SALINEVILLE - In a game that was billed as a matchup of ITCL Lower Tier powers, the Blue Devils proved they are the team to beat.
Western Reserve capitalized on five Southern turnovers on Friday en route to a 48-3 pounding of the Indians at Wigwam Stadium.
"We were ready for this one," Western Reserve coach Andy Hake said. "We've been ready for a couple weeks. Our guys came out determined and hell-bent on winning."
Southern coach Mike Skrinjar said the blame belonged on his shoulders.
"I'll take this one on my chin," he said."My kids played their hearts out and left it all on the field. There were times I could have stepped up and put the kids in a better position."
With the win, Western Reserve remains perfect on the season at 7-0, while Southern suffers its first loss and falls to 6-1.
The Blue Devils' standout running back Donnie Bolton came into the game averaging an outstanding 12.1 yards per carry.
He increased his average on Friday by tallying 156 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries.
"Our line is awesome," Hake said. "They did such a great job of beating guys up.
"Our kids executed. It was a big game. Southern isn't used to this. You get experience from these games. They're a great team. They can win some playoff games."
Western Reserve scored four touchdowns off five Southern turnovers.
Quarterback Jeff Clegg was nearly perfect, finishing 6-of-8 for 130 yards with three touchdowns to go along with 35 yards and a score on the ground.
"They are well coached," Skrinjar said of the Blue Devils. "Their kids are physical, which is outstanding for a spread offense. That's one of the best lines I've seen. They're big and smart."
Southern opened the game with a 10-play, 35-yard drive that took 4:30 off the clock, but it came up empty.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Indians committed their first turnover when Luke Griffith fumbled deep in their own territory.
The Blue Devils seized the opportunity and scored three plays later when Clegg found Tim Cooper from eight yards out with 2:16 left in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Western Reserve would strike again, this time it was Bolton who ran through a huge hole 40 yards to paydirt.
Four plays later, Griffith was intercepted by Thomas Benyo giving the Blue Devils another short field.
Clegg would reach the end zone on the ground this time, running up the middle 21 yards and putting his team comfortably ahead, 21-0, with 7:27 left in the first half.
Two plays later, another turnover.
A fumble by Zack Puckett that was recovered by John Timko set up Western Reserves fourth score.
Clegg connected with Benyo from 17 yards out and the Blue Devils led, 28-0, which would be the score at the break.
The Indians were able to force the Blue Devils into a three-and-out on their first possession of the second half. It appeared as though Southern might get back into the game with a 10-play drive that took them into Western Reserve territory, but the drive stalled as the Indians failed to convert on a 4th-and-short.
The Blue Devils took over and turned to Tommy Marlowe. The fullback ran three straight times with gains of 40, 13 and five yards the last reaching paydirt and Western Reserve led, 35-0, with 4:44 left in the third quarter.
The fourth Southern turnover came on another Griffith interception.
This time it took only one play for the Blue Devils to capitalize as Bolton ran 83 yards for a score.
Southern's only score came early in the fourth quarter when kicker Steve Treadway split the uprights from 38-yards out.
The game's final score came on a Clegg to Benyo touchdown pass of 80 yards with 8:17 left to play.
Puckett led the Indians on the ground with 76 yards on 25 carries.
Griffith finished 15-of-25 for 184 yards with three interceptions.
Despite the lopsided score, Hake had plenty of praise for the Indians.
"Thats a good football team," he said. "We took advantage of some turnovers. But they're a good team. Their coach gets them excited and does a nice job with them."
The Blue Devils will host Wellsville next week, while Skrinjar and the Indians will look to rebound at home against Leetonia.
"Sometimes misfortunes happen," Skrinjar said. "It was like a chess game and they had the advantage, check mate. It was a battle of momentum and they put us with our backs against the wall."