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Bulldogs capture first ever Northeast 8 Conference win
September 25, 2019

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The last time Poland and South Range squared off on the football field Disco was king and one of the hottest rock bands was Queen.

Well, the way the Raiders acquiesced to the Bulldogs when the two schools met last Friday on Dave Pavlansky Field made one think the Poland kids were royalty. After a sluggish first quarter Poland put things together and cruised to a 27-7 victory. The win was the Bulldogs first ever inside the Northeast 8 conference and gave them a leg up in the league. It also was a nice bounce back after the Bulldogs were beaten twice over the past two weeks.

"I'm really proud of our guys and the way they recovered," said Poland head coach Ryan Williams after the win.

That recovery Williams spoke of could have covered the last three quarters of the South Range game too. The visitors came into Poland and unleashed a bruising rushing attack on their opening possession. Mix in a 35-yard pass completion and the Raiders were in prime position to put Poland in a hole. They did just that and led 7-0 before most Bulldogs' fans realized what had hit them. Poland would then regain some perspective on its opening drive. A well-orchestrated march of their own set the Bulldogs up inside the South Range red zone. That's when sophomore quarterback Jack Fulton found sensational senior tight end Michael Voitus for a touchdown pass to tie the game. From that point, Poland plastered its new conference cousin. The Bulldogs would get a touchdown run by senior Jake Rutana to spearhead a 13-point Poland second quarter to give it a 20-7 halftime lead. The hosts would score another touchdown in the third period to put a cap on 27 unanswered tallies since South Range's opening score. Coach Williams liked the way his club became comfortable after starting slowly.

"Once we settled in and knew where (South Range's) guys were going to line up we adjusted well," said Williams. "There were some things we saw that our kids related to well."

The 1-0 start in the NE8 is very welcomed in Poland, especially since it will be battling unbeaten Niles this week at Bo Rein Stadium. The 4-0 Red Dragons may be the team that the Bulldogs must get by to win the conference championship. Doing that, though, may be a difficult chore for Williams' kids. Niles whitewashed Jefferson 34-0 in Week 4. Over their four game winning streak to start the season, the Red Dragons have dumped 111 points on their opponents. The only game when they didn't score at least 30 points was in a scrappy 10-7 victory over Youngstown East in Week 3. The scoring shoe has been on the other foot lately when Niles has played Poland. The Bulldogs have won the past six games in this series thanks in part to putting up 228 points. That's an average of 38 points per game over the past half dozen matches. That outlandish output was against some Red Dragon defenses that certainly aren't as capable as the one that has given up just 7 points in their past two contests.

"Niles is a good team," Williams said. "They have a good junior and senior class. We have a good challenge ahead of us."

One of the juniors Williams alluded to was quarterback Zack Leonard who accounted for three total touchdowns last weekend. He may be diminutive at 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, but he plays like a much larger athlete. A senior that Poland will need to defend is speedy all-everything offensive weapon Romero Baskin. He had one touchdown receiving and another on a run against Jefferson. If Poland is unable to tie down these two talented Dragons, it will make the Bulldogs' dreams of handing Niles its first season loss a nightmare.

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