THE MEADVILLE TRIBUNE
LAWRENCE PARK —
Brandon Roda and the Iroquois offense ran the inside counter to perfection, and the Braves may have stolen Region 2’s final District 10 Class A playoff spot from Union City during a 44-18 victory on Friday night.
Roda rushed for 250 yards on eight carries — three of which resulted on large touchdown gallops on inside counter plays. Alex Williams added 115 yards, Justyn Roda scored twice and gained 108 yards, and Dylan Carpin had 63 yards to go along with a touchdown.
In total, the Braves (3-6) gained 533 yards on 49 carries — 10.9 yards per attempt — without attempting one pass play.
Both teams complete their Region 2 schedule with a 3-4 mark, but the Braves’ win over Union City should be the difference between a playoff spot or not.
“We’re disappointed regardless if a playoff spot is on the line or not,” Union City head coach Randy Gunther said. “We played absolutely horrendous defense tonight. And when you do that, you will never win. It’s that simple.”
The game couldn’t have started any better for Iroquois, which saw Brandon Roda take the inside counter for a 55-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage.
“We had noticed when they played Eisenhower they had some trouble defending the counter, so we tried that,” Iroquois head coach Gerry Drozdowski said. “When our first play from scrimmage went as well as it did, we just kept going back to it. And it worked for us basically the whole game so we didn’t feel a need to get away from it.”
Brandon Roda, a sophomore, used the inside counter to trot for 39, 68 and 55 yards later in the game. The 68- and 55-yarders were Brandon Roda’s second and third touchdowns of the game, while his 39-yard carry was followed two plays later by a Dylan Carpin one-yard touchdown.
“We apparently didn’t see it coming,” Gunther said about the inside counter play.
Though the Braves scored first, the Bears (3-6) came back with a pair of touchdowns by Josh Reinke, who amassed 179 yards on 27 touches. Reinke scored from 34 yards away before Union City recovered a fumble ahead of Reinke’s 18-yard TD.
The Braves returned the favor with four unanswered touchdowns, starting with Carpin’s one-yarder. Brandon Roda’s senior brother Justyn got in the action during the second quarter, scoring twice from 10 and 25 yards away. Those scores, coupled with Brandon Roda’s 68-yarder, made it 36-12 Braves at halftime.
Iroquois’ final touchdown of the half was aided by a bad snap on Union City’s punt with a minute left in the second quarter. Reinke recovered to complete a pass to Brett Reynolds for a five-yard loss, but Justyn Roda quickly scored on the first play from scrimmage.
Reinke’s pass to Reynolds was the only completion through the air in the game during a rainy night.
Only two touchdowns were scored during the second half — UC quarterback Brody Mangel on a 25-yarder and Brandon Roda from 55 yards away — but numerous penalties on Iroquois were what stood out during the final 24 minutes of the game.
The Braves committed nine penalties for 112 yards in the game, including six 15-yard yard calls for unsportsmanlike conduct or a personal foul.
“We’re going to do a little physical exercise (today),” Drozdowski said. “They were kind of thoughtless penalties where they should have just kept their mouth closed and they wouldn’t have had them. We work on that with the kids all the time, trying to teach them about sportsmanship and we’ll do some more work with that.”
The Bears, however, never retaliated.
“I’m proud of the class that our kids showed,” Gunther said. “There was an awful lot of extracurricular activity and I thought our kids did a great job.”
Shane Russell added 83 hard-earned yards on 17 carries for Union City. Mangel also gained 75 yards on 12 attempts but was 0-for-7 passing the ball.
Union City, which had to forfeit a game and once played with as few as 16 players this season, will close out the regular season against Corry (7-2) next week.
Iroquois will now play Lakeview, which is expected to be the No. 4 team out of Region 1 for the Class A playoffs. West Middlesex wrapped up the Region 1 championship with a 41-6 victory over the Sailors.
If Iroquois makes the playoffs, it will play West Middlesex in two weeks.
“It feels really good,” Drozdowski said. “We played an excellent first half. The only thing I was disappointed in was our kids got several unnecessary penalties. That frustrated us quite a bit in the second half. But I am glad that we won and we’ll just have to wait to hear now if we’re going to be in (the playoffs) or not.”