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Trip to Erie ends badly for Spartans
September 4, 2019

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Boardman's football team made school history a season ago when it made the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

What happened in the Spartans' season opener last Friday at Erie McDowell did nothing to spark confidence that a third straight trip to the tournament was in the offing. Boardman fell behind early to the Trojans and was never able to regain its composure. The Erie kids slammed the Spartans 41-7 giving the local boys their first season opening loss since 2015. Despite the final score, Boardman head coach Joe Ignazio didn't think things were as awful as it looked.

"We weren't as bad as we played," said the optimistic sounding coach. "McDowell is really good."

Part of the reason why the Trojans may have looked even mightier is the fact that Ignazio's troops weren't exactly at full strength.

"We are down some guys for a multitude of reasons," he said. "It has forced us to play younger guys that aren't ready for Friday nights."

Boardman, as a team, wasn't ready for the onslaught that came from the Erie side last weekend. Although the Spartans were only down 14-7 after one quarter it didn't seem as if they were equal in talent to the McDowell men. Over the final 36 minutes of the contest, the Trojans proved that. The home team went on to score 27 unanswered points over the final three quarters to force the referees to start a continuously running clock in the second half. Boardman's defense wasn't able to contain McDowell junior quarterback Chris Juchno who amassed nearly 300 yards of total offense and accounted for three touchdowns. His 82-yard touchdown run just two minutes into the contest set the tone for the rest of the night. He followed that up with a 28-yard touchdown pass just moments later that gave the Trojans a 14-0 lead.

The Spartans would finally find a spark late in the first frame thanks to quarterback Zach Ryan. The senior slinger shot a 26-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Cam Thompson to cut the Trojans' lead in half heading into the second period. When McDowell's Elijah Lopez started the second stanza with a 49-yard touchdown run all the Spartans could do was collectively hang their heads as the onslaught was about to begin. McDowell would go on to rack up almost 500 yards of total offense against the overmatched Boardman defenders. It's a group that needs to gain some experience and some confidence.

"The young kids need to grow up quick," Ignazio said. "If not, it will be a long season."

The second game of this season takes place this Friday night in Poland. This will be an interesting early season showdown between two schools who are close in proximity, but seemingly miles apart on the gridiron. While Boardman celebrated the fact that it made the postseason two years in a row, the playoff polished Poland group was strangely absent from the tournament a year ago. That marked just the second time in 12 seasons in which the Bulldogs didn't have at least a Week 11 game. Poland made it past Marlington 24-23 in its season opener last Thursday night. The players to watch on the offensive side of the ball for the Bulldogs are the terrific senior rushing tandem of Jake Rutana and Josh Alessi who combined for 180 yards and two scores against the Dukes. Junior quarterback Brody Todd is another offensive star and seeing how shaky the Spartans were against Juchno in Erie will make Coach Ignazio and his staff put in a lot of extra hours of preparation this week.

"We'll watch a lot of film," the coach said.

Aside from a couple preseason scrimmages, the Spartans and Bulldogs have been strangers lately on the football field. The last regular season contest saw Poland outlast Boardman 10-7 in overtime. That was in 2014. Ignazio isn't interested in reminiscing about that match nor worrying about this week's tilt. He only wants his team to improve in a hurry.

"Poland is our next opponent, but if we keep getting in our own way it won't matter what opponent we are playing," he said. "We can't continue to beat ourselves."

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