For the Olmsted Falls Bulldogs’ football team, the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” rings especially true.
On a team running a triple option offense, with numerous threats to break off big plays and score at any time, that formula has served the Bulldogs well season after season, consistently making them a contender in the Southwestern Conference and perennial playoff threat.
That same attack proved to be far too much for Avon Lake on Oct. 15, as the Bulldogs dashed their way to a 35-3 rout of the Shoremen. This result is a change of fortune for the Bulldogs (7-2, 5-1 SWC), who had lost two in a row to the Shoremen (6-3, 3-3 SWC).
“I feel great for our seniors,” Bulldogs coach Tom DeLuca said. “I’m so happy for them. They’ve been working so hard from last year all the way up until now. Really, we’ve had this one circled on our schedule because, last year, they got after us over there and it left a bad taste in our mouth. We thought we were better than that and our guys were hungry for this one.”
The unquestioned leader of the night for the Bulldogs was junior running back Rocco Conti. In the first half alone, he ran eight times for 102 yards. In the second half, he added another five carries for 55 yards and two touchdowns.
“Our offensive line, it starts with them. They played an amazing game,” Conti said. “The holes opened up and I had the ball in my hand to do it. This team is very dangerous, I’m very excited with this group of guys. We get better every single week, so we’re looking forward to next week. We’ll be even better.”
For Conti, he said a performance and win like this does wonders not only for his confidence, but for the team’s confidence with just one regular season game left before playoffs.
“This is awesome,” Conti said. “Last year we played them and we got our butts kicked. We’ve been looking forward to this game all year.”
It wasn’t just Conti that had success on the ground, though – Olmsted Falls rushed for more than 270 yards. Coming in as somewhat of a goal line specialist, senior Luke Dieckman had an unforgettable stat line of three carries, for three yards and three touchdowns, all coming in the first half.
“We’ve got a bunch of backs that can do it,” DeLuca said. “Clay (Vormelker), Luke, Rocco, Michael (Candow) (and) Jack (Pincheck). Rocco and Dieckman had a heck of a game. It’s like a broken record, every week we talk about Rocco. And I’ll tell you, I think he’s one of the best players in the state.”
The Bulldogs’ defense was equally as impressive, forcing five three-and-outs – four coming on Avon Lake’s first four drives of the game – and allowing just two first downs in the first half.
“(Getting that first stop built) confidence,” DeLuca said. “In our locker room we have a big poster that says, ‘Start fast, finish strong.’ And that is a big deal for us moving forward. The fast start is something we’ve been working on and finishing the game we need to finish the game.”
As difficult as the Bulldog offense was to stop, Shoremen coach Matt Kostelnik recognized that his team’s woes began with its struggles on offense.
On their first drive of the second half, the Shoremen found sustained success with a balanced attack – and were helped out by 30 yards of Olmsted Falls penalties – and got down to the 1.
After the ensuing play backed them up to the 4, a Shoremen personal foul call moved them back to the 19. A shot at the end zone fell incomplete and Avon Lake was forced to settle for a 36-yard field goal that senior Owen Wiley nailed in the middle of a torrential downpour.
“The number one thing was (not) getting our offense rolling,” Kostelnik said. “That starts with me, I call the plays on offense and we had some things happen that didn’t go our way. We’re playing from behind and we can’t take negative plays. We took too many negative plays and (when) we left our defense on the field the whole time, they’re going to roll.
“That’s a damn good football team that coach DeLuca and his staff have put together, and they’re good at what they do,” Kostelnik continued. “To help our defense, we need to get some first downs and that starts with me.”
His message to the team was simple: Put this one behind them and focus on their last game of the season on Friday at home against North Ridgeville.
“We didn’t play Shoremen football tonight,” Kostelnik said. “We didn’t play a disciplined game, we came out slow in the first half and, ultimately, that all falls to me. We have to figure it out in practice and get ready to go against North Ridgeville.”
DeLuca said this win has his team riding high going into its last game of the season on the road Friday against Berea-Midpark. The winner of that game will claim at least a share of the SWC championship.
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