DOVER — Game film starts Saturday for the Wadsworth football team, but until practice on Monday, the Grizzlies will party like they haven’t in seven years.
The third-seeded Grizzlies showed patience, perseverance and a whole lot of defense Friday to win a 13-3 Division II, Region 7, semifinal over Dresden Tri-Valley
With the win, Wadsworth (12-0) moves to a regional final next Friday against Massillon (12-0), which beat fifth-seeded Whitehall-Yearling 35-17.
It’s the first time the Grizzlies have played in the round of eight since 2011 and only the fourth time in school history.
“It’s everything,” Wadsworth quarterback Trey Shaffer said. “You know I had a lot of stuff on my shoulders coming into this year, obviously with [Mr. Ohio quarterback Joey Baughman graduating]. Obviously, I didn’t do it all. My team did more than I did, but I’ve dreamed about this since I was a little kid. That team in 2011, they made it to this next game.”
That next game will come against one of the most storied programs in Ohio history, but the way the Grizzlies played against the Scotties (10-2) proved they could hang with the big boys.
Up a division after finishing as state runner-up last season, Tri-Valley scored on its first possession after stopping the Grizzlies on fourth-and-1 from the Scotties' 48-yard line.
It was the only time Tri-Valley put up points as a Wadsworth defense one-upped a Tri-Valley unit that allowed only 86 points coming in and one that hadn’t been scored upon since Oct. 12 (14-7, John Glenn).
“I was too young to remember the last time we were in the regional final,” wide receiver Jack Simmons said. “But I remember it being unreal. It’s surreal. I guess.”
Wadsworth controlled the time of possession in the first half, but not the line of scrimmage. Despite the fact the Grizzlies held a nine-minute edge with the ball, they stalled.
The Scotties let the Grizzlies get inside the red zone twice, but didn’t break. The first time, the Grizzlies couldn’t convert on fourth down, the second time Blake Turano’s 30-yard field goal was short.
While the drives ended in failures, it showed the Grizzlies they could move the ball on Tri-Valley and just needed to show patience.
That patience finally broke through with 49 seconds left in the third quarter when Mason McMillan scored from 6 yards out to give Wadsworth the lead for good.
The Grizzlies stopped the Scotties on fourth-and-9 from the Wadsworth 27 and the next possession to take over with 9:26 remaining.
Ten plays and 73 yards later, Wadsworth scored on fourth-and-5 when Shaffer found Tyler Montgomery crossing across the middle with 4:35 remaining.
“We’ve got kids that are never going to quit,” Grizzlies coach Justin Todd said. “If there’s one thing I’ve truly grown to love at Wadsworth, it’s that we’ve got in my opinion the toughest kids that you’re going to find. They have an absolute no-die attitude. We talked to the kids all week that we knew this was going to be a sledgehammer game. It was going to be about who could swing the hardest and who could swing the most.”
Dom Loparo (22 carries, 109 yards) and Barret Labas (5 catches, 65 yards) paced the offense, but the defense was at the forefront.
Tri-Valley’s Jordan Pantaleo (16 carries, 75 yards) and Blake Sands (15, 59) were held in check in the run game, and quarterback Lukas Fargas was held to a 4-for-16 performance for 68 yards.
“I thought they were a very good defense,” Tri-Valley coach Kevin Fell said. “We had a couple injuries and didn’t function well. We haven’t functioned well offensively the last couple weeks. We moved the ball. They just made plays when they had to make them.”