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Chalker off to 3-1 start after win vs. Open Door

September 21, 2013
By MATT WAGNER - Tribune Chronicle ( , Underthelights

SOUTHINGTON - When opposing teams game plan for Chalker, there's no denying the Wildcats will attempt to thrust the rushing attack down their throats.

Open Door Christian coach Ray Lowe knew this and tried to stress this to his players in the week prior to Friday night's game at Chalker.

"We were expecting them to run the ball a lot based on what we saw on film, so it wasn't anything we weren't ready for," Lowe said.

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The Patriots could plan all they wanted, but it wasn't going to stop the Wildcats from running roughshod over Open Door Christian, as Chalker gashed the Patriots for 393 yards on the ground in a 34-0 rout.

The win improved Chalker to 3-1, its best start since 2003. The team finished that season with an 8-2 mark.

"It feels great," said Dillon Nezbeth, who rushed 186 yards on 17 carries in the win. "We haven't had a 3-1 record in a long time. It feels really good and it means a lot to us."

The Patriots (0-4) didn't just get a healthy dose of Nezbeth, who tallied eight rushes of more than 10 yards, but they had to deal with four rushers.

The Wildcats deployed a four-man backfield for most of the game, and the back with the ball constantly changed. Brendan Baugher and Chris Warnick powered in between the tackles for a combined 103 yards, while John Mazzola took four tosses outside for 49 yards. Along with Nezbeth's agility giving Open Door fits in the open field, they saw almost every running style from Chalker.

"We have the ability to take (Nezbeth) out and put in a Brendan Baugher, Cody Helmuth, Chris Warnick," Chalker coach Ryan Slone said. "John Mazzola ran hard tonight for us on a couple of tosses. We have four to five solid running backs, and it helps when you can rotate and make sure we're fresh."

The game was close going into halftime, with the Wildcats holding a six-point lead despite amassing 151 yards on the ground. Penalties and miscues at unfortunate times stalled many drives with the Wildcats deep in Patriot territory, and Chalker's one touchdown came when the defense recovered a Dan Stintsman fumble at the 4 yard-line, with Baugher scoring on the next play.

The Wildcats cleaned up those mistakes to start the second half and proceeded to punch the ball into the end zone on their first three drives, including a nine-play, 95-yard drive at the end of the third quarter that gave Chalker a 21-point lead.

"The message at halftime was, 'Guys, we're not going to stop doing what we're doing,' " Slone said. "We were successful in the first half, we just shot ourselves in the foot. We preach keep the flags off the field. We did that the first two drives (of the second half), we knew we could run on them and when you don't shoot yourselves in the foot, it's pretty good."

While the Wildcats have their best start in a decade, they don't have long to celebrate, Slone said. Chalker faces a tough test against Trinity at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School next Saturday.

"We definitely have a tough opponent going into next week, probably one of our toughest games against Trinity," Slone said. "They beat us last year by seven, and we've got to come out of the gates right away."