LINESVILLE — Friday evening began with a touchdown for one very important member of the Conneaut football team.
And it ended with a water bucket shower for another.
In between, CASH (2-1) roughed up visiting non-region opponent North East 52-12.
“It was a great team win,” said CASH receiver Nathan Bortnick. “Everyone came out and had a lot of energy. Everyone especially had a lot of energy for Kyle, because football means a lot to to him. And we all wanted to win this game for him.”
Kyle is Kyle Fischer, a junior at Conneaut who has been battling with muscular dystrophy.
“He came up to me two yeas ago and said, ‘Can I be on the football team? Do you have something I can do?’” said Eagles head coach Pat Gould. “I said, ‘Heck yeah. We can find something.’
“So, he was our end zone camera guy for the last two years.”
Before last night’s game, the Conneaut offense lined up with a suited-up Fischer in the backfield and North East defending. He was handed the pigskin and then rolled his powered wheelchair to daylight.
“(North East) was great about it,” said Gould. “They set up the defense for us and they were diving after him. It was fantastic. The student body was in the corner of the end zone and they were all cheering for him.
“The kids love him. He’s one of us. He breaks them down a lot. He comes to practice and tells us what we’re doing wrong.
“It was a great night for Kyle Fischer. It brought tears to my eyes, I know that for sure.”
Gould had even more to get emotional about later, as last night’s win was the 100th for his career. And the 15-year veteran dutifully withstood an ice water dousing by a couple of his players after the game.
“I’ve known (Gould) my whole life,” said junior lineman Trevor Tursky. “He’s a great guy. He cares so much about all of us. And he’s doing great work for this school. He’s like a father figure, honestly. He’s a good man. And he teaches us to be good men.”
Sandwiched between those touching moments was a football game. And, especially in the first half, it was all about the Eagles.
They rang up 474 yards and scored on all seven of their possessions in the half.
“They’re really starting to play well,” Gould said about his squad. “They’re starting to show that confidence that we were looking for four or five weeks ago. We know that the conference grind is coming up. And we have to continue to play hard and just keep believing. And if they do that, and back each other up, we’re going to be in a lot of football games.
Quarterback Tanner Niemann had another outstanding performance, completing 15 of 21 passes for 229 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 130 yards and another TD, all in the first half.
“We have Tanner in the backfield, and he’s just amazing at scrambling and throwing,” said Tursky.
Niemann started the scoring with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Eli Boyce on the Eagles’ first drive. Niemann later finished off a drive with a one-yard dive for six more points.
In the second quarter, he threw back-to-back touchdown tosses to Noah Richardson — the first for 13 yards, and the second for 61, as Richardson caught the ball over the middle of the field and then streaked down the left sideline past the North East defense.
Finally, on the last play of the half, Niemann threw a jump ball into the end zone. Bortnick fought off a defender in midair and, after they both landed, wrested the ball away for the TD.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that will go up and make plays,” said Bortnick. “And I knew I had to get up there and make a play for my team. So that’s what I did. I jumped for it and came down with the football.”
Richardson finished the night with six catches for 108 yards. He also rushed the ball three times for 19 yards, including a two-yard touchdown run.
Bortnick followed with four catches for 60 yards. Boyce brought in three receptions for 35 yards.
Running back Devin Neal added a nine-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. He finished the game with 81 yards on eight carries.
North East, meanwhile, was led by quarterback Keyen Skrekla. He completed 20 of 34 passes for 240 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown connection with Brandon Perez. That broke up CASH’s shutout in the second quarter and trimmed the Eagles’ lead to 46-6.
Skrekla also ran in a one-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Skrekla was picked off once by CASH’s Braden Groover.
The Grapepickers’ leading receiver was Dylan Sayers, who had five catches for 82 yards. His longest reception of the night was a 52-yarder at the start of the second quarter. Richardson stopped Sayers from getting in the end zone, chasing him down at the 1-yard-line. The Grapepickers (0-3) had four attempts at the end zone, but the CASH defense kept them out.