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Game of the Week

Ellwood advances

Ellwood City (33) vs. Freeport (26)
Written: Nov 05, 2011
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By JOE SIMON

New Castle News

SARVER — As the game started to spiral out of control, Ellwood City Lincoln High coach Don Phillips had no choice.

He had to pull out his trick plays. Only problem was, he couldn’t find them.

“I couldn’t seem to get it,” said Phillips as he showed reporters his laminated folder that held numerous pieces of paper. “There’s a bunch of sheets in there with a lot of stuff. And then I found it.”

It’s a good thing he did.

The Wolverines used tricks and made a few spectacular plays and erased a 15-point, fourth-quarter deficit to claim a WPIAL Class AA playoff victory over Freeport, 33-26. It marked the first playoff win for Ellwood City since a 2-0 triumph over Burrell in 1987. The Wolverines play Greensburg Central Catholic at a site and time to be determined.

The game turned early in the fourth quarter. Phillips dialed up a double-reverse pass, with seldom-used running back Jared Meyers launching a bomb to Nick Polka, who had dropped a wide-open touchdown pass earlier in the game. The ball was underthrown into double coverage, but Polka came back and snatched the ball away from two defenders as he leaped in the air. He then kept his balance and ran in for a jaw-dropping 72-yard touchdown. A two-point conversion made the score 26-19 with 9:18 remaining.

“(That drop) was eating at me real bad,” the 6-foot-3 Polka said. “I had to redeem myself somehow. I just got it over the top of him. That changed the momentum. They (Freeport) didn’t know what to do.”

Freeport coach John Gaillot agreed with Polka, saying the shock of the moment never wore off of his players.

“That one big pass, we had two kids there, the momentum just swung,” he said. “We haven’t really played under that adversity that quickly before.”

Before the Yellowjackets (7-3) could catch their breath, Ellwood (7-3) had made an interception and was pulling another rabbit out of its hat.

This time, it’s what Phillips called the “sideline play.” Running back Alexander Grymes made it appear as if he was running off the field, but he stopped just short and turned his back to the quarterback as if he wasn’t involved in the play. Without a Freeport defender noticing him, the Wolverines snapped the ball and Julian Cox fired a strike to Grymes, who rumbled down to the 5-yard line.

Cox tossed a 3-yard TD pass to Kyle Crawford two plays later, and Scott Lewis tied the game at 26 with the extra point.

“All the coaches in the MAC (Midwestern Athletic Conference) know we have it,” said Phillips of the sideline play. “I don’t use it until I know it’s there, or it’s needed. But we practice it.”

It worked to perfection this time.

The Wolverines continued to slow what had been a dominating Freeport running game on the next drive. The Yellowjackets’ Damon Smith, a 1,200-yard rusher during the regular season, ran for 163 yards in the game, but only 57 came in the second half, including a petty eight yards in the fourth quarter. Freeport quarterback Brendan Lynch ran for 145 yards and two TDs, but he was held in check after scoring on a 65-yard TD early in the third quarter.

“We made some changes from the Xs and Os side of things at halftime, which seemed to help us on defense and get us going forward and attack a little more,” Phillips said. “We did that in the second half, especially the fourth quarter.

“The kids hung in there, they were resilient.”

Ellwood utilized the adjustments to force its second straight three-and-out after Cox’s TD pass to Crawford tied it.

The Wolverines took over at their own 47 with 3:21 remaining. Cox, who finished 6 for 11 for 120 yards and a TD, hit Polka for gains of 11 and 8. Cox then ran for nine more. He then handed off to Crawford, who scampered around the left end for 23 yards, nearly scoring as he was flipped up in the air after trying to lunge forward for a TD. He was stopped at the 1, but Cox punched it on the next play to complete the comeback and give Ellwood a 33-26 lead with 22 seconds remaining.

A last-second play in which Freeport tried to lateral the ball several times didn’t come close to scoring and Ellwood fans rushed onto the field in celebration.

“We had to pull out all the stops for a reason,” Phillips said. “If we don’t win this game, my kids are going to basketball on Monday. I’m not ready for them to go to basketball and I’m not ready to clean out my gutters and do yard work.”

He can put that off for at least one more week.

(Email: j_simon@ncnewsonline.com)

ELLWOOD FREEPORT

11 First downs 8

152 Yards Rushing 336

26 Yards Lost 27

126 Net Rushing 309

14 Passes Attempted 10

9 Passes Completed 4

1 Passes Intercepted 1

174 Yards Passing 22

300 Total Yards 331

2-0 Fumbles-Lost 2-0

3-25.7 Punts-Average 4-30.3

4-20 Penalties-Yards 6-75

ELLWOOD CITY 3 8 0 22 — 33

FREEPORT 13 6 7 0 — 26

Scoring plays

FREEPORT—Brendan Lynch, 75-yard run (Dave Heidenger kick).

ELLWOOD—Scott Lewis, 33-yard field goal.

FREEPORT—Lynch, 1-yard run (Kick blocked).

FREEPORT—Damon Smith, 25-yard interception return (pass failed).

ELLWOOD—Julian Cox, 12-yard run (Devon Siegfried pass from Cox).

FREEPORT—Lynch, 65-yard run (Heidenger kick).

ELLWOOD—Nick Polka, 72-yard pass from Jared Meyers (Kyle Crawford pass from Cox).

ELLWOOD—Crawford, 3-yard pass from Cox (Lewis kick).

ELLWOOD—Cox, 1-yard run (Lewis kick).
GAME SCOREBOARD
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 OT SCORE
Ellwood City 3 8 0 22 0 33
Freeport 13 6 7 0 0 26
GAME OF THE WEEK ARCHIVE
One step short 12/3/16 Neshannock season comes to end 11/27/16 The (im)perfect season 11/19/16 WPIAL championship game 11/18/16 New Castle advances to WPIAL Class 4A title game 11/11/16 Neshannock routs Serra Catholic 11/4/16 Neshannock hosts Serra Catholic 11/4/16 Thriller 10/28/16 Union at Shenango 10/28/16 'Canes stumble; playoff berth on line in finale 10/21/16 New Castle hosts Ringgold on Senior Night 10/21/16 Wilmington falls in battle of unbeatens 10/15/16 Wilmington at Hickory 10/13/16 On the defensive 10/8/16 Neshannock hosts Riverside 10/7/16 New Castle struggles in home loss to Mars 9/30/16 New Castle hosts Mars 9/30/16 'Canes hope to even score against Mars 9/30/16 Stayin' alive 9/23/16 Union hosts Western Beaver 9/23/16 Ground assault 9/17/16 Wilmington hosts Sharpsville 9/16/16 Too many mistakes for Laurel 9/10/16 Riverside travels to Laurel 9/9/16 Neshannock routs North Catholic 9/3/16 Canes quipped 8/31/16 A good mix 8/27/16 Black Friday 11/14/15 Wilmington vs. 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at Neshannock 9/20/13 So close ... 9/13/13 Neshannock at Sto-Rox 9/12/13 Run to glory 9/7/13 Laurel at Neshannock 9/6/13 Dando, Spartans roll over South Side Beaver 9/5/13 South Side Beaver vs. Laurel 8/30/13 Turnovers spell doom for Wilmington in D-10 title game 11/26/12 Wilmington vs. Hickory 11/24/12 Caught in a 'Bear' trap 11/17/12 Neshannock vs. Clairton in WPIAL Class A semifinals 11/15/12 Neshannock advances 11/10/12 Neshannock vs. Monessen 11/9/12 Neshannock vs. Monessen 11/9/12 Neshannock vs. Monessen 11/8/12 Neshannock advances 11/3/12 Neshannock vs. Jefferson-Morgan 11/2/12 Down and out 10/27/12 New Castle at Hopewell 10/26/12 Pugh paces Wilmington to win over Sharon 10/22/12 Wilmington vs. Sharon 10/19/12 Mohawk falls to Beaver 10/13/12 Beaver vs. Mohawk 10/12/12 ‘We tip our hats to them’ 10/8/12 Neshannock at Rochester 10/5/12 Big-play display for Union 9/29/12 Union vs. Laurel 9/28/12 Lancers rout Shenango for fourth win 9/24/12 Blend of old, new sparks Union win 9/22/12 Union hosts Western Beaver 9/21/12 ’Hounds rise up for win over Hickory 9/15/12 Wilmington vs. Hickory 9/14/12 Milestone victory 9/10/12 New Castle at Riverside 9/7/12 699 and counting 9/1/12 New Castle vs. Central Valley 8/31/12 Turnovers lead to season-ending loss for Wilmington 11/21/11 Wilmington vs. General McLane 11/17/11 End of the dream 11/12/11 Ellwood vs. Greensburg Central 11/11/11 Ellwood advances 11/5/11 Ellwood City vs. Freeport 11/4/11 Mixed reviews 10/29/11 New Castle vs. Blackhawk 10/28/11 Wilmington rolls to Region 3 title 10/22/11 Wilmington vs. Sharon 10/21/11 It's Polka time 10/15/11 Ellwood City vs. Laurel 10/14/11 Aliquippa cruises past Ellwood City 10/8/11 Aliquippa vs. Ellwood City 10/7/11 Wilmington holds on for thrilling win over Hickory 10/1/11 Wilmington vs. Hickory 9/30/11 Union pulls away for win over South Side Beaver 9/24/11 South Side Beaver at Union 9/23/11 Big plays spell doom for New Castle 9/17/11 Central Valley vs. New Castle 9/16/11 Defense delivers for Neshannock 9/10/11 Defense delivers for Neshannock 9/10/11 Neshannock vs. Serra Catholic 9/9/11 New Castle suffers disappointing loss in opener 9/3/11 New Castle vs. Butler 9/2/11 Sharon ends Wilmington’s dominance 11/22/10 ‘Underdog’ Greyhounds move on to a rematch with Sharon 11/15/10 Wilmington vs. North East 11/12/10 Tough lesson 11/6/10 WPIAL Playoffs: Ellwood vs. South Fayette 11/5/10 Wolverines earn playoff berth 10/30/10 Riverside at Ellwood City 10/29/10 'Hounds lose heartbreaker 10/23/10 Wilmington at Sharon 10/22/10 Wolverines outlast Spartans 10/16/10 Laurel at Ellwood City 10/15/10 'Canes fall to Parkway foe Hopewell 10/9/10 New Castle to battle Hopewell 10/8/10 Lancers fall to Western Beaver 10/2/10 Western Beaver at Neshannock 10/1/10 Wolverines fall to Beaver 9/25/10 Beaver at Ellwood City 9/24/10 Shenango runs past South Side 9/20/10 Greyhounds lay hammer down on Greenville 9/11/10 Wilmington vs. Greenville 9/10/10 New Castle comes through 9/4/10 New Castle vs. Butler 9/4/10 Memorable run ends for Wilmington football team 12/14/09 Wilmington vs. Greensburg Catholic 12/11/09 Wilmington survives close call against Forest Hills 12/4/09 Wilmington vs. Forest Hills 12/4/09 Wilmington blanks Sharon 11/28/09 Wilmington vs. Sharon 11/27/09 Laurel season ends with setback 11/21/09 Laurel vs. Clairton in WPIAL semifinals 11/20/09 West Allegheny ends New Castle’s season 11/14/09 New Castle vs. West Allegheny 11/13/09 New Castle holds off Greensburg Salem 11/7/09 New Castle at Greensburg Salem 11/6/09 Wilmington routs Slippery Rock 10/30/09 Slippery Rock at Wilmington 10/30/09 Shenango blanks Union 10/24/09 Shenango at Union 10/23/09 Spartans overwhelm Monaca 10/17/09 Monaca at Laurel 10/16/09 Mohawk outlasts Ellwood City 10/10/09 Mohawk at Ellwood City 10/9/09 Rochester turns back Laurel in battle of unbeatens 10/3/09 Laurel at Rochester 10/2/09 Laurel opportunistic against Neshannock 9/26/09 Neshannock at Laurel 9/25/09 New Castle ends streak against Blackhawk 9/19/09 New Castle hosts Blackhawk 9/18/09 New Castle passes test against Indiana 9/12/09 Indiana at New Castle 9/11/09 Ellwood comes up short against Freedom 9/5/09 Freedom at Ellwood 9/4/09 Wilmington wins PIAA title! 12/15/08 'Hounds headed for Hershey 12/6/08 Wilmington vs. Aliquippa 12/5/08 Wilmington holds off Martinsburg Central 11/29/08 Wilmington edges Slippery Rock for District 10 title 11/24/08 "Down and Out" 11/19/08 New Castle outlasts Indiana in quarterfinals 11/8/08 New Castle vs. Indiana 11/7/08 New Castle vs. Indiana 11/6/08 New Castle routs Franklin Regional 11/1/08 Franklin Regional at New Castle 11/1/08 Laurel wins, but not enough 10/25/08 Shenango at Laurel 10/25/08 New Castle routs Ambridge 10/18/08 Ambridge at New Castle 10/18/08 Rochester blanks Neshannock 10/11/08 Wilmington handles Sharon 10/4/08 South Side Beaver blanks Neshannock 9/27/08 Neshannock vs. South Side Beaver 9/27/08 Neshannock holds off Laurel 9/20/08 Rochester blanks Union 9/13/08 Union-Rochester 9/12/08 Mohawk routs New Brighton 9/6/08 Butler outlasts New Castle 8/30/08
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