WADSWORTH: In a game with postseason implications for both teams, Wadsworth was able to grind out a 13-6 Suburban League win over Tallmadge on Friday night at renovated Art Wright Stadium.
Linebacker Nick Winkler blocked a key extra-point kick, and running back Martice Jackson carried 30 times for 157 yards and one touchdown to lead the Grizzlies (8-1, 5-1).
It proved to be the old-fashioned defensive struggle both coaches anticipated.
“We knew it was going to be like that coming in,” Wadsworth coach Greg Dennison said. “They are always real physical, and it’s given us problems in the past. Our defense played great. Our offensive line stepped up when we needed to get the tough yards.”
The Blue Devils limited Jackson to 24 rushing yards in the first half, but the 5-foot-8, 209-pound senior enjoyed a big fourth quarter with the game on the line.
“I do think you have to give credit to both defenses tonight,” Tallmadge coach Joe Vassalotti said. “I thought we did a fairly good job through three quarters of controlling [Wadsworth’s running game]. But they tend to wear you down a bit.”
In a scoreless game, the Grizzlies were able to mount a 12-play, 74-yard march to go on top 7-0 with 8:28 left to play. Jackson had eight carries in the drive for 57 yards, and junior quarterback Adam Dennison capped it with a 1-yard plunge for the touchdown. Senior Arthur Castro added the extra point.
“There’s nothing special about what we’re going to do,” Jackson said. “We’re just going to run the ball. And that’s what we did.”
The Tallmadge offense then came to life, going 74 yards in six plays. Senior Bobby Clark carried the final 18 yards into the end zone with 6:14 remaining.
On a key third-down conversion, junior quarterback Joseph Vassalotti had connected with junior Latrele Moore on a 33-yard pass play to the Wadsworth 38.
The cheering on the Tallmadge side was short-lived when Winkler burst through the Tallmadge line and blocked the extra point.
“I was the second-to-last guy,” he said. “I was watching the ball and getting ready for it to move. I got off real fast and got it in there.
“I laid out, closed my eyes and hoped it didn’t hit me in the [groin].”
In addition, Winkler, a 5-foot-10, 172-pound senior, had two tackles for loss and batted away two Tallmadge passes.
“[Winkler] is all over the place,” Greg Dennison said. “He’s like that every game. We just expect that out of him anymore. He’s a big reason why our defense is as good as it is.”
The Grizzlies went three-and-out, and Tallmadge (5-4, 3-3) regained possession with 3:47 to go. But Wadsworth’s defense came up with a stop, and Jackson immediately ripped off a 25-yard scoring run to make it 13-6.
The Devils’ last-gasp effort stalled at their 49.
Tallmadge received a heroic effort from its senior linebacker, Davis Moore.
“Davis has a lot of guts,” Joe Vassalotti said. “He’s playing with two bad shoulders. I’ve been around a lot of tough guys that I’ve coached but none tougher than Davis.”
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