Two teams with playoff aspirations squared off in Beachwood on Saturday afternoon in a postseason atmosphere and in midsummer weather conditions.
The host Bison withstood the heat and a first-half deficit to pull away from a talented, but depleted Gilmour squad in the second half for a 45-28 victory.
Beachwood, led by senior QB Max Balazs and junior running back Jordan Lane, outscored the Lancers, 21-7, in the third quarter to hand Coach Mike Gibbons his first victory as head coach.
“Offensively, in the first half we didn’t look very good, but a win is a win, and we have things to clean up, but we will take it,” Gibbons said. “We went in at halftime and it didn’t look good, but we were able to spread them out and take care of some things.”
Balazs threw touchdown passes to Jordan Williams and Julio Stevens in the third quarter, and Tyler Hines scored on a short run in the frame to help the Bison erase a 14-10 halftime deficit and go on top by double digits.
“First half, we came out kind of slow, everybody was tired, but at halftime, Coach talked about coming out with more fire,” Stevens said. “He said that it was all in our minds and we just came out and we were more focused.”
Balazs ran for a TD and threw a scoring strike to Hines in the fourth quarter to help put the Lancers away.
Balazs rushed for a TD and completed 8 of 15 for 199 yards and 3 TDs. Lane had 19 carries for 65 yards and two TDs. Stevens had two receptions for 30 yards and a TD, and blocked two punts.
Gilmour's game plan was hindered when senior captain Frank Grk and junior defensive stalwart Conrad Geis’ injuries during the week kept them sidelined. Things got worse midway during the first quarter when All-Ohioan senior OLB Parker Berzin was helped off the field with a knee injury. Matt Botek, the team's MVP QB, played with the flu and couldn't get untracked early, forcing Coach Shawn Dodd to substitute sophomore Connor Lesko late in the first quarter. By the end of the game, PJ Volpe, Ishmael Hargrove (severe leg cramps) and Grant Bent (ejection) were also relegated to the bench.
Dodd refused to use the injuries and illnesses and missing players as an excuse for the loss. Gilmour led 14-10 at half behind touchdowns from AJ Wright and Rodell Golphin.
“Give all the credit to Coach Mike Gibbons and Beachwood. They executed and made plays and deserved to win the game,” Dodd said. “We are upset we didn’t win the game. It’s football, and you line up 11 on 11. No excuses, you play with who you have available. It is tough for us from a depth standpoint to absorb those kinds of losses to the roster and play a team like Beachwood. But, again, and I stress this, we made mistakes, had bad penalties and didn’t play well enough to win. We will be fine, there is no panic. Beachwood is a very good team.”
Wright led Gilmour with 10 solo tackles, a sack and pulled in an 80-yard toss from Lesko for a TD near the end of the first quarter.
Sean Felix, who had 3 ½ sacks for Beachwood, is confident the Bison can take Saturday’s victory and carry it over to Week 2 against Orange.
“We wanted to focus on playing harder on defense and focus on offense,” Felix said of Saturday’s win. “We wanted to take it to them and that’s what we did.
"I'm very confident for next week."