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Western Reserve better prepared for this semifinal

November 30, 2013
By MATTHEW PEASLEE - Tribune Chronicle correspondent ( , Underthelights

BERLIN CENTER - Western Reserve coach Andy Hake knows how important it is to be in the Division VII state semifinals.

He's more aware of how precious each play is while his team works toward a win.

On Nov. 26, 2011, the Blue Devils made their first appearance in a state semifinal when they were matched up with New Washington Buckeye Central. Like this year, Western Reserve played that game with an unblemished record and even faced their first deficit of the season.

Trailing by eight at one point, the Blue Devils were down 22-21 with the ball on their own 38-yard line and 2:02 to go.

They were amped to continue their dream season by completing a dream-like game.

Nine plays got the ball to the 19-yard line and the Blue Devils were ready to send out kicker Parker Clegg for a 37-yard field-goal attempt. Having second thoughts, Hake called a timeout and sent his offensive team back on the field facing a fourth-and-2.

A Jeff Clegg pass was broken up near the 5-yard line, putting the ball back in the Bucks' hands for good.

"I don't regret that call," Hake said. "The wind was in our face and we had the player of the year in Division VI at quarterback so I liked our chances by sending the offense back out."

That game, just over two years ago, was played at Massillon's Paul Brown Stadium. The Blue Devils take on Glouster Trimble at St. Clairsville's Red Devil Stadium on Saturday at 7 p.m.

"We've been to this point before and realize what it all means," Hake said. "That's the game. That's the playoffs. There's only four teams left in the state and everyone is going to fight for those last two spots. Hopefully we have a seat at the table when it's all said and done."

Though last week's outstanding defensive performance ensured Western Reserve's 22-2 over Norwalk St. Paul, offensive adjustments helped after halftime.

"Our goal was to just keep pounding the ball at the them," wide receiver Joe Falasca said. "We knew they'd go away if we kept pounding and catching them off guard."

The Blue Devils engineered a seven-play, 79-yard drive on their first possession of the second half. A quick slant from quarterback Nick Allison to Falasca jumpstarted the drive.

"It was something new in the second half," Falasca said. "They weren't expecting it."

Falasca had two catches for 33 yards against St. Paul. He caught six passes for 168 yards in the regional semifinal game against Danville.

"We have a lot of great players who touched the ball," Hake said. "Joe has just been a great receiver for us all year. "He's made big plays all year. We expect him to do that, he better do that if we want to win."

The Blue Devils offense is about as balanced as possible with 1,878 passing yards and 1,869 rushing yards. They've garnered 27 touchdowns through the air and 28 on the ground.

Defensively, Western Reserve limited St. Paul to just 26 total yards. Trimble enters the state semifinal allowing just more than six points per game. A 21-14 win over Shadyside, which snapped the Tigers' 12-game winning streak, was the second most points allowed by the Tomcats all season. In the regional semifinal game against Steubenville Catholic Central, Trimble allowed 22 points. They've recorded eight shutouts.

"Offensively, they're going to have to mix it up against us," Hake said. "We'll be ready for anything."

The Tomcats average 41.7 points per game. The Buckeye Central team from 2011 outscored postseason opponents 140-7.

"It is pretty similar," Hake said of the matchup. "I'm pretty serious about this all the time. We're living it. It's a great time. I'm really appreciative and blessed to have great players and coaches who have worked so hard to make this chance possible."

There can be a number of reasons why the Blue Devils have been so successful this season. The biggest may not be taking anything for granted.

"I think that they have a real goal," Hake said. "A real mission and they're doing everything they can to do it and complete it."