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Eagles rally to beat Malvern

November 10, 2012
By TIM CLEVELAND - Tribune Chronicle ( , Underthelights

AKRON - For Ryan Grier and Youngstown Christian, the first half against Malvern on Friday night was not what they were hoping for.

Grier was held to just 23 yards rushing on five carries and the Eagles trailed by seven in a Division VI regional semifinal at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.

In the final 24 minutes, Grier and Youngstown Christian (9-2) turned things completely around, scoring 18 third-quarter points and its defense made another huge stop as the Eagles rallied for a 25-20 victory and the school's first regional final.

After the slow start, Grier finished the game with 203 yards on only 19 carries with a pair of touchdowns.

"I felt like I had a bad first half," Grier said. "Coaches was telling me the beast wasn't out. I went in the locker room, got my mind right, and I had to let loose and let him come out."

"He played with tremendous heart," Youngstown Christian coach Brian Marrow said. "Not only him, but all of our guys. He's a senior leader."

After Grier scored to give Youngstown Christian the 25-20 lead late in the third quarter, Malvern took over on its own 34 and drove to the Youngstown Christian 13 in 11 plays. But just as they did last week against John F. Kennedy, the Eagles' defense came up huge when it needed to. Cobin Plessinger and Brady Weber combined to rush for 3 yards on first and second downs.

Grier then came through the line to sack Trey Tucci, setting up fourth down on the 19. On the biggest play of the season for the Eagles, Melvin Gregory chased and brought Tucci down to give the ball back to Youngstown Christian with 5:09 to play.

"They were daring us to throw," Malvern coach Dave Tucci said. "We had a couple big plays, but overall they slowed our running down a little bit as the game wore on."

Marrow agreed that forcing the Hornets to throw was the best plan for his defense.

"They started off pounding us and we really felt good because we started stopping them," he said. "We wanted to make them throw the ball."

Grier came up huge when his team needed him one more time, as on third and 6 he rushed for 46 yards to the Malvern 5. The Eagles were eventually stopped on fourth down, but the Hornets had no time to score the winning touchdown.

Malvern's offense was in top form in the first half, as the Hornets' running game had its way with Youngstown Christian's defense. Plessinger rushed for 116 in the first half, including the game's first touchdown.

"We were doing our bread and butter stuff," Tucci said. "We were trying to mix it up because it started to be a guessing game where they were starting to pinch their front line.

"I give them credit for some of the adjustments we made. When we stayed out of passing situations, we were better. When they knew we were going to throw, we had a hard time protecting our quarterback."

The Youngstown Christian defense kept Plessinger mostly in check in the second half, holding him to 47 yards on 14 carries.

Trailing 14-0 in the second quarter, Emmett Underwood passed for 28 yards to Nick Gonda to get the Eagles on the board.

Grier got going in the third quarter, rushing for 13 yards on the opening play of the half and three plays later slicing through the Malvern (10-2) line and cutting right for a 43-yard score to get Youngstown Christian within 14-13.

After stopping Malvern on fourth down, Underwood connected with Ryan Coyier for 18 yards to the Malvern 40 before passing to Darrien Townsend, who shielded the defender to catch the ball and then cut back across the field for the score as the Eagles took their first lead of the game, 19-14, with 2:58 left in the third quarter.

The advantage was shortlived, as on the first play of the subsequent drive, Trey Tucci passed to Max Kapron, who out-fought the defender for the ball and ran untouched for 61 yards to give the Hornets the lead right back, 20-19.

Youngstown Christian was determined to regain the lead and it did. Facing fourth and 5 on the Malvern 23 on the next drive, Grier rushed for 5 yards to just barely pick up the first down. On the next play he went through the right side of the defense for the 18-yard TD. The Eagles led 25-20 with 43.3 seconds left in the third quarter.

With its first-ever regional semifinal victory, Youngstown Christian will play Mogadore on Friday for the regional championship. The Eagles upset Mogadore, 20-17, in a regional quarterfinal last season, the first playoff victory for the school.

"It's a dream come true," Grier said. "We've been working hard in the summer and up till now. I can't even explain it. It feels so good."



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