By: Bill Bray
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
TIFFIN – As teams progress to the second round of the regional tournament opposition gets tougher and tougher. Both teams found that out at Tiffin Friday night as the Milan Edison Chargers were a 17-15 winner over the Swanton Bulldogs in a Division V battle.
The two teams, playing in their first ever second round game of the tournament, were evenly matched in many categories throughout the night except for one, turnovers.
Friday the 13th bit the Bulldogs on the opening kickoff when Swanton fumbled away the ball. Milan-Edison took little time to turn that error in to six points with fullback Dan Stoll lumbering for 25 yards to pay dirt to put the Chargers up 7-0.
After an exchange of possessions, Swanton mounted what appeared to be their first scoring drive of the night only to see it end with another turnover. With a second and 10 on the Edison 18 yard line, Bryce McComb lofted a pass into the end zone that was picked off by the Chargers’ Sam Stoll ending the threat.
The Chargers returned the favor on their next possession as they fumbled on the Bulldog 12 yard line. From there, the Bulldogs covered the needed 88 yards on 16 plays. The drive saw freshman fullback, Michael Lawniczak carry the ball nine times on the drive. Lawniczak scored from one yard out with 2:20 left in the first half. He added the two-point conversion and the Bulldogs took an 8-7 lead into the locker room at the break.
This game saw many big defensive plays throughout. The Bulldogs were paced on defense by defensive end Nick Sienkiewicz and company. Sienkiewicz had three quarterback sacks and led the charge to keep the Bulldogs close all evening.
The first half came to an end with Milan Edison in possession. Quarterback Keegan Hall carried the ball six times on the drive that consumed the final 2:20 seconds of the half.
The teams started the second half sharing three-and-out possessions before Edison took the lead on their second drive. Taking over on their own 46-yard line, Dan Stoll crossed over into Swanton territory on a eight yard run that brought the ball to rest on the Swanton 42. A 15-yard personal foul call against the Bulldogs moved the ball to the 27. After Hall had been dropped for a seven-yard loss, he sprinted for 14 yards on a third and 16 to set up a Chargers field goal. Lucas Munroe split the uprights and Milan Edison regained the lead 10-8 with 3:56 remaining in the third quarter.
After a three-and-out by the Bulldogs, Hall was intercepted by Gunnar Oakes on the Chargers next possession. Oakes returned the theft to the Swanton 14 yard line. But again, the Bulldogs returned the favor as a bad exchange from center caused a fumble that was picked up by Milan’s Cody Scott giving the Chargers possession on the Swanton 22.
From there, Swanton mounted a goal line stand. The Swanton defense rose to the occasion as Stoll and Hall were stopped short of the goal line on two consecutive plays. The Bulldogs were back in possession on their own two-yard line.
McComb attempted a pass to Robbie Gilsdorf that fell incomplete. On his second pass, Braden Ehrhardt of Milan stepped in and intercepted the ball and Milan was back on offense deep in Swanton territory once again.
On their first play from scrimmage, Hall sprinted in from 28 yards out to give the Chargers a 17-8 lead as time was beginning to become a factor.
The ‘never say die’ Bulldogs showed what they were made of on their following drive. They used nine plays to go 66 yards and with 2:37 remaining in the game closed the gap to 17-15. The drive was highlighted by the passing of McComb. The talented senior signal caller found Gilsdorf for 13 yards then Oakes for 12 yards, another pass to Oakes covered eight yards. Then on a roll out, he found Antonio Cervantes for 11. McComb capped the drive with a 13-yard strike to Oakes in the end zone. Nick Kobak added the PAT and Swanton was still alive although time was not on their side.
The Chargers were able to run out the clock and with it advance to round three of the playoffs sending Swanton home.
Though the final statistics were almost identical, it was the battle of the turnovers where the Bulldogs fell short. The Chargers accumulated 254 total yards to Swanton’s 251. McComb ended the night hitting on 12 of 21 passes for 165 yards while throwing three interceptions. His leading target was Robbie Gilsdorf who hauled in five catches for 77 yards and Oakes with five for 70 yards.
Freshman Michael Lawniczak was the workhorse as the fullback carried 23 times for 55 yards and scored a touchdown.
The Chargers were paced by Keegan Hall’s 140 yards on 18 carries and Dan Stoll’s 110 yards on 17 carries.
“In the playoffs turnovers are magnified,” said Swanton coach Mike Vicars having coached his 13th playoff contest. “When you get to this stage of competition the turnover just can not happen.”
Vicars went on to give credit where credit was due. “I feel for these seniors, the Swanton mentor said. “I do not want to take anything away from the past, but this group of seniors leave a legacy here. They have done something Swanton kids could not do for 20 years. They overcame many obstacles to get to where they are tonight and I have never been prouder of a group of kids in my whole coaching career than I am with this group.”
The Bulldogs finish the season with 10 wins and two losses.
Bill may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org