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Spartans edged by Howland at home
September 25, 2019

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When Boardman's football team beat Poland on the road in Week 2 it looked as if its season was on the upswing.

The Spartans were coming off a blowout loss at Erie McDowell in their season opener so the victory in Poland seemed promising. The following week Boardman was beaten badly at Massillon Jackson, but that was understandable since the Polar Bears are a Division I power and playoff contender. Unlike in Week 2, however, Boardman wasn't able to bounce back strong again when it took the field last Friday night at home against Howland. A last ditch scoring drive by the Spartans ended silently as they blew a small fourth quarter lead to lose 27-24. It was the Spartans' third loss in four tries and now they must face nemesis Cardinal Mooney with back-to-back setbacks in their pockets and their hopes for a playoff push in the balance.

Things looked like they may go Boardman's way in the first quarter last Friday when the home team scored on a 43-yard touchdown pass from Zach Ryan to Terrance Thomas. Howland would then piece together two long scoring drives, one on a meticulous 70-yard march, the other on a quick strike 67-yard catch and run by state track star William Hines to take a 14-7 lead. Each team then traded field goals before halftime to make the score 17-10 Tigers at intermission. Boardman's three-pointer was a 31-yarder by senior Tommy Fryda. That connection was made possible by sophomore Anthony Hightower's fumble recovery and return deep into Howland territory.

The second half saw the Spartans score the first two touchdowns. The first one was the second on the night for Thomas on an 8-yard reception. For the game, the sophomore secured six catches for 107 yards and two scores. It has been an amazing start to this young Spartans' varsity career.

"Terrance is a great kid," said Boardman head coach Joe Ignazio. "He's very athletic and he'll keep getting better."

Boardman's second score of the second half came courtesy of a Ryan touchdown pass of six yards to sophomore Sean O'Horo. The senior signal caller tossed a total of three touchdowns for the night. Unfortunately for Ryan and his teammates, that 24-20 fourth period lead did not last very long. Howland struck quickly to regain the lead 27-24. That gave the Spartans one last shot to win the game from their own 40-yard line and about a minute remaining. Ryan's first pass on this potential game-winning drive was picked off by the Tigers ending Boardman's evening.

One statistic that was telling in this contest was the glaring disparity in rushing yards. The Tigers had more than 200 yards on the ground. Boardman, meanwhile, had 24 carries for just 35 yards. While this uneven total seemed to subdue the Spartans' chances of winning, Coach Ignazio thought otherwise.

"It had nothing to do with our inability to run," said Ignazio about his team's loss. "We had some bad snaps and penalties and it put us behind the sticks all night."

Another number that didn't bode well for Boardman was 28 missed tackles that accounted nearly 280 yards of offense for the visitors. That's the stat that had Ignazio snarling.

"Our Achilles heel has been missed tackles," he said. "We are giving teams short yardage on second downs and then not getting guys on the ground when they have an opportunity. You can't win football games like that."

In order to win this week against Mooney, Ignazio's guys will need to find the same kind of fortitude that they had after falling in Week 1. The Cardinals come into Boardman following a 42-7 beatdown by Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary so they'll be looking for some redemption as well. Mooney will also be seeking revenge for last season's 8-6 loss to the Spartans at home. In fact, the two rivals have split the past four matches with each team winning on the other team's home turf twice. Although Mooney has yet to play its best football, Boardman's coach is still concerned with the Cardinals' talent.

"(Mooney) is a good football team," said Ignazio. "You have to throw the records (of both teams) out the window. If you can't get up for a game like this, you don't have a pulse."

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