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Bruised, battered Niles falls to Poland to open conference play

September 21, 2013
By MIKE McLAIN - Tribune Chronicle (mmclain@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

NILES - Brian Shaner probably felt more like chief physician for the Niles McKinley Red Dragons than head football coach.

The fact that the Dragons stayed close with the Poland Bulldogs before faltering in the fourth quarter to lose, 38-16, was a feat in itself to Shaner. The battered Dragons went into the game minus one starting offensive lineman and then lost three more during the game, including tackles Josh Krok and Matt Binion.

Despite the adversity, the Dragons trailed by only one point, 17-16, entering the final quarter. The Bulldogs added three touchdowns to pull away in the All-American Conference, American Division game Friday at Bo Rein Stadium.

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"I can honestly tell you it was the gutsiest performance by a team that I've been a part of, ever," Shaner said. "We finished that game with one starting offensive lineman; playing freshmen on the line. Snake-bitten by injuries.

"Believe me, I'm not taking anything away from Poland. They're a great football team. They deserve to be ranked seventh in the state. We hung in there and fought, just like Niles kids always will. My hat is off to both teams for playing a great football game tonight."

The Dragons are 2-2 and 0-1 in the AAC. The Bulldogs improved to 4-0 and 1-0 in the conference.

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Tribune Chronicle / Dave Dermer
Niles receiver Marcus Hill (2), Justin Lopes (7) and Chris Parry celebrate after a Niles touchdown to make the score 17-16.

Niles kept pace through the first three quarters behind the 298-yard passing performance of senior quarterback Kyle Paden and some outstanding plays by a receiving corps that's deep in talent. Marcus Hill had 168 yards on 10 receptions, including a great catch and run for a 47-yard gain, and Chris Parry had 71 yards on seven receptions.

The Dragons had a chance to take a halftime lead, driving inside the Bulldogs' 10 twice late in the second quarter. A pass by Paden was intercepted in the end zone by Marty Malenic to end the first threat, and the Dragons could manage only a 22-yard field goal by Zach Atkins to tie the score at 10-10.

"I felt the defense was the difference," Bulldogs coach Mark Brungard said. "Handling the turnovers. Handling the short field on the punt. They made some big plays but we didn't cave. Then our offense finally started clicking and finished the game."

The Bulldogs took a 17-10 lead on the first possession of the third period on a 37-yard touchdown pass from Jacob Wolfe to George Chammas. The Dragons answered with a 10-yard scoring pass from Paden to Hill, but the extra-point kick was blocked as Poland maintained a 17-16 lead.

Poland lost a Wolfe fumble at the Dragons' 42 on its next possession, but Niles was then stopped on downs at the Bulldogs' 35. Parry intercepted a Wolfe pass two plays later at the Dragons' 25.

The Bulldogs began pulling away early in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by Ross Gould, who rushed for 171 yards and two scores on 26 carries. Parry then lost a fumble after a reception, returning possession to Poland at Niles' 22. Gould scored two plays later on an 18-yard run.

Austin Wilson added a 1-yard touchdown run for Poland.

Paden had a productive night through the air, completing 23-of-45 passes. Three interceptions proved costly.

"He's a smart quarterback," Shaner said. "Sometimes it's better to throw it away, but we have great wideouts. You can throw one of those balls up and it comes down as a special play. I don't second guess anything Kyle Paden does."

Poland took a 7-0 lead on a 12-yard run by Gould. Niles scored on a 7-yard pass from Paden to Parry early in the second quarter to tie the score at 7-7.

Bob Devito kicked a 32-yard field goal to give the Bulldogs a 10-7 lead.

Niles is at Beaver Local, while Poland hosts Canfield Friday.