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Game of the Week

Ellwood advances

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



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).
Ellwood City 3 8 0 22 0 33
Freeport 13 6 7 0 0 26
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