BROOKFIELD - Although they are still searching for that elusive first win, the Conneaut Spartans haven't given up on the 2011 season yet.
Despite a lopsided 35-7 loss to 7-1 Brookfield, the Spartans showed sings of improvement across the board as coach Rocco Dobran continues to work with his young squad.
"I thought we came out pretty strong," the first-year coach said. "We ran the ball well off the bat and our defense played well. Then it's just the same stuff we've been battling all year. The turnovers killed us."
Turnovers were key for Conneaut as it fumbled on the second play of the game and ended up with four turnovers on the night (3 fumbles, 1 interception).
But, it wasn't all bad.
With 4:19 remaining in the game, sophomore quarterback Sam Distelrath connected with Jackson Distelrath for a 55-yard touchdown to help the Spartans avoid their sixth shutout of the season.
Dobran is seeing progress from his young signal caller.
"We're working him and he's a strong, tough kid who's learning the system," he said. "When we as coaches put him in a good situation he handles it well. I think our line is playing great, too. Our tailback (Dvyon Huffman) is getting better every week, he just has some fumble problems. But, he's running hard and he's running explosive."
Conneaut did get some production from Huffman (14 carries for 58 yards) and tailback Troy Colucci (10 carries for 59 yards).
Conneaut's defense was also able to keep Brookfield standout runner Ryan Mosora relatively in check. Coming off a 200-plus yard game against Edgewood, Mosora had 19 carries for 89 yards and two, 1-yard touchdown runs.
But, those touchdowns were the issue, according to Dobran.
"I was very pleased with our defense because he's a runner, we saw him on film when he had around 230 yards last week," he said. "We made him our focus and I thought we did hold him well. Unfortunately on third and fourth down, in the big-time situations, he got his job done and got the first down. We prevented him from the big plays, though."
With Mosora receiving the bulk of the attention, Brookfield quarterback Jeremy Quinlan took advantage.
Quinlan, who had missed the past four weeks with a broken collarbone, had touchdown runs of 1 and 37 yards in addition to a 9-yard scoring strike to Collin Harkulich.
"Overall, I think we're pretty pleased, we got Quinlan back and got him some work tonight so that was good," Brookfield coach Randy Clark said.
"When Ryan fakes or gets the ball, there's six guys going in his direction. With Jeremy, now we've got that two-headed monster. We've got two guys in the backfield that teams have to plan for."
One thing that pleased Dobran was the collective effort of his team.
Defensively the Spartans forced four Warrior punts as well as forcing a turnover on downs.
As Dobran said, there isn't a lot of quit in his group.
"I love the effort of the guys that we had on the field today," he said. "They worked their tails off and gave great effort. We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores playing and I'm loving the fact that those guys are playing hard and getting time."
With a game against undefeated Youngsville, Pa., looming, Dobran knows his team needs to work on its turnover problem.
"We just gotta correct the little mistakes," he said. "We need to have 11 guys pursuing to the ball and I think we did a better job of that tonight. We need to work on cutting down on turnovers. Next week we've got a tough job so we just gotta keep rolling."
Peluso writes for The (Ashtabula)?Star Beacon