MEDINA — Although the numbers were staggering, the Strongsville-Medina football clash Friday night turned on two plays.
The Mustangs beat host Medina and former coach Larry Laird 21-7 in Greater Cleveland Conference play and dominated the action.
Strongsville (3-4, 1-3) ran 67 plays for 331 yards compared to 46 for 153 for the Bees (2-5, 1-3).
Yet the game was 7-7 at the half, and Medina appeared to take the lead early in the third quarter on a 94-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Levi Pokersnik, only to have it called back due to holding.
“The officials did us no favors tonight,” Laird said after explaining that he doesn’t like to criticize officiating.
With Medina up 7-0 in the second quarter, the Bees forced a punt on fourth-and-1 from the Strongsville 37. The snap to Tommy Zacharyasz bounced, the senior reached down to pick the ball up, looked up, saw daylight on the right side and ran 8 yards for a first down.
Only when Zacharyasz reached down to pick up the ball, his knee appeared to be on the ground. Television replays in the press box confirmed that, but the officials allowed the play to continue.
“No doubt” his knee was down, Laird said after the game.
Medina should have taken over at the Strongsville 20, up by a touchdown and threatening to go up by two scores.
Instead, the Mustangs drove the length of the field, completing a 13-play, 72-yard drive with a 4-yard run by quarterback Jony Major to tie the game at 7.
“That was definitely a turning point,” Laird said. “And then on the long TD …”
Medina took the second half kickoff, but on the first play from scrimmage Pokersnik dropped back to pass, was hit and fumbled. The Mustangs recovered and returned the ball to the Medina 8.
Medina’s defense pushed Strongsville back to fourth-and-goal from the 15, then stuck receiver Joe Gillette on a slant pass at the 1 to get the ball back.
Two plays later, Pokersnik kept on an option right and had only one player to beat down the sideline, with one blocker in front of him. Pokersnik easily cleared the blocker and defender and streaked past the Strongsville bench for an apparent 94-yard score.
But the final blocker in front of Pokersnik was flagged for holding, bringing the ball back to the Medina 14.
“They hadn’t called holding all night and they finally called it there,” Laird said while shaking his head. “That took the wind out of our sails and turned the tide. If we score there, I think it’s a whole different game.”
To add injury to insult, Pokersnik tweaked a tendon in his calf on the run and did not return. With opening-day starter Gavin Montgomery out for the year and Pokersnik unavailable, receiver Dylan Fultz came in to run the show the rest of the way for Medina.
After Pokersnik’s TD was called back, the Bees punted and Strongsville marched 52 yards to score, getting a 25-yard pass from Major to Nick Adams after the Bees nearly had Major sacked.
Unable to put together an offensive charge with Pokersnik sidelined, the Bees watched Strongsville add another score on a 12-yard Major run early in the fourth quarter.
Medina ran just 17 plays in the first half to 36 for Strongsville, and the Bees’ defense appeared to tire as the second half wore on.
“It’s difficult. You’re tired, but that’s why we condition in practice and work out,” Medina senior cornerback Jamison Van Drei said. “We were hoping things would (work out) in the second half, but then they just fell apart. I don’t know why.”
Van Drei said he thought the Bees were in good position even after the TD run was called back.
“I thought both sides of the ball were playing good, but then (Pokersnik) goes down and you’re on your third-string quarterback, so that makes it hard,” he said.
Laird did not fault the defense, which held Strongsville inside the 10 and forced a missed field goal in the second quarter in addition to the stop at the 1 after the fumble to start the second half.
“Our defense played lights out,” he said. “We put them in some bad situations all night.”
In the first game for the Mustangs against Medina since Laird left Strongsville, the game featured a host of personal fouls, taunting and back talk between the teams. The Mustangs were called for four personal fouls, while Medina was whistled once for a personal foul and once for unsportsmanlike conduct.
After intercepting Fultz on what ended up being Medina’s last offensive play, two Strongsville defenders blocked the senior out of bounds, then loudly chirped at him, setting the stage for a near-brawl. Police officers took the field as the teams went through the handshake line.
“That’s just two programs that don’t like each other much,” Laird said, “and that’s OK.”
Medina’s lone score came in a hurry in the first quarter. The Bees took advantage of a 38-yard bubble screen to Chris Kelly and a trio of Strongsville personal fouls to move inside the 10. Pokersnik rolled right and found Fultz open for a 9-yard TD.
Contact Chris Freeman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Strongsville 21, Medina 7
STRONGSVILLE 0 7 7 7 — 21
MEDINA 7 0 0 0 — 7
M — Dylan Fultz 9 pass from Levi Pokersnik (Andrew Horton kick), 4:48.
S — Jony Major 4 run (John Kramer kick), 2:25.
S — Nick Adams 25 pass from Major (Kramer kick), 4:40.
S — Major 12 run (Kramer kick), 10:15.