Warriors use pounding ground game to outlast Alliance 31-28

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Carrollton defenders Gunnar Burgett (8) and Dillon Naylor (15) sandwich Alliance quarterback Brendan Zurbrugg early in the contest Friday. Warrior Ryan Kiko (32) is at right.

 By Dan Ries

Sports Reporter

The Carrollton Warriors used a ‘ground and pound offense’ to perfection Sept. 29 to beat the Eastern Buckeye Conference (EBC) favorites, the Alliance Aviators, 31-28 at Mount Union’s Kehres Stadium in Alliance.

 Carrollton controlled the clock for nearly 33 minutes, keeping the ball from Alliance quarterback and Oklahoma bound Brendan Zurbrugg’s hands. Alliance ran just two plays in the fourth quarter.

“We’ve been doing that (ball control) all year,” Coach Jim Tsilimos said after the game. “We just got better at it. Best thing to do was to keep Zurbrugg off the field. We ran our stacked I offense and controlled the clock. The kids made it happen.”

Alliance received the opening kickoff at their own 35-yard line. The Aviators marched down the field, completing an eight play 65-yard drive with a Zurbrugg 22-yard touchdown pass to a wide open K’Vaugh Davis for a 6-0 (kick failed) lead with 8:30 to play in the first quarter.

Ryan Kiko returned the ensuing kickoff to the 36. Carrollton would ground and pound the ball with a mixture of Kiko, Levi Crider, Jacob Whitmore and Carter Matoszkia carries resulting in a 16 play, 64-yard drive that culminated in a one-yard touchdown run by Kiko. Quentin Rosenberger’s kick would give Carrollton a 7-6 lead with 57 seconds remaining in the first quarter. The drive took 7:33 off the clock.

After a bobble on the kick return, Alliance started on their own 14-yard line. Mixing the pass and the run, the Aviators put together an 11-yard drive finished off by an 11-yard run by Zurbrugg. With 9:27 left in the half, Alliance led 13-7 (kick good).

The Warriors started the next drive on their own 20-yard line. Six plays later the offense faced a fourth and one on their 40-yard line. Whitmore took the snap and ran around the left end for 30 yards. A clipping penalty moved the ball back to the 40, but still a first down. Four plays later, Whitmore found a wide-open Crider at the two-yard line. Kiko found the end zone on the next play giving Carrollton a 14-13 (Rosenberger kick) lead with 3:17 left in the half.

Zurbrugg pass intercepted by the Warriors Braylen Murphy at the 42-yard line on the hosts’ next drive. Whitmore caught the Aviators by surprise completing a 15-yard pass to Kiko. Four runs later and a pass interference call put the Warriors at the seven-yard line with 24 seconds to go in the half and three timeouts. Crider scored on a third and one foot with nine seconds left in the half. Carrollton led 21-13 (Rosenberger kick) at half.

The Warriors were caught by surprise with an Alliance onside kick to start the second half. The hosts recovered the kick to begin the drive at midfield. Alliance marched to the Carrollton 15-yard line where, on fourth and three, Zurbrugg scampered through the Warrior defense for a touchdown, closing the gap  to 21-20 (kick good).

Following a three and out by both teams, Carrollton found themselves on their own 42-yard line with 6:03 left in the third quarter. Eleven running plays later, the ball sat on the hosts’ 21-yard line. Whitmore connected with Kiko on a 16-yard pass to the five-yard line. A facemask penalty tacked on two-and-a-half yards. Two Crider carries later the Warriors led 28-20 (Rosenberger kick) with 27 seconds left in the third.

The Carrollton defense stood strong when the offense needed it.

The Aviators faced a fourth and five at their own 25-yard line on the next possession. On the first play of the fourth quarter, deep in their own territory, Zurbrugg tossed a screen pass to the left side but the receiver was stopped short of the first down. 

“The defense made the stops when we needed it. That was a big stop on fourth down.” Tsilimous said of the play.

With 11:50 on the clock and the ball on the Aviators 29-yard line, the Warriors mounted an 11-play drive that took 5:44 off the clock that ended with a Rosenberger 18-yard field goal and a 31-20 lead.

Alliance responded with a 75- yard play to the Warriors four-yard line. Zurbrugg went the final four yards for the touchdown. He would also run in the two-point conversion to close the gap to 31-28 with 5:48 left in the game. 

It was the last time the Aviators would see the ball.

Carrollton used the ground and pound offense to take time off the clock. Gaining just three to five yards each play, the Warriors ran 12 plays (with three Aviator timeouts mixed in) to run out the clock and gain the victory.

Carrollton led in first downs 22-12 and total yards 322-285. Carrollton’s pounding ground game was good for 249 yards on 63 carries and all four touchdowns. Alliance scored three touchdowns rushing on 18 carries for 85 yards. Crider had 24 carries for 88 yards and three touchdowns. Kiko carried 20 times for 86 yards and a touchdown and Whitmore carried 13 times for 63 yards.  

Whitmore completed all four of his pass attempts for 73 yards and Zurbrugg was 14-20 for 200 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Kiko caught two passes for 60 yards and Crider had two catches for 13 yards.

Defensively, Kiko had six solo tackles. Teammate Alessio Mema had five tackles, four solo. Dalton Naylor and Gunnar Burgett had four tackles each. Murphy had the lone interception. 

The Warriors are 4-3, 2-0 EBC. They will face Salem Oct 6 (senior night) at Community Field. Game time is 7 p.m..

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