COLUMBIANA-Columbiana coach Bob Spaite joked before the season that scheduling Div. VII power Western Reserve may have been the dumbest move he made as an athletic director. After Thursday night's season-opener, he wasn't taking those words back.
The Blue Devils wasted little time building a commanding lead on their way to a 47-12 rout over the Clippers at Firestone Park.
"I would have loved to get a shot at them with a couple of our veteran teams," Spaite said. "Unfortunately we're a little depleted this year and they took it to us. When I scheduled them two years ago it seemed like a good idea at the time. I guess it wasn't too brilliant on my part."
The Blue Devils-who return 14 starters from last season's Div. VII state semifinalist struck early and hard, scoring on four of their first five possessions.
Senior quarterback John Clegg-making his first start in place of graduated All-Ohioan Nick Allison-completed 9 of 14 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns while senior wideout Joe Falasca hauled in six passes for 165 yards. Senior running back Evan Nesbitt provided plenty of ground support with 105 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries.
"I've been waiting behind Nick itching to get snaps," Clegg said. "It was great to see the team come out and take charge."
"I know Columbiana is in a down year but we still have a lot of respect for them," Western Reserve coach Andy Hake said. "I give a lot of credit to our kids for coming out, taking the opponent seriously and playing hard."
Operating behind an offensive line that averages 291 pounds, the Blue Devils met little resistance as they built their cushion.
Nesbitt was barely touched as he scampered for a 78 yard touchdown early in the second quarter, while Clegg had plenty of time to unload a 67 yard bomb to Falasca on the ensuing series. He took a seat in the second half with a mostly clean jersey.
"Our line is awesome," Clegg said "When they mean business, it's something awesome. We were able to get Evan some big holes early, then the passing game opened up."
After the Blue Devils breezed to an opening drive score, the Clippers briefly made things interesting, zipping down the field to answer with a touchdown of their own. The Clippers made three other ventures across midfield in the first half but shot themselves in the foot with a fumble and two failed fourth downs. Sophomore quarterback Mitch Davidson led the Clippers, completing 16 of 30 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns, including a 55 yard strike to Dylan Davin in the second half."
"We had a couple chances," Columbiana linebacker Drew Cyrus said. "But against a team that good, you can't leave anything on the field."
"Mitch played really well on offense at times tonight," Spaite said. "We'll have a chance to win some games with him down the line."
With the Blue Devils ahead 44-6 at halftime, the OHSAA's new mercy rule (instituting a running clock when a team has a 30-point lead in the second half) took effect in the second half. With the clock moving and both team's slowing down their attack. the game melted quickly away.
"I didn't get the younger kids as much playing time as I wanted with the running clock," Hake said. "We still got everyone in though."
"I would have liked some more plays in the second half," Spaite said. "But I'm very proud of how my kids kept their head up and competed hard."
Western Reserve hosts Malvern next week, while Columbiana hosts rival Leetonia.
"The Bears are going to come at us with everything," Spaite said. "We need to learn from tonight quickly and be ready."
The impact of the running clock could easily be felt. The first half took 93 minutes to play, while the second half was completed in a mere 34 minutes. There were also 20 flags thrown in the first half and one in the second.
The 50/50 prize was $111. There was a separate drawing for a $100 Sheetz gift card compliments of Clear Channel, which broadcast the game on 1390 WNIO.
WR -Evan Nesbitt 9 run (Nesbitt run)
COL-Dalton Miller 5 pass from Mitch Davidson (pass failed)
WR-John Clegg 18 run (kick failed)
WR-Nesbitt 15 (kick failed)
WR-Nesbitt 78 run (pass failed)
WR-Joe Falasca 67 pass from John Clegg (Wyatt Larimer run)
WR-Clegg 28 FG
WR-Clegg 38 pass to Falasca (Larimer kick)
WR-Larimer 24 FG
COL-Dylan Davin 55 pass from Davidson (pass failed)
First downs 238
Total Yards 521213
RUSHING-Western Reserve, Evan Nesbitt 10-105, Karl Klockenga 7-33, John Clegg 4-32; Columbiana, Mitch Davidson 8-38, Dalton Miller 4-21.
PASSING-Western Reserve, John Clegg 9-14-183-1, Wyatt Larimer 4-7-74-0, Dom Velasquez 5-7-56; Columbiana, Mitch Davidson 15-30-139-0
RECEIVING-Western Reserve, Joe Falasca 6-165, Brian Sunderman 2-46, Gregory Brunner 1-37; Columbiana, Dylan Davin 3-79, Dalton Miller 8-35.
INTERCEPTIONS-Columbiana, Mitch Davidson
FUMBLE RECOVERIES-Western Reserve, Evan Nesbitt, Joe Falasca