STRONGSVILLE, Ohio (WKBN) - The South Range Raiders knew they were facing an opponent that had a dominating line in Division 5 state semifinal game in Strongsville. The Eagles did not disappoint as they were able to churn out 219 yards on the ground in route to a 21-7 win over South Range.
But it was the Eagles defensive line that was the real difference in the game, holding the Raiders to a season-low 7 points and 174 total yards in the game. The Raiders only managed 26 yards on the ground in the contest.
"Those inside guys are fantastic players, they gave us fits all night," Raiders coach Dan Yeagley explained. "They are good and they are aggressive, they do a great job. We were able to get some movement here or there, but they are a fantastic team and we wish them the very best next week."
"Nothing to be ashamed of," Raiders senior quarterback Aniello Buzzacco said. "Obviously we wanted to go to state, but we tied the school record for going as far as we went. I couldn't be prouder of my team. It's been a great season, nothing to hang our heads. We accomplished a lot."
The Eagles set the tone early in the game as they went on a 67-yard, 11-play drive to score on a Jaden Rayford 2-yard run. That score came with 5:34 remaining in the first quarter and gave the Eagles a 7-0 lead.
The game took an uglier turn for the Raiders on their next possession when quarterback Aniello Buzzacco was stripped of the ball on a third and one run up the middle with the Eagles Griffen Coffield pouncing on the ball. That set the Eagles up at the Raiders 29-yard line with 4:07 remaining in the opening stanza.
"That was tough, especially with their style of offense. They are going to eat the clock up and were not going to get many touches," Yeagley admitted. "But it wasn't just one play. It was a bunch of plays."
The Eagles would take full advantage of the Raiders miscue as they used 6-plays to strike again, this time on a 1-yard dive by Damron Ceyleon to make it 14-0 in favor of the Eagles. That score came with 1:06 left in the first period.
The Raiders would try to answer as they used 14-plays to drive to the Eagles 22, but a pass from Buzzacco to receiver Mathias Combs would come up short of the first down mark, turning the ball over to the Eagles at their own 11. The Raiders would get back to the Eagles 36 after a change of possessions, but that drive would also end up in a turnover on downs, closing the first half.
The Raiders would have another golden opportunity on their first possession of the second half following a shanked punt by the Eagles after a quick three and out. The Raiders received the ball at the Eagles 23 but were not able to convert a fourth a one at the Eagles 14. Once again turning the ball over on downs.
The Eagles would seize the momentum from that defensive stand, marching 85-yards on 18-plays, eating up nine minutes and five seconds off the clock. Rayford would score his second touchdown, this time on a 3-yard blast up the middle to give the Eagles a commanding 21-0 lead with 11:08 remaining in the contest.
The Raiders made one last gasp as Buzzacco connected with Mathias Combs on an exciting 63-yard pass play down the right sideline. That score came with 7:26 remaining and made it 21-7 in favor of the Eagles.
"I thought we had a good shot coming back. We never gave up. That is the best part about us," Buczzacco remarked. "We really fought to the end. That touchdown pass gave us a lot of energy, but we just came up short."
Buzzacco finished 11 of 23 passing for 148 yards and two interceptions.
The Raiders were unable to convert an on-side kick, giving the Eagles an opportunity to run out the clock. The Raiders would also have a pass intercepted late in the game closing any hope they had for a late game come back.
The loss closes the Raiders season at 13-1, while Eastwood will play Wheelersburg in the state championship game in Cantone next week in Canton.
"This group of seniors [is] very, very special. We talked about that throughout the year," a choked up Yeagley said. "They gave it everything they had. I'm very, very proud of them. Hats off to Eastwood, they are a fantastic team."
"I'm going to remember this season for the rest of my life," senior running back Peyton Remish remarked. "It was fun playing with these guys all year. We had a blast every single week. We left it all out there. There is nothing more we could ask."
SOUTH RANGE 0-0-7-=7
EA - Jaden Rayford 2 run (Jacob Hahn Kick)
EA - Damron Ceyleon 1 run (Hahn Kick)
EA - Rayford 3 run (Hahn Kick)
SR - Mathias Combs 63 pass from Aniello Buzzacco (Levi Taylor Kick)Read more: Week thirteen high school football stories
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