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Bulldogs blow 10-point lead while quarterback sits
September 18, 2019

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A week after being beaten up by Boardman at home, the Poland football team traveled to Howland to try to get its season headed back in the right direction.

The game started out promising enough with the Bulldogs building a 10-0 lead. They would lead 13-7 late in the fourth period. Then, like a Randy Orton RKO, the Tigers hit the visitors out of nowhere. Howland's Garrett Deemer scored from nine yards out with ten seconds left in regulation to shock the Bulldogs 14-13. It was Poland's first loss to Howland since 2016 and the Bulldogs have now lost back-to-back regular season contests three times since Week 5 of last season.

"It was another chapter in a great book of matchups between two quality football programs," said Poland head coach Ryan Williams about the rivalry with Howland.

The final chapter of last Friday's novel was horrifying for Bulldog Nation to read. Howland's final touchdown march was aided by an unsportsmanlike penalty against the Poland defense. That 15-yard infraction pushed the ball deep inside Poland's red zone with seconds remaining. Moments later, Deemer dashed around a would-be tackler and tied the score at 13 apiece. A successful extra point gave the Tigers the improbable comeback victory. That triumph didn't happen until a failed Hail Mary pass by Poland fell silently to the ground.

That last ditch throw did not come from the arm of starting quarterback Brody Todd who was injured in last week's loss to Boardman. The junior has a problem with his abdomen, so the reins were handed over to six-foot-one sophomore Jake Fulton. With the understudy under center, Poland's offense was much more laid back. Coach Williams didn't want to put too much pressure on his sophomore signal caller, so he called a lot of running players and used multiple formations to try to fool the Tigers. Aside from a 30-yard touchdown scamper by senior Jake Rutana, Poland could not puncture the goal line the rest of the night. Senior kicker Mike Kushner hit a pair of field goals for the Bulldogs, including a 35-yarder in the fourth quarter that seemingly put the game in Poland's hands. Unfortunately, the home team had other ideas.

If the Bulldogs are to avoid an almost unprecedented three-game skid they will need to succeed against visiting South Range. This will be the first time these two schools square off as members of the Northeast 8 Conference. A win over the Raiders will certainly have Williams' kids in the driver's seat in the infant league. Stopping South Range will not be an easy task, however, because of the Bulldogs' unfamiliarity with the Raiders.

"We have a lot of work to do on them," said Williams. "We do know South Range is a very well coached football team."

Thanks to a 33-0 blowout of Canton Central Catholic last Friday the Raiders are 2-1. They crushed Crestview 42-0 one week earlier so the Raiders have won their past two tilts by an impressive combined score of 75-0. Their only setback was by a narrow 23-20 margin in overtime to Springfield in the season opener. If you remove last year's uncharacteristic 4-6 mark, South Range is no stranger to the postseason. In fact, the Raiders are 28-7 over their previous 35 contests prior to 2019, including consecutive playoff appearances in 2016 and 2017. At press time, there was no indication if Todd would be back behind center for the Bulldogs. With or without the junior, Poland will need to play up to its normal nearly error free standards if it is to capture its first ever NE8 victory. Holding onto a fourth quarter lead would help immensely too.

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