LOWELLVILLE, Ohio (WKBN) – Lowellville held on Friday night to secure a 30-26 victory over Valley Christian in the first round of the OHSAA high school football playoffs.
Propelled by their standout quarterback Vinny Ballone, the Rockets generated 397 yards of offense, with Ballone accounting for 378 of those yards. He would complete 22 of 48 passes for 274 yards and 3 touchdowns, and he would add another 104 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
“Everything was working. The receivers were running their routes hard, the lineman were blocking good, and the running backs were running as hard as they could,” Ballone described the night.
“He bailed us out a couple of times. There were a couple of times where they had everyone covered and he got us a first down and we had no right to get a first down. It should have been a sack and he just does everything for us,” Rockets coach Andrew Mamula remarked.
The win for the Rockets was only their second in school history, something that was special for coach Mamula, “It’s our second playoff win in school history. I get the circumstances. I get that. But at the same point, it’s a playoff win and it means something to these kids. They came out and showed up and they wanted to make some school history and they did that tonight.”
The Rockets would build a 16-6 lead at halftime, partly due to their defense and not the offense. Following the Eagles and Rockets trading touchdown, the Rockets defense tackled the Eagles Jon’Tea Pabellon in the endzone for a safety to go up 9-6. Then with the free kick and return the Rockets scored two plays later to take the 10-point, 16-6 lead into the intermission.
The Eagles would cut the Rockets lead to 16-13 with 5:16 remaining in the third quarter when Pabellon blasted in from 7-yards out. But the Rockets answered with Ballone scoring on a 5-yard run to make 23-13 at the 2:51 mark of the quarter.
Eagles defensive lineman Jon’Terll Mixon intercepted a Ballone pass and returned 34-yards for a touchdown with 5:13 remaining in the game, only to have the Rockets answer right back again. this time it was a 31-yard pass from Ballone to Brady Bunofsky.
The Eagles made one more push as they scored on a 45-yard pass from Joey Battisa to Jhordan Pete with only 1:36 left in the game. The Rockets Anthony Lucente recovered the Eagles onside kick and ran out the clock.
“No, I never felt comfortable, I still don’t feel comfortable. They might put five seconds back on the clock,” Mamula said jokingly. “Those kids fought for everything. Our kids fought. This is what playoff football should be. That was a hell of a game.”
“We just can’t put ourselves in a hole and expect to come back and play two quarters and make up the previous two quarters. If you don’t play good against a quarterback who is athletic like him (Ballone), he is going to burn you,” Eagles coach Jomont Ware said.
The Rockets advance to play the top-seeded Warren JFK Eagles next Friday at Mollenkopf Stadium. The Eagles will resume their regular season play when they travel to Wellsville in EOAC league action.
Watch the video above for the extended highlights.
Get updated scores, throughout the playoffs on the WKBN scores page.
Looking for standings? Visit the WKBN high school football standings page.
Watch interviews and get player profiles for some of the best players in the Valley – visit the WKBN Big 22 page.