By Brad Isles
Allied News Sports Correspondent
TRANSFER — Grove City High football coach Jeff Bell is a big believer of the mantra “you play how you practice.”
Despite the Eagles’ 12-6 victory at Reynolds Friday night, Bell singled out a poor week of preparation for his team’s erratic and sloppy performance in picking up their first Region 3-AA win.
“When they become better practice players, they’ll be better Friday night players,” Bell said.
The negatives: Four fumbles, including one lost, and an interception. Four minor penalties at inopportune times. A 14-play, 72-yard Reynolds scoring drive in which the Raiders (1-1, 1-3) used up six minutes of clock and converted twice on fourth down.
“We work on the little mistakes in practice, the fumbles, the penalties,” Bell said. “These guys think that they’re just going to go away on Friday nights. They’re not. What you do in practice you’re going to do in games.”
There were a few positives, however. They included Chris Clark’s 22-carry, 159-yard effort on the ground. A big fourth-quarter defensive stand. And a clock-grinding drive late in the game while holding a precarious six-point advantage.
The Eagles (1-1, 3-1) broke a 6-all tie in the third quarter on a 3-yard run by Dwayne Martin. The nine-play drive — including six runs by Clark — covered 60 yards in almost five minutes. Bell chose to go for the extra point and Jason Ferderber’s kick went wide, leaving GC with a touchdown advantage.
Reynolds took possession at their own 45, a relatively short field with plenty of time to drive for the tying score. The Raiders converted a pair of third down plays and moved the ball efficiently to the Eagles’ 14 with eight minutes remaining. On third-and-4, Raiders took an untimely procedure penalty that pushed them back to the 19. Following a timeout, a Brandon Wolfe pass fell incomplete to set up fourth-and-9. Wolfe looked for a receiver over the middle but GC defender Justin Burk knocked the ball to the ground to maintain the Eagles’ lead.
It turned out to be a potential game-preserving play as Grove City countered on a 15-play, seven-minute drive that wound the clock down to 36 seconds and left the Raiders with no time to counter. The key play for GC was drawing Reynolds offside in a fourth-and-inches situation at the Raiders’ 35 with 2:20 left. Consecutive Clark runs covered 20 yards before the drive stalled deep in Reynolds territory.
“Reynolds played tough tonight,” Bell said. “Give them credit.”
Grove City opened the game showing no ill effects from the previous week’s disappointing loss at Wilmington. The Eagles held Reynolds to three-and-out on the Raiders’ first possession and then countered with a six-play, 65-yard scoring drive capped off by a 23-yard Casey Shay run. The kick failed and GC held a 6-0 lead.
Then things got ugly for the Eagles.
After the two teams traded possession, Reynolds rode the legs of Corey Brown to a game-tying score. Wolfe opened the drive from the Raiders’ own 28 with a 17-yard scramble. Brown then carried nine of the next 12 plays to set Reynolds up with a fourth-and-3 at the GC 5. Wolfe then scrambled right under heavy pressure and connected with Mike Miller who dove into the corner of the end zone for the score at the 8:19 mark of the second. Wolfe’s pass on the two-point conversion fell incomplete and the score remained tied for the next quarter.
“We had some guys hurt this week so we were rotating guys in and out at different positions all week at practice,” Bell said. “When you watch it on film you can only do so much, then you have to get it straightened out when they’re on the field. We almost got beat by three or four plays.”
Notes: Brown finished with 95 carries on 28 carries for Reynolds. Wolfe added 37 yards on 8 carries. ... Wolfe was 5 of 9 for 27 yards. … GC quarterback Mike Burk was 5 of 12 for 40 yards and an interception. He only attempted one pass in the second half. … Caleb Kolb added 40 yards on 5 carries to aid the Eagles’ rushing attack, while Martin chipped in 30 yards on 7 carries. … Ferderber was kicking in place of Bobby Kowalsky, who is out with a knee injury.
By Brad Isles