Boardman High School sealed an Ohio Div. II playoff berth last Friday with a 31-0 win over Ashtabula Lakeside to move into playoff action for the first time since 2011.
The Spartans finished regular season play with a 6-4 record under third year head coach Joe Ignazio and as champions of the All America Conference Gold Division.
Boardman moves into playoff action on Friday night against the 9-1 Dresden Tri-Valley Scotties that have won five-straight Muskingum Valley League titles. The Scotties have earned eight post-season playoff berths in nine seasons under head coach Justin Buttermore.
The opening round playoff game will be played at Boardman Stadium with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.
The Spartans opened play against Lakeside when Adam Deeley’s kickoff looked like it was going out of bounds. But the ball stayed in-bounds and the Dragons just watched the ball bounce. Boardman’s Sheldon Broyles alertly fell on the loose ball and the Spartans took over at the 2-yard line.
On the first play from scrimmage, tailback Mario Graziani scampered to the right, untouched into the end zone just seven seconds into the game. A Deeley PAT boot gave the Spartans a 7-0 lead.
On its next possession, Lakeside endured four, straight penalties, then stung the Spartans on a second and 30 pass for a first down on a play that covered 33 yards.
On two of its next three plays, Lakeside was called for a pair of false start penalties and on third and 21, Gavin Strines intercepted a Dragons aerial and the Spartans got the ball back near midfield at the 8:58 mark.
With a half-minute remaining in the first stanza, Lakeside again was hit with a false start penalty on a third down play and had to punt. Boardman got the ball back on their own 43 yard line.
Boardman went backwards when offensive lineman Jesus Cordero was called for holding on first down, and quarterback J.R. Ryan fumbled a snap from center to put the Spartans into a second and 26.
Graziani picked-up a dozen yards on a run, and a Ryan to Austin Barone pass covered 15 yards to give Boardman a first down at the Lakeside 31 yard line. A Graziani fourth down run gave the Spartans a first down at the 18 yard line, but the drive stalled and Deeley entered the game and kicked a 35 yard field goal to lift the Spartans to a 10-0 lead with 5:57 left in the first half.
Boardman made it 17-0 at the half, courtesy of a Broyles pick six that covered 42 yards.
Following a scoreless third frame, Boardman tacked on two TDs in the final stanza, one on a 57 yard Strines punt return and a Deeley PAT kick, and another when Noah Falleti hit Travis Koontz for a 23 yard scoring play, followed by an extra point kick off the toe of William McCarthy.
Final stats in the game showed Boardman with a 6-2 margin in first downs, and the Spartans held a 121-107 margin in total offense, an improbable performance to seal a playoff berth.
The Spartans ended the regular season winning five of their last six games, three of those wins coming on shutouts on their home field.
Going into playoff action, Boardman has outscored its foes, 154-132, allowing opponents 13.2 points a game.
Tri Valley has outscored its opponents 382-54, and despite its 9-1 mark goes into post-season play as the #5 seed in Region 5, Div. II ratings, while Boardman enters the playoffs ranked #4 in the Region 5. The better rating enabled the Spartans to host the opening round tournament game.
Tri Valley has won 42 straight Muskingham Valley conference games, and the Scotties come to Boardman Stadium on a six game win streak, last losing to Zanesville, 10-7, in the fourth week of the season.
Boardman enters the playoffs averaging 130 yards a game on the ground and 71 yards a game passing.