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Western Reserve's defense powers Blue Devils to state semifinals

November 24, 2013
By DANA SULONEN - Tribune Chronicle Sports Editor (dsulonen@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

MEDINA - Prior to Western Reserve's Division VII, Region 23 final on Saturday night against Norwalk St. Paul, fans got treated to a fireworks show, complements of the Medina Christmas parade that was taking place across town.

During the game, the fireworks came care of the Blue Devils' defense as they lit up the Flyers all night long.

Western Reserve held the Flyers to 25 total yards in the game and blitzed from all angles during its 22-2 victory at Medina's Ken Dukes Stadium.

"It was one of the greatest defensive performances that is the best one we've ever had at our school," Western Reserve coach Andy Hake said. "Our kids just never cease to amaze us the way they play - it was heroic play, it really was. This is the regional championship game and they allowed 25 yards."

With temperatures that felt like 8 degrees and blustering snow throughout the game, the defense was truly the story. St. Paul could never get any offense going, with their longest play of the night being a 12-yard catch by Grant Dilger from quarterback Scottie Slauterbeck. Western Reserve forced nine three-and-outs and didn't allow an offensive first down until the second half.

In all, Western Reserve held the Flyers to 13 rushing yards. They came into the game averaging 290.

"With conditions like this, we get up because we know it's going to be a low-scoring game with not that many yards," said linebacker Parker Clegg, who had two ferocious sacks on Slauterbeck. "We embrace it and take it on and hope for the best."

The best is what the Blue Devils got. The only two points the Flyers mustered came in the second quarter after a punt blew for 74 yards, pinning Western Reserve at their own 1-yard line. Dan Rosati took a handoff, but was forced into the end zone by the Flyers for the safety.

While the Western Reserve defense was making life hard for St. Paul (11-2), the Blue Devils offense struck early. On their first series of the game, the Blue Devils marched 40 yards over 10 plays, finishing with a Nick Allison 1-yard score on a quarterback keeper. The PAT snap was bad, but Western Reserve turned it into a two-point conversion, giving them an early 8-0 lead.

The Blue Devils began the second half in the same fashion. Using a mix of running and passing that they have become known for, it took six plays to drive 79 yards for a Dan Zilke 1-yard touchdown. Western Reserve added the knock-out punch in the fourth quarter, a 19-yard run by Jon Timko, who dragged three St. Paul defenders into the end zone with him for the score.

"We just played hard, we wanted that regional championship. We did what we had to do to get it," Timko said. "This is the first game I ran the ball all year, so I just came in and ran hard. Our line blocked great. Our line blocked phenomenal all night."

Five different Western Reserve players had carries on Saturday. Evan Nesbitt led the pack with 13 carries for 92 yards, while Timko had 10 carries for 83. Dan Zilke, who got hurt in the second half but was able to remain in the game, had 18 touches for 41 yards.

In all, Western Reserve put up 287 yards of offense on the night.

The win improves Western Reserve to 13-0 and gives the team a date with Glouster Trimble in the state semifinal. Glouster defeated Shadyside, 21-14, on Saturday night. This is now the Blue Devils second trip to the state semifinals, their last coming in 2011.

"We have great kids," Hake said. "They play hard and they play for their families and their school and they are all from the town, and that means a lot. They just played nuts tonight."