TALLMADGE: The football playoffs don’t start for another six weeks, but the matchup Friday night between Copley and Tallmadge sure didn’t feel like a regular-season tilt.
The Suburban League rivals competed hard under the lights at Rossiaky Stadium, and for most of the evening, the score was close.
Four quarters would not decide this game. An overtime period was needed, and the Blue Devils made the final big play when senior Bobby Clark rushed for an 8-yard touchdown to give the home team a 22-16 win.
“This game had a lot of intensity,” Tallmadge coach Joe Vassalotti said. “You could tell that Suburban League play had started. It was a back-and-forth game with a lot of big plays in all three phases of the game. Each team got a special teams score. I know it was frustrating for us not scoring touchdowns when we got close, but our field goal kicker [senior Justin Stevenor] came through three times with some huge points.”
Juniors John Zolton and Travis Darago made consecutive sacks in overtime to push the Indians (3-1, 0-1) back, and helped the Blue Devils (3-1, 1-0) defense prevent any scoring on the first possession. Clark and senior Davis Moore came through with rushing yards on the Blue Devils four overtime plays to move the ball from the 20-yard line to the end zone.
“I credit our conditioning coach [Levi Nelson],” Moore said. “We were not tired. We went out there on defense in overtime and pushed them back  yards [to the 40-yard line].”
Clark finished with 129 yards on 23 carries. He gained 10 yards in the first half.
“I felt like in the second half it was essential for us to be able run the ball, and we finally did,” Vassalotti said. “I have to credit our offensive line for that. That defensive stand during overtime set the tone. It really pumped us up and when we got the ball back we were able to move it on the ground. I can’t say enough about Bobby Clark and how hard he runs.”
Tallmadge junior quarterback Joseph Vassalotti completed 11-of-18 passes for 151 yards. Seniors Logan Ray and Jim Aumont were his primary receivers.
Copley led 10-6 at halftime courtesy of a field goal by senior Austin Finley and 70-yard punt return for a touchdown by senior Will Thomas.
Stevenor’s three field goals pulled Tallmadge to 10-9, but Copley senior Oliver Johnson made it 16-9 with a 19-yard touchdown run with 2:06 to go in the third quarter. Tallmadge responded 15 seconds later when junior Latrele Moore returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown and Stevenor kicked a point after.
“This was a great win in overtime,” Tallmadge junior Joe Siesel said. “Our defense dug down big. They locked things up and our defensive line really shut them down at the end. We put them out of field goal range and then our offense went to work.”
Joe Vassalotti praised his offensive line, which consists of seniors Joe Lowery, Damon Gidley Niko Skeriotis and Camden Genovese and juniors Jake Mertus, Ben Cipa, John Rensel and Jason Wiebrecht. Gidley also recovered a fumble that sophomore Ned Spragling forced, and junior Quinntin Teeling snagged an interception.
Indians senior quarterback John Kromalic passed for 128 yards and senior tailback Quincy Iverson rushed for 43 yards.
“This was a great high school football game. That is the bottom line,” Copley coach Ron Viscounte said. “Kids were out here selling out on both sides and busting their butts to try to win a football game for their teammates. That is what you love about high school football. Unfortunately, someone has to lose a game like this and we came up on the short end of the stick.”