NEW MIDDLETOWN, Ohio – Searching for their first win over the Springfield Tigers (0-4) since 2010, Vinny Ballone and the Lowellville Rockets (4-0) walked into the Tiger’s Den in New Middletown looking to make a statement. Not only have the Tigers dominated the Rockets over the past ten plus years, but Springfield has maintained a choke hold on the entire MVAC – Scarlet division, totaling just two conference losses since joining in 2017, and holding a twenty-five-conference game winning streak heading into last night’s matchup.
Winning the opening toss and electing to receive, the Lowellville Rockets took just under two minutes to strike first in last night’s matchup. After Vinny Ballone converted on third and long with his legs to start the drive, the senior quarterback would find his favorite target and fellow senior, Brady Bunofksy, just a few plays later from twenty-three yards out.
While the Rockets moved their way down the field via the air on their opening drive, the Tigers saw loads of success on the ground to get them into the redzone before facing fourth down and four from the Rockets nine-yard line. Coach Guerriero opted to keep his offense on the field for the fourth down attempt and junior quarterback, Kolten Ruark, would deliver finding seniorSeandelle Gardner for their first score and the lead after converting on the two-point try.
Lowellville would end the first quarter scoring with a little over a minute remaining in the first when Ballone would connect with Braylen Dabney from forty-three yards out, the two-point conversion would be good. Both teams would then turn the ball over on downs before Springfield would gain possession at their own thirty-eight. Just a few plays later, Ruark would connect with Seandelle Gardner again, this time on a deep shot from fifty yards out. The Tigers would convert their second two-point conversion to give them a 16-15 lead heading into the break.
Trying to steal a possession to open the half, the Lowellville Rockets would recover the opening onside kick to start the third quarter. The Rockets offense would turn the extra possession into points, this time with a four-yard touchdown run from junior back, Santino Rivera-Ocasio.
The Rockets would continue their onside ways with another attempt on the ensuing kickoff. While the Rockets wouldn’t recover, they still managed to force the Tigers to go three and out despite solid field positioning.
Vinny Ballone would lead the troops right back down the field and connect with Brady Bunofksyfor the second time of the night, this time from two yards out to give Lowellville the first two possession lead of the game with a little over three minutes remaining in the third.
Six minutes later, the Tigers would respond with the third installment of Ruark-Gardner of the night, again from nine yards out on fourth down. The two-point conversion would be successful, and the Tigers would draw to within five.
Keeping the momentum rolling, the Tigers would force Lowellville to punt for just the second time of the night after a three and out. A poor punt would give the Tigers the ball on the Rockets thirty-five-yard line. Despite their favorable field positioning, Springfield would fail to get points on the board, their drive ending with the Rocket’s Vinny Ballone getting it done on the defensive side, stepping in front of a Kolten Ruark pass.
Ballone’s interception would prove to be the final nail in the Tigers’ coffin. The Rocket’s signal caller would connect with Matt Lucido from fourty-seven yards out on a dime to put Lowellville back out in front by two possessions, before the Tigers would turn the ball over on downs and allow the Rockets to bleed out the clock before striking once more with 22 seconds remaining in the ballgame, Ballone to Anthony Lucente from thirteen yards out, giving the Rockets the win 42-24.
Seandelle Gardner: 5 catches, 75 receiving yards, 3 TDs
Ryan Carcelli: 21 carries, 95 rushing yards
Vincent Woods: 2 TFLs, 2 sacks
Vinny Ballone: 336 passing yards, 5 TDs, 71 rushing yards, 1 Defensive INT
Brady Bunofsky: 9 catches, 104 receiving yards, 2 TDs
Mathew Lucido: 4 catches, 104 receiving yards, 1 TD
Springfield: The difficult start to the season for Springfield doesn’t get any easier in Week 5 for coach Guerriero’s Tigers, as they will face another undefeated opponent in the Mineral Ridge Rams (4-0). The combined record for the Tigers’ first five opponents stands at 18-2.
Lowellville: Cementing themselves as the top dogs in the MVAC – Scarlet division with their impressive win over Springfield, the Rockets must now defend their throne as they play host to the also undefeated Jackson-Milton Bluejays (4-0). The Rockets and Jays have faced off sixteen times since 2003, those matchups being split straight down the middle at eight a piece.
*Contributed By YSN’s Jamie Thomson