The Chagrin Falls gridders (5-2) got a free pass to the Division IV, Region 13 quarterfinals, so they’ll be out to prove they belong during a road battle against Poland Seminary (6-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Pavlansky Field in Mahoning County.
The visiting Tigers own the No. 10 seed in the region, while the Poland Bulldogs are the No. 2 seed and are currently ranked No. 11 in the state AP poll.
After putting a 56-6 hurting on Hawken School in their playoff opener, the Chagrin Falls boys were primed to hit the road and take on No. 7-seed Mogadore Field (4-2) this past Saturday night. The Tigers made their final preparations during Friday practice.
But on Saturday morning, Chagrin Falls Athletic Director Charlie Barch notified his football team that its game later that evening had been canceled, “due to unforeseen circumstance with Field,” and that the Tigers would automatically advance to the next round.
The Portage County Health District confirmed a positive case of COVID-19 within Field’s football circle, which forced the Falcons to forfeit their playoff hopes.
After a first-round bye, Field was set to make its sixth postseason appearance with the goal of capturing its program’s first playoff win – the Falcons went one-and-done in each of their previous five berths.
Not to mention, the Falcons fought through the adversity of four head coaches in four years to get to where they are under first-year head coach Matt Furino this season. The Field gridders were 0-10 in 2017, 1-9 in 2018 and 4-6 in 2019, before putting together a winning campaign this fall.
Chagrin Falls, meanwhile, has to rebound from the mental burden of preparing for an opponent all week without getting its fix on Saturday night. Now the Tigers have had to shift their focus to take on a heavily favored state-ranked Poland Seminary team.
The Poland Bulldogs, under fifth-year head coach Ryan Williams, who owns a 35-17 record at the helm, are in the playoffs for the 18th time as a program, including an 11-3 state semifinal campaign last season.
Most recently, Poland is coming off a 24-21 victory against region No. 15-seed Salem (4-4) in a game that the Bulldogs actually trailed, 21-0, early in the second quarter, before finishing the game with four straight touchdowns – the Bulldogs missed three extra points and were unsuccessful on a two-point conversion.
Poland got on the board before halftime with some razzle-dazzle from junior fullback Christian Colosimo, who completed a 43-yard touchdown toss to 6-foot-2 senior receiver Andrew Centofanti.
The Bulldogs scored the winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter, when 6-foot-2 junior quarterback Jack Fulton called his own number from 4 yards out. Fulton was just three-of-eight passing for 31 yards, but the signal-caller led his team’s ground attack with 18 carries for 124 yards.
Overall, Salem outgained Poland, 351 yards to 346 yards, with both teams recording 15 first downs. While Poland owned the ground game, 272 yards to 66 yards, the Bulldogs’ defense surrendered 285 yards passing to Salem. Not to mention, Salem shot itself in the foot with 11 penalties for 108 yards and a lost fumble.
Poland’s lone loss this season came during a 24-21 week-one road battle against Division V AP No. 3-ranked Canfield South Range (7-0).
Chagrin Falls and Poland are similar in a fashion that both teams spread the pigskin to four main ball-carriers.
Chagrin Falls and Poland will be meeting for the first time on the gridiron.
TONY’S TAKE: Poland wins, 27-14.