COPLEY: With the games dwindling down to a precious few, it is the time of the season when fighting for survival takes on different meanings for different teams.
For Wadsworth, the eighth week of the season — and those remaining — the fight is to secure a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
For Copley, the fight is to salvage a winning season.
Visiting Wadsworth kept its hopes for a playoff spot alive and stayed in contention for a possible share of the Suburban League championship on Friday when it came on strong in the second half and emerged from Copley Stadium with a 28-7 victory.
The victory left Wadsworth with a 4-1 league record, one game behind front-runners Highland and Nordonia. It also improved to 7-1 overall and solidified its spot in the top 10 of the Division I, Region 1 computer poll. The top 16 teams in the two big-school regions advance to the playoffs under the new OHSAA format.
Playoff hopes disappeared for Copley earlier this season, but the Indians put up a stoic effort, fitting on a night when the school’s German Club sold hearty food from Deutschland during a pregame fundraiser in the parking lot. The Indians fell to 1-4 in the league and 4-4 overall, but there is hope remaining with games against Green and Revere.
It was another performance in what has become Wadsworth fashion this season. The pattern has been to start slow and to finish strong, and the Grizzlies were all that Friday.
“I thought our offensive line really picked it up in the second half,” said Wadsworth coach Greg Dennison, whose team compiled 277 yards of offense — including 216 on the ground — against a stubborn Copley defense. “We came off the ball a lot better.”
But it was the Grizzlies’ defense that won the game. Not only did it limit the Indians to 138 yards, but it also came up with four turnovers. Junior Austin White intercepted three passes — one for a touchdown — and senior Jake Lamp recovered a fumble.
Much of Wadsworth’s scoring was set up by its punt-return team. Senior Ryan Looser came within a step or two of breaking several returns and finished with 139 yards on eight attempts.
“We think special teams are a very important part of the game, and we practice them a lot,” Looser said. “We try to make big plays.”
White made more big plays than anyone. With Copley pinned deep in its territory, he scored Wadsworth’s first touchdown when he perfectly read a Copley pass attempt in the flat, stepped in front of the intended receiver and waltzed in from the 2-yard line.
Two more interceptions followed. White set up the first of three Martice Jackson touchdown runs when he outleaped a Copley defender to make an acrobatic 26-yard reception on a fourth-and-19 play in the second quarter.
Jackson, one of the area’s leading ground gainers, finished with 159 yards rushing on 25 attempts and raised his season touchdown total to 12 on runs of 1, 53 and 7 yards. He now has gained 1,338 yards.
Copley’s only touchdown came in the second quarter and cut Wadsworth’s lead in half. Senior Milton Greer split two defenders and made a juggling 64-yard catch on a pass from quarterback John Kromalic.
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