti hit junior receiver Joe Siesel in stride for a 71-yard touchdown pass down the sideline on the first play to make it 37-21. After an Ellet three-and-out, Vassalotti again found Siesel, this time on a slant for 41 yards. Two plays later, he hit junior John Rensel for a 30-yard touchdown. He then found senior running back Bobby Clark for the 2-point conversion, and all of a sudden Tallmadge found itself behind 37-29 with 2:59 left in the game.
Tallmadge (1-1) forced Ellet (2-0), trying to run out the clock, into a third-and-7 near midfield with under two minutes remaining. Ellet senior quarterback Jake Fisher rolled out to his right, turned the corner and ran for 15 yards, moving the chains and ending the Blue Devils’ comeback bid.
“If you only had to pay five bucks to get in, they ought to send in another five bucks, because that game was worth every penny,” Ellet coach Joe Yost said. “It came down to us being fortunate. We had some real nice drives, we were able to build a lead. Unfortunately, the clock ran out and they didn’t have enough time to keep scoring touchdowns.”
Ivery led Ellet with 94 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. Burch had 81 yards on only six carries, including a 59-yard touchdown run on the first play of the third quarter that put Ellet ahead 28-14. He also broke up a would-be touchdown pass in the end zone in the third quarter. And Geer ran for 51 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries as well as returning a kickoff 75 yards early in the game. Geer also returned a fumble on a Tallmadge punt 25 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter and later sacked Vassalotti in the end zone for a safety.
“We expect those guys [Ivery, Burch, Geer] to be the difference in the ballgame,” Yost said. “They’re our go-to guys.”
Vassalotti completed 13-of-26 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns. Yost said he saw Vassalotti grow up “a lot” during the game. Tallmadge coach Joe Vassalotti saw the same.
“There’s nothing like live game action for a quarterback on Friday nights and he’s starting to get accustomed to that,” he said. “The good news is we showed a lot of fight. I was proud of the way our guys fought in the fourth quarter.”
The Blue Devils had some spectacular plays — facing a third-and-26 at the 40-yard line with only 18 seconds remaining in the half, the Blue Devils executed a perfect draw play, taking advantage of Ellet’s over-zealous pass rushers and allowing Clark to run almost untouched for a 40-yard touchdown — but had those overshadowed by several severe penalties. Tallmadge had a 24-yard touchdown pass and a 50-yard run by Clark each called back on a holding penalty.
“We just have to be able to cut down on stopping ourselves from being able to score more points,” Joe Vassalotti said. “For us, all three phases of the game need to improve. We need to play better and coach better, but we’ll learn from it.”
After the game Yost admitted that beating Tallmadge is a big win for Ellet, but the Orangemen are still taking it one game at a time.
“When you can come out with a win against Tallmadge, it’s a major victory for the Ellet program and it’s a big step for this season,” Yost said. “All I know is our next goal is to be 3-0.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.