Cleveland Lutheran East- October 26, 2018
Whoever said, “There is strength in numbers” did not have a look at the roster of the Cleveland Lutheran East football team that came to East Liverpool on this cold October night to face a formidable East Liverpool Potter team in the rain at Patterson Field.
Fielding a squad of just 22 players Coach Adam Bickel and his visiting Falcons gave Coach Josh Ludwig and his team a fight to the end before finally succumbing to the Blue and White who were determined to turn in their first winning season since 2010.
The game got off to an ugly start when the Potters’ Timmy Neal hauled in the opening kickoff, returning it to his own 40. Runs by Cory Weyand and Derek Carter worked the ball to the Cleveland 34 where a Peyton Reed fumble was recovered on the 36.
On their very first play, with 10:18 on the clock, the Falcon’s QB Osel Mattocks found Ivan Percy, Jr., who wrestled the ball away from a Potter defender and went 64 yards to make it 6-0. A two-point conversion attempt failed.
The Blue and White were picked off again at the end of a nine-play drive with the ball on Cleveland’s 28, but immediately got the ball back on a fumble recovery by Koby Plum, as the weather conditions became increasingly bad.
The back-and-forth battle continued with neither team gaining an advantage until the Potters hauled in a punt on their own 29 with 35 seconds remaining in the first quarter. A pair of runs by Weyand took it to the 17 from where Carter scored on the first play of the second quarter to tie the game at six. The Potters also failed on a two-point conversion attempt.
Cleveland made it interesting when they returned Dominik Vallera’s second-half kickoff to mid-field from where they launched a seven-play drive that eventually bogged down on the EL 19.
The break down was all the Potters needed as, with 8:55 on the clock, they worked the ball to Cleveland’s 35 from where Weyand, who ended up with 140 yards rushing on the night, scored with 7:56 remaining in the third quarter. Vallera’s kick was negated by a Cleveland encroachment penalty giving the Potter coaching staff a reason to go for two points from the one, which, unfortunately, failed and it was 12-6 in favor of the locals.
At this juncture, neither team could advance on the sloppy field, as they each exchanged punts until 4:20 in the third period when Jalen Moman, the Potters’ injured fullback, made a surprise entrée into the contest, carrying three times for 19 yards to no avail, as the team was forced to punt with the visitors taking over as the third quarter ended.
At this juncture, Cleveland set up their defense on the EL 34 from where four straight runs by Cory Weyand and a pair by carries by Peyton Reed got the Blue and White to the one. Enter Moman, who plunged the final yard to set the score at 19-6 following Vallera’s conversion kick.
The visitors still hung in there as speedster T.J. Blevins took the ensuing kickoff on the one and sprinted 99-yards to make it a two-point game after a two-point conversion kick failed.
Senior corner back Troy Croskey, out with a broken collar bone since early in the season, then put a halt to the Falcons’ hopes when he pulled off a 79-yard “pick-six” with 2:12 left to play to make it 26-14, the final, following Vallera’s conversion kick.
A soaking wet Coach Josh Ludwig commented, “They fought all year and we had some very tough losses, but our kids never gave up. Tonight they shined. We were eight points from being 9-1 and 22 points from being 10-0. They never let the close losses bug them and they continued to fight.
“The kids never hung their heads; they showed confidence all the way. It’s a great way to send our seniors out with a win at home,” said Ludwig. “We’re excited about our future here, too. We’re building something special”, he concluded.
The victory gave the Potters their first winning season since 2010 when they finished 8-3 under Coach Mark Asher, losing to Licking Valley in a playoff game at Patterson Field.
Coach Rick Prescott led the team to a 5-5 record in 2013.
Several records were established over the course of the season, the most significant was the four TD passes thrown by Peyton Reed vs. Buckeye Local on October 12. There were nine players previously tied with three each.
Some confused Lutheran East as being a merger with the old Cleveland East High School, which is now closed, but not so. The original Lutheran High School in Cleveland was downtown, but due to the construction I-90 was separated into two schools, Lutheran West and Lutheran East, which is located at 3565 Mayfield Road in Cleveland Heights.