Poland escapes Marlington with a win
By BOB ETTINGER
The thoughts of Poland football coach Ryan Williams ranged from unprintable to unadulterated joy over the final minute or so of the Bulldogs’ season-opening 17-14 victory against Marlington on Thursday.
The Dukes’ 42-yard field goal attempt from Rome Sims fell short as time expired giving the Bulldogs the win.
“It was an absolutely great game for the kids,” Williams said. “They grew up a lot tonight. You have to win some of those games. You’ve got to figure out how to get a win sometimes. That’s what we did.”
Marlington coach Beau Balderson had the opposite feelings as his counterpart in those waning moments.
The Dukes recovered an onside kick at the Poland 48 with just 21 seconds to play in regulation. Quarterback C.J. Greiner completed three of four passes to move Marlington to the Poland 24 setting up a 42-yard attempt at a game-tying field goal. It fell short by about three yards.
“I thought (Sims) drilled it,” Balderson said. “From our angle, I thought it was good. It was his first real attempt. I thought we needed about five yards on that last pass play (it resulted in just three yards). We put (Sims) in the spotlight in a tough spot.”
Jake Rutana put Poland in front, 17-7, with just 1:09 to play after he broke free for a 45-yard touchdown.
“I saw a nice big hole,” Rutana said. “I did a great job running my steps. I’ve got to thank the line, the receivers. Everyone was blocking their hearts out. I wasn’t thinking (about anyone catching me). I was just trying to run as fast I can and score for the team.”
The Dukes’ Greiner responded by dropping the ball between a pair of Poland defenders and into the outstretched hands of Blaine Himmelheber on the goal line for a 35-yard score with 23.3 seconds to play.
“That’s who the kids are,” Balderson said. “They’re a bunch of Dukes who fight to the end. No matter the situation. If we were able to execute earlier, who knows what the outcome is. The kids struggled for 43 minutes before they turned it on. That says a lot about their character.”
Marlington recovered the on-side kick at the Poland 48 to set up the attempt to knot the score.
“You can’t print what I was thinking,” Williams said. “That’s a good football team. I have a lot of respect for Coach Balderson. Their quarterback, (Greiner), had great poise back there. I knew it would be a good ballgame. Maybe not that good, but I knew it would be a battle.”
Mikey Kushner put the Bulldogs in front, 3-0, with a 37-yard field goal with 10 seconds left in the first half. Then, on his first possession of the second half, Poland quarterback hit Mitchell Frederick, who streaked behind his defender, for a 66-yard touchdown and a 10-7 Bulldogs’ advantage.
“I always think our offense works best when we’re on schedule, when we run the ball for three, four, three then get a long run.” Williams said. “Our coach, Brian Jones, set that up perfectly at halftime. It was the absolute right call. It was well-executed. Mitchell Frederick made a great catch and Cole made a great throw. He put it where he had to.”
Marlington got on the board on a two-yard plunge from Anthony Sabatino with 1:53 remaining in the fourth to set up the wild final minute.