By VINCE PELUSO — firstname.lastname@example.org
Three weeks into the 2012 football season, the Edgewood Warriors’ playoff prospects were dim, to say the least.
The Warriors had dropped their second-straight game, a gut-wrenching 20-14 defeat at the hands of the Lakeside Dragons, leaving them a disappointing 1-2 after three games.
“I think what happened was we put so much emphasis on Geneva (a 21-14 Week 1 win) and concentrated so much on them that we had a little letdown against a very good Jefferson team (a 38-7 Week 2 loss),” Edgewood coach Dom Iarocci said. “Then, coming off that loss, we played our worst game of the year (against Lakeside). I believe if we played them now, we’re three or four touchdowns better than them. We did a lot of things wrong and just got away from our game plan.
“I told them after that game, ‘You’ve got one or two ways you can go — You can fall flat and have a mediocre or poor season or you can remember all the work you put in, move forward and take it one week at a time.’”
The Warriors chose the latter option, rattling off six wins over their final seven games to close out the season 7-3 and earn the eighth seed in the Division IV, Region 13 playoffs. It’s the first time in school history that they have reached the postseason.
With that seed, Edgewood gets a second crack at the undefeated and top-ranked Brookfield Warriors, which took it to Edgewood, 49-13, in Week 7.
Edgewood rattled off three-consecutive wins following that loss, the most impressive of which was a 39-0 win over Division I Cleveland John F. Kennedy in the final week of the season.
Iarocci said what happened at Brookfield in Week 7 has no bearing on what will happen this Friday in Girard.
“(Monday night), we talked to the kids at length, and this was the first time we met since we knew we were in for sure, and I told them everyone’s record is 0-0 in playoffs,” he said. “There’s a lot of No. 6 seeds that won the Super Bowl. I think the best thing that happened to us is playing a team we’re familiar with. We gotta play against a very, very good team and I, along with all the other coaches, believe we’re going down there to win, not just happy to say we made the playoffs.”
Leading into the first matchup with Brookfield, Edgewood was limping out of a 23-12 win over a physical Cleveland Knights team that battered the Warriors.
“I think when we went down there the last time, we were a little banged up from the Cleveland Knights game,” Iarocci said. “(Dylan) McCaleb was banged up, Riis Smith was banged up, Anthonie Magda didn’t play in the second half; it all contributed. But, give credit where credit’s due. Brookfield is a great team, their average score this year is 46-10. They played some good teams, too, like Warren JFK, Youngstown Christian and Campbell Memorial.
“I think we went down there and were a little intimidated, too.”
Brookfield’s dominance is evident on the scoreboard, where its closest game was a 26-13 road win over a 6-4 Struthers team. It was also the only time it didn’t score more than 30 points all season.
Brookfield’s potency on offense comes from it’s balance.
Offensively, Brookfield spreads the ball around to running back Ryan Mosora, who rushed for 1,704 yards and 20 touchdowns this season, quarterback Jeremy Quinlan (880 yards, 13 touchdowns on the ground, 960 yards and 13 touchdowns through the air) and leading receivers Collin Harkulich (321 yards, 6 touchdowns receiving) and Joe Clark (196 yards receiving, 2 touchdowns and 279 yards and 7 touchdowns rushing).
All told, Brookfield averages 412.7 yards of total offense per game while allowing just 193.1.
For Iarocci, Edgewood’s top priority will be stopping Mosora.
“I think the No. 1 thing for us is to stop Ryan Mosora,” he said. “We gotta stop him, he’s their No. 1 threat and we gotta tackle him. We have to contain the quarterback (Quinlan). They run the cut and slice out of the spread a lot. That Harkulich is a good receiver, so I think those are the three guys we have to stop.
“Their line is very physical so the No. 1 key is to recognize the formation, get to where we gotta get and tackle.”
Offensively, Iarocci stressed the importance of moving the ball methodically to keep the ball out of the hands of the potent Brookfield offense.
“Every time we get the ball, every play, we’ve got to win the individual battle and get those 3.5 yards per play that we want,” he said.
While most in the Edgewood community is excited to celebrate the Warriors’ first experience with postseason football, Iarocci said it hasn’t quite sunk in to him yet.
“To be honest, it really hasn’t set in and it probably won’t set in until it’s over,” he said. “I’ve just been so busy preparing for Brookfield and then all the hoopla and excitement around the community, too. I told the kids I want them to enjoy and embrace the opportunity, but we’ve got a football game to go play.
“It hasn’t set in though that, ‘Wow, this is the first time I’ve made the playoffs, it’s the first time Edgewood has made the playoffs.’ It hasn’t and I really mean that from the bottom of my heart.”
Regardless of what happens on Friday, Iarocci said he wanted to thank his coaching staff and administration for their work and support during the season.
“I want to thank the administration. (Athletic administrator) Steve Kray and (Edgewood principal) Karl Williamson have been fantastic this week with all the game preparation and everything,” he said. “My assistant coaches have done a great job all year. I think they’ve done a great job motivating and I’m just happy to be along for the ride. At my age, this has been a great experience.
“I’m happy we got to put a lot of pride in the Edgewood community. A lot of former players have told me they’re able to puff their chest out a little bit about this now and that makes me feel good.”
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