TALLMADGE - Looking into the dark hallway that lead to the Tallmadge Blue Devils’ locker room, all you could see was the glimpse of a massive player walking in in a soak-stained and grass-stained uniform.
That massive player was 6-foot-6, 290-pound offensive lineman Joe Lowery, who verbally committed to Ohio University but has interests from Illinois and Ohio State.
Lowery looked exhausted.
That’s because he and every other player on that field battled a ``12th-man,’’ The Heat.
What resulted in yet another ``Cramp Bowl’’ between these two teams, Tallmadge managed to dominate the 2013 version by a commanding 26-3.
No one was exempt as the game was stopped 13 times with players battling leg cramps.
``It was frustrating,’’ Tallmadge coach Joe Vassalotti said about so many of his players falling victim to leg cramps. I felt like we conditioned hard all week and stayed hydrated. Coming into the game, I worried that it might me hot and humid and it was.’’
That may have been the case but the Blue Devils (1-0) controlled the game from start to finish, with Vassalotti’s son, Joseph, a 1-2, 190, junior, looking poised in his first-ever start.
The young quarterback was only 5-of-14 but threw for 115 yards, including a perfectly thrown 62-yard strike to Jim Aumont, which gave Tallmadge a 16-0 lead with :52 seconds left before halftime. (The extra-point attempt was missed.)
``He did a lot of good things,’’ Coach Vassalotti said about his son. ``He got us in the endzone. There’s still some stuff he has to work on but our offensive line did a nice job of control things.’’
Ravenna, meanwhile, did stay close in the first half. The Ravens (0-1) held Tallmadge to just three points in the first quarter, on a 31-yard field goal by senior kicker Justin Stevenor. The Blue Devils pushed the score to 10-0 on Joseph Vassalloti’s 1-yard run with 4:16 remaining before halftime.
Despite being down 16-0 at halftime, Ravenna coach Joe Lunardi felt like his team was still in the game.
``Joe (Vassalotti) has a nice team and we battled there for awhile,’’ Lunardi said. ``They had some breaks go their way in the second half and we didn’t.’’
Tallmadge added a 35-yard field goal by Stevenor with 8:03 left in the third quarter for a 19-0 lead. Ben Morgan kicked and a 29-yard field goal with 6:18 left in the game for Ravenna’s only points.
The Blue Devils added a 2-yard touchdown by Davis Moore with less than two minutes remaining for the final points.
Tallmadge senior running back Bobby Clark had a game-high 114 yards on 22 carries.
In the loss, Linardi said he was pleased by the way his young team competed. Last season, he lost 20 seniors to graduation and the year before, he lost 21 to graduation.
```We have a lot of young kids getting experience and I’m encouraged,’’ Lunardi said.
It was a solid win for Lowery and the Blue Devils for many reasons. First, the defense contained Ravenna’s dangerous senior running back Demetrius Fear. He finished with 50 yards rushing.
Second, Lowery was returning from surgery in July to repair a sports hernia and torn tendon and he passed the test.
``I just started running (last) Saturday and my first practice in full pads was Tuesday.’’
That might explain why Lowery was so broken down, as he made his way into the lockeroom after the game. But he, and his team, rose to the occasion.
NEXT UP: Tallmadge plays at Ellet and Ravenna plays at Aurora.
- David Lee Morgan Jr.