BERLIN CENTER-Western Reserve is running all the way to the next round.
The rushing game of senior Dan Zilke and junior Evan Nesbitt delivered massively with three touchdowns each as top-seeded Western Reserve defeated eighth-seeded Garfield Trinity 45-19 in the Division VII, Region 23 playoff opener on Saturday.
"We've got great kids," Western Reserve coach Andy Hake said. "They play hard and work hard. We're a real physical team."
Western Reserve advances to meet fourth-seeded Danville at 7 p.m. next Saturday at a site to be determined. Danville was a 49-0 winner over Lowellville on Saturday.
The Blue Devils (11-0) drew first blood with a 18-yard rushing touchdown from Zilke in the first quarter. After a kickoff return touchdown from the Trojans, the momentum started to shift to the Trojans as the Blue Devils were met with a strong defense.
Despite tough defense from the Trojans, the Blue Devils didn't give up, and neither did Hake.
"We just had to play harder," Hake said. "In competition, you get frustrated about things that we talked about at halftime, and then we just took control of the situation."
After the first Blue Devils score, the Trojans (4-7), answered back quick as junior Brett Dawson ran for a 92-yard return touchdown to even up the score. The defense applied strong pressure on the Blue Devils, recording an interception by defensive back Pat Sobolewski. Despite another Zilke touchdown, the Trojans were still in the game at the half, 17-7.
Trinity coach Jeff McSweeney believed the Trojans had a big chance after Dawson's kickoff return for a touchdown.
"We came right back and we got it," McSweeney said. "I thought we had played off that emotion. We had the opportunities to go up on them one score."
Then came Evan Nesbitt. Back-to-back touchdown rushes opened up the lead wider for the Blue Devils. Each of his touchdowns were the same way, all running to the outside.
Nesbitt, who rushed for 224 yards on 12 carries, explained how he racked up all those scores.
"I got the ball, and (outside linebacker) T.J. Henry made a huge hole for me," Nesbitt said. "The whole line was great. They really wanted to get the running game going and they did."
By the time Nesbitt's scoring run ended, the Blue Devils were standing tall, and another 1-yard touchdown rush from Zilke, who rushed for 111 yards on 13 carries, punched the Blue Devils' ticket to the next round, and Zilke looks forward to the next round.
"We'll be ready for the next opponents," Zilke said. "We'll play hard, practice hard, and watch our film."
Senior quarterback Nick Allison didn't throw a passing touchdown during the game, going 10-for-24 for 138 yards. Meanwhile, Trinity sophomore quarterback Kyle McSweeney went 11-for-29 for 160 yards.
For the Trojans, senior running back Matt Iacobucci ran for 102 yards on five carries while senior wide receiver Cory Haire caught two passes for 53 yards.
W. RESERVE: 7-10-21-7-45
W - Dan Zilke 18 run (Parker Clegg kick)
T - Brett Dawson 88 kickoff return (Shane O'Donnell kick)
W - Dan Zilke 22 run (Parker Clegg kick)
W - Parker Clegg 30 field goal
W - Evan Nesbitt 58 run (Parker Clegg kick)
W - Evan Nesbitt 84 run (Parker Clegg kick)
T - Matt Iacobucci 95 run (pass failed)
W - Evan Nesbitt 75 run (Parker Clegg kick)
W - Dan Zilke 1 run (Parker Clegg kick)
T - Jacob Walters 1 fumble return
First downs 1220
Total Yards 283511
RUSHING-Trinity, Antonio Capasso 17-64, Matt Iacobucci 5-102; Western Reserve, Evan Nesbitt 12-244, Dan Zilke 13-111, Danny Rosati 3-11, Wyatt Larimer 6-21.
PASSING- Trinity, Kyle McSweeney 11-29-160-0, Pat Soblewski 0-1-0-1; Western Reserve, Nick Allison 10-24-138-1
RECEIVING-Trinity, Matt Iacobucci 1-10, Corey Haire 2-53, Pat Soblewski 4-42, Jacob Walters 3-57 ; Western Reserve, Joe Falasca 3-54, Andrew Miller 2-13, Danny Rosati 5-71.
INTERCEPTIONS- Trinity, Pat Soblewski ; Western Reserve, Nick Tobin.