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Niles debuts turf, gets 34-7 victory

September 14, 2013
By MATTHEW PEASLEE - Tribune Chronicle (mpeaslee@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

NILES - On Friday, the West Branch Warriors had to go up against a team averaging 375 yards in its first two games, with the area's leading passing combination.

They had to face a team which was ready to bounce back after a tough, injury-filled loss from a week ago.

And the Warriors walked into a town hungry for a new age, a fresh look and a home opener was 45 weeks in the making.

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The Niles Red Dragons unveiled a renovated Bo Rein Stadium, high-flying offense and tenacious efense resulting in a 34-7 win.

"What an exciting atmosphere," said Niles coach Brian Shaner. "Our community came out in full support. The West Branch staff did nothing but compliment our complex here. What a pleasure it was to come out here and christen this field with a nice win."

Built as a project under the Works Project Administration in the 1930's, the construction of Bo Rein Stadium was one of the largest New Deal programs of the time. Farmers National Bank kicked in over $17,000 of funding for the structural repairs of the past year and the Cafaro Company helped allow turf to be installed at what is now referred to as Eastwood Mall Field.

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Tribune Chronicle / Dave Dermer
Niles receiver Chris Parry runs into the end zone to score a touchdown after avoiding tackles from West Branch defenders Austin Smith, back, and Jake Evanoff (13).

"We had scrimmages and practices on it, but there's nothing like playing here under the lights," said wide receiver Marcus Hill. "The turf is second-to-none."

In the senior's final home opener, he caught eight passes for 127 yards. Niles quarterback Kyle Paden hit six different receivers, threw three touchdown passes to three different receivers and finished with 263 yards on 21 of 26 passing.

"I think a lot of people aren't giving (Marcus) the credit he deserves," Shaner said. "He's one of the best I've been around. Him and Kyle Paden have a great combo going."

Without starting running back John Cicero, who was out with a concussion sustained in Week 2's 42-33 loss to Liberty, the Red Dragons (2-1) still put up 151 rushing yards behind a 56-yard effort on 20 carries by junior Corey Hayes.

"He was our workhorse back there," Shaner said. "He's been one of our best linebackers on defense, but he had to give that up to focus on leading the rushing attack. To me, that's an unselfish player."

Hayes added, "It was fun. The line held their blocks and I hit the holes as hard as I could. The defense was phenomenal, too. Everybody did their jobs."

Without Hayes at linebacker, the Niles defense didn't miss a beat forcing four turnovers and only allowing 69 total yards to West Branch (0-3). Justin Lopes, Tyler Srbinovich and Richard Limongi each recorded an interception and Nick Lardas recovered a fumble. The unit forced West Branch three-and-out four times. The Warriors longest play was an 18-yard run by Bryce Butcher, but it was called back for holding.

"After last week we had to sure it up," Shaner said. "It was a challenge to the defensive side of the ball and our coaching staff. Everyone worked together and fixed it. That's our defense: swarming, getting to the football, big hits and causing turnovers. Last week we got beat by a good football team but we fixed it. To me, that's the sign of a good football team."

To close out the fourth quarter, Mason Hughes of West Branch blocked a Niles punt inside the Red Dragons' five yard line. Two plays, the Warriors scored their lone touchdown on a 3-yard run by Logan Nagy. The junior running back finished with 26 yards on 14 carries. Bryce Butcher ran four times for 32 yards.

Chris Parry had five receptions for 79 yards and Justin Lopes had four receptions for 22 yards for Niles as freshman running back Skylar Major had seven carries for 32 yards.