Throughout the first half and well into the third quarter, North Olmsted was having its way with arch rival Olmsted Falls.
A 47-second span later in the third changed all that.
That’s when Bulldogs quarterback Brennan Laird took advantage of an Eagle fumble and threw touchdown passes to Brendan Wall and Eric Meehan. The rally turned a 14-7 deficit into a 21-14 win at North Olmsted’s Mud Bowl that closed out the 2011 regular season.
Olmsted Falls finished the regular season at 7-3 and clinched second place in the Southwestern Conference at 6-1. The Bulldogs will now wait for official word later this weekend concerning the Division II playoffs.
North Olmsted, on the other hand, closed out its season at 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the SWC.
”Our kids played hard and their kids played hard,” said Eagles head coach Mike Ptacek as his team walked off the field for the last time in 2011. “There’s nothing else you can say about that.
“We needed to make a few plays and we just didn’t get it done,” Ptacek said. “But I’m very proud of our kids. They fought all year. We had a lot of adversity and seemed to bounce back from all of it.”
The Eagles, however, couldn’t bounce back all the way from the series of events that changed the complexion of the game in the third quarter.
Up 14-7 at halftime, the Eagles held Falls out of the end zone on the Bulldogs’ first possession of the second half. Falls had taken the kickoff a driven to the North Olmsted 22-yard line, but incomplete passes on third and fourth down ended the threat.
North Olmsted took over and drove to its own 39-yard line when the officials flagged the Eagles for unsportsmanlike conduct due to an equipment issue, according to Ptacek. The Eagles punted three plays later, and Falls took over at its own 38.
A 9-yard pass to Meehan and a 20-yard pass to Kenny Hanna helped Falls advance the ball to the Eagle 20. An offsides call moved it five yards closer to the 15, with Laird hitting Wall on the very next play. Nathan Ferster added the conversion kick, and the score was tied at 14-14 with 2:42 left in the quarter.
Shortly thereafter, disaster struck for North Olmsted.
The Eagles fumbled the ball away on the first play of their next possession, giving the Bulldogs the ball at the North Olmsted 32. After running the ball to the 24-yard line, Laird found Meehan all alone in the end zone for the go-ahead score with 1:55 left in the quarter.
The two rivals battled to a scoreless tie the rest of the way, but the Eagles did have one last chance to tie the score on the final drive of the game.
North Olmsted took over at its own 42-yard line with 2:31 left int he game. Three runs by quarterback Brad Novak and a Falls face mask penalty got the ball down to the Bulldogs 32. Novak then hit Shamir Tomlinson on a 9-yard pass and Mark Remy on a 6-yarder, putting the ball at the 19.
Novak ran the ball to the 6-yard line on the very next play, but was sacked by Tyler Lucas at the 17 with :06.4 left. A pass toward the end zone fell to the muddy turf on the final play of the game.
The Eagles had run the ball effectively in the first half, with Novak leading the way with 89 first-half yards on 12 carries.Joe Lumpkin had given the home team a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard plunge in the first quarter. He also scored the go-ahed touchdown with 8:37 left in the second quarter on a 30-yard scoring run.
Sandwiched in between was Laird’s 28-yard scoring toss to Drew Meketa on the second play of the second quarter.
Instrumental in Falls’ second-half comeback was its defense against the run in the second half. The Eagles ran for 238 yards in the first two quarter behind the efforts of Novak, Lumpkin, Remy, Tomlinson and Mike Starcovic.
In the second half, however, the Eagles managed just 49 yards, including four carries for negative yardage.