NEW MIDDLETOWN, Ohio – Almost all coaches preach that they need to go 1-0 each week.
Trying desperately not to look ahead to an upcoming rivalry contest or other big games on their remaining schedule. Focusing only on the current opponent.
With the Division V South Range Raiders’ impressive 41-21 victory over the Division VI Springfield Tigers (top-ranked in some preseason polls), the victory gives them momentum and confidence. Next week will be just another test.
“The kids stepped up and rose to the occasion every single time. I’m blessed to have great coaches to get these kids prepared and blessed to have great kids that executed and did what they were asked to do,” Raiders coach Dan Yeagley said.
The Raiders dominated time of possession while running 36 offensive plays in the first half compared to just 14 for the Tigers. That helped the Raiders build a 21-7 halftime advantage.
They would run a game total of 64 plays for 536 yards compared to 30 plays for the Tigers, who mustered 278 yards on the night. Springfield standout senior quarterback Beau Brungard was held to just 57 yards rushing on 9 attempts while passing for 193 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Brungard’s counterpart, South Range junior signal-caller Billy Skripac, rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown while connecting on 13 of 16 passes for 221 yards and two TDs. Raiders senior running back Dylan Dominguez rushed 25 times for 185 yards and scored three times to help power the Raiders offense.
“I was talking to the team that with the shorter time with doubles and all, the team that makes the least number of mistakes was going to end up winning the game,” Springfield coach Sean Guerriero said. “They (South Range) played a great, solid first half. They didn’t make mistakes and we did.”
Yeagley said his team didn’t discuss the fact that Springfield is the defending state runner-up in Division VI. The center of attention was squarely on the long-standing rivalry between the two neighboring schools.
“South Range-Springfield – what a great rivalry it has been for years and years. Two teams that just go at it,” Yeagley said.
“People didn’t think we would be as good as we were last year. And we did very well, winning the league (NE8) and played well. They (Springfield) obviously had their great year. It would have been a game just like this one last year. Another hard-fought game. Who knows who would have won that one.”
For both the South Range Raiders and the Springfield Tigers, one game will not define their season. But it certainly helps to give the Raiders confidence heading into some formidable competition.
“We have (Division II) University School that we have never played before,” Yeagley said. “I don’t know anything about them. They are next and we are going to prepare for them. They are an unknown and we need that, because when you get into the playoffs you might play an unknown team. That happened to us last year.”
And after that comes Canton Central Catholic, which beat Massillon Perry in its season opener.
For the Tigers, the loss to South Range will make them a better team in the coming weeks, their coach said.
“This is a great starting point for us to play a great South Range team,” Guerriero said. “For us, I told the team that there is only one way to go, and that is up. I think on some things we weren’t very sound technique-wise, and we have to just get back to it and grind it out and have our kids get back to work.”
One thing Guerriero felt affected his team Friday was the short practice season that schools had to adapt to in Ohio. With the additional eight playoff teams forcing the state to move up the season a week, the state condensed practice time down to just three weeks.
“Our kids are a little bit out of shape,” Guerriero said. “They are not in game shape yet. I think it will be a bit of a learning curve to make adjustments with our personnel and try to get the kids in the correct spot. It was a learning lesson for us.”
“We will be on to Brookfield tomorrow morning,” Guerriero said with a grin. “You move on. There is a lot to learn from Week 1, and again, when you schedule an opponent like South Range in Week 1, this is what is going to happen. It was a good test for us.”