WADSWORTH — Game planning, strategy and execution came together perfectly Friday, and Wadsworth’s football team reaped the benefits in a 47-21 Suburban League National Conference victory over North Royalton.
The Grizzlies (7-0, 4-0) managed to turn a one-score game into a 33-7 lead in a 5:27 span thanks in large part to a decision before the first whistle.
“You try to set your team up for certain chances, and fortunately tonight we were able to take advantage of those opportunities,” Wadsworth coach Justin Todd said.
After North Royalton (2-5, 0-4) capitalized on a fumble by running back Dom Loparo, who had scored the Grizzlies’ first two touchdowns, junior quarterback Joe Marousek found wide receiver Riley Knurek for a 3-yard TD on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line to pull the Bears within 13-7 late in the second quarter.
A pregame decision then became the turning point.
Wadsworth won the coin toss, but elected to defer. The Grizzlies got the ball back off the North Royalton touchdown with just under two minutes left.
Wadsworth quarterback Trey Shaffer moved his team down the field perfectly in a two-minute drill. Shaffer found sophomore Barret Labus, and the wide receiver cut his way through the defense for what looked to be a 56-yard touchdown. The play was called back for an illegal block in the back, but Shaffer was undeterred and used most of what little was left on the clock before finding senior Carson Risher (11 catches, 135 yards) for an 8-yard score with 11 seconds remaining.
All the Bears had time left to do was take a knee before halftime.
The Grizzlies then took the ball after intermission and turned things over to Loparo and fellow running back Brock Snowball. The pair took nearly five minutes off the clock before Loparo scored his third touchdown, on a 7-yard plunge.
“My offensive line did an incredible job making holes for me, and I just read off their blocks,” Loparo said after gaining 105 yards. “I just hit the hole hard and get through.”
On the Bears’ next offensive play, Wadsworth’s front pressured Marousek, and the junior forced the ball in the middle of the field, where linebacker Mason McMillen was waiting. The senior raced down the field, returning his interception for a touchdown that gave the Grizzlies a 33-7 lead.
“We’ve preached all offseason that we wanted to lead the league in turnovers and touchdowns as a defense,” McMillen said. “We know if we keep working and bringing pressure it’s going to happen. We’ve got a lot of leaders and playmakers.”
It was McMillen’s second turnover after recovering a fumble in the second quarter and North Royalton’s fourth overall. McMillen also added 2½ sacks to his night, while Jake Herbert and Noah Alic had interceptions.
“(The defense) is a veteran group that I think is very well coached,” Todd said. “They put themselves in position to make these plays through incredible film study, scouting reports and perfect reps throughout the week.”
Marousek recovered from the turnovers to throw two more touchdowns, one to senior Bradley Kmetz and the other to senior Carson Mroczka.
Snowball added a 5-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, while backup quarterback Mitch Evans found the end zone on a 29-yard run with 16 seconds left.
Contact John Urchek at email@example.com.
Wadsworth 47, North Royalton 21
NORTH ROYALTON 0 7 7 7 — 21
WADSWORTH 7 12 21 7 — 47
W — Dom Loparo 7 run (Blake Turano kick), 1:46.
W — Loparo 2 run (kick failed), 8:18.
N — Riley Knurek 3 pass from Joe Marousek (James Osborne kick), 1:52.
W — Carson Risher 8 pass from Trey Shaffer (pass failed), 0:11.
W — Loparo 7 run (Turano kick), 7:03.
W — Mason McMillen 34 interception return (Turano kick), 6:44.
N — Bradley Kmetz 32 pass from Marousek (Osborne kick), 5:18.
W — Brock Snowball 5 run (Turano kick), 3:43.
N — Carson Mroczka 14 pass from Marousek (Osborne kick), 1:53.
W — Mitch Evans 29 run (Alec Miller kick), 0:16.