The West Geauga Wolverines football team almost forgot what home field advantage felt like.
The Wolverines celebrated a real homecoming weekend by routing Chagrin Valley Conference rivals Orange 62-0 last Friday night at Howell Field.
The Wolverines had two games cancelled because their opponents were dealing with COVID protocols. It kept West Geauga away from their home turf.
“It’s been over a month since we’ve been home,” said senior quarterback Danny Stewart. “Just seeing the students back in the stands was a great experience.”
The contest against the Lions was just the third home game for West Geauga this season but it has become road tested by going 3-1 over its last four away games.
“We definitely learned lot from last year,” said Stewart. “The stuff that’s happening this year, although COVID has cancelled two of our games, we’re responding so well because we’re used to it and prepared from last year.”
The Wolverines were clicking early as it took just three plays from scrimmage for them to go ahead 7-0 as their senior quarterback connected with senior wide receiver Chris Ranallo on a 44-yard touchdown pass to cap off a three-play, 59-yard drive.
“I saw a linebacker lined up against Chris,” explained Stewart. “He was three yards off of Chris and I knew it was a mismatch and that Chris had more speed so I just waited for him to get open and hit him.”
West Geauga’s defense forced a turnover on downs and engineered a five-play, 51-yard drive capped off by a 7-yard touchdown run by Stewart.
The Wolverines continued to pile it on in the first quarter as senior kicker Joseph Dialla drilled a 40-yard field goal to push the lead out to 17-0.
Then, Orange senior quarterback Tony Fatica fumbled the ball on the first play on the ensuing drive and senior defensive end Ryan Dienes recovered the ball and tailback Ty Bose galloped into the end zone from 33 yards to make it a 24-0.
By the time the dust settled, the Wolverines were sitting on a 31-0 lead at the end of the first quarter as Stewart once again connected with Ranallo on 37-yard touchdown pass.
The 5-foot-9 Wolverines’ senior wideout caught only two passes but tallied 81 yards and two touchdown receptions.
It marked the third shutout for the Wolverines this year and the first time in consecutive seasons with multiple shutout victories since Sopkovich became the coach.
West Geauga scored two more touchdowns in the second quarter and had a 45-0 lead at halftime.
“Watching Orange’s film over the week we saw some holes we could take advantage of,” noted Stewart. “We called the right plays and it’s all about execution. We took advantage and executed each play we called.”
Stewart completed four passes out of seven attempts for 144 passing yards and three touchdowns while running for 161 yards and three touchdowns on five runs.
“I saw maturity from Danny,” noted Sopkovich. “It started last week against Buckeye when he was audibling some plays. The game is slowing down greatly for him and it was a tribute to our offensive line.”
West Geauga set a new school record for points scored. It was the first time in school history that any team scored over 60 points at Howell Field since its inception in 1961.
It marked the second consecutive year the Wolverines set a new scoring record after they previously set the benchmark in scoring in a 58-14 victory over Edgewood last year.
Sopkovich could not have planned it any better.
“This is how we try and draw it up every week,” said Sopkovich smiling. “It just so happened to work on Friday night. I take my hat off to our offensive line. Danny played a great game. It was a collective effort by our offense.”
The Orange (1-6, 0-3) offense did not pick up a single first down during the game.
“We don’t want to give up any points,” said Wolverines’ coach Eric Sopkovich. “We then take it to we don’t want to give up any first downs. Our kids love playing defense. They’re just tough kids and really get into it. That’s our goal every week to not let them score.”
The West Geauga defense is beginning to settle in and has not allowed more than 13 points in their last four victories.
“I think the defense is trying to lead us,” said Sopkovich. “It’s giving us short fields, getting turnovers and doing the right thing.”
The Wolverines will hit the road again and face Geneva for another conference showdown on Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. while Orange will host conference foes Perry at Lewis Black Stadium at 7 p.m. the same night.