Despite tough obstacles, Poland tops Struthers

The Bulldogs found a way to win -- again.
POLAND -- Entering Friday's game with Struthers, the Poland High football team had to know it wouldn't do much offensively.
Rain, snow, swirling winds and a tough Struthers defense would make sure of it.
But the Bulldogs couldn't have known they would net 1 yard rushing, lose their starting tailback to injury and manage just 55 yards of total offense.
Poland did -- and still won, beating the Wildcats 23-6 at Bulldog Stadium. Poland (9-1, 5-0) finished undefeated in the Metro Athletic Conference and will host a Division III playoff game on Friday.
"One thing about this team is that they figure out how to win," said Poland coach Paul Hulea. "It isn't always real pretty, but they're a resilient group."
Offense: Bulldog senior Vince Antonucci and junior Neil Harris provided more than enough offense for Poland -- only it came on special teams and defense.
Antonucci had a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 44-yard interception return in the second half to put the Wildcats away. The senior cornerback also had a 45-yard interception return wiped out after a roughing-the-passer penalty.
"This was the game of my life," Antonucci said. "I wasn't feeling it early on and I was freezing by halftime, but I knew I had to do something."
Late in the first quarter, Harris returned a Struthers punt 36 yards to the Wildcat 15-yard line, setting up Poland's first touchdown -- a 3-yard pass from quarterback Sean Clayton to fullback Jim Mitolo.
"Neil's a great player," Antonucci said. "When you've got somebody like that on the other side, I know they're going to pick on me. I knew I needed to step up and make some plays."
Interception: On the next drive, Harris intercepted a pass by Struthers quarterback Nick Leiter, returning it 25 yards to the Wildcat 6. The play set up a 32-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Shawn O'Halloran that made it 10-0.
"Every one of our losses this year has been the same," said Struthers coach Gary Zetts. "The effort is there, but we make mental mistakes that cost us the game. Tonight it was on special teams and turnovers."
The backbreaker for Struthers (5-5, 2-3) came on the first play of the second half, when Leiter fumbled the kickoff return and Dave Stanton recovered for Poland at the 10-yard line.
Three plays later, Mitolo scored from 5 yards out to put Poland up 16-6. O'Halloran missed the extra point.
Mitolo finished with 20 carries for 24 yards and Lou DaVanzo added eight carries for 9 yards. DaVanzo reaggravated an ankle injury and did not play in the second half, but will likely play on Friday.
Clayton finished 7-of-10 for 54 yards and ran four times for minus-22.
Wildcat senior Jim Tabak ran 15 times for 66 yards, including a 42-yard touchdown run that cut Poland's lead to 10-6 in the second quarter. Leiter ran 15 times for 22 yards and completed 5-of-16 passes for 64 yards. Jason Martin caught three passes for 41 yards.
"We dressed 12 freshmen and we played a lot of younger kids so hopefully that will help us next year," said Zetts. "We had to make a lot of adjustments this year to make up for some injuries, but the effort was always there."