The Swanton football team rode a 24-point second quarter explosion and a tenacious ball-hawking defense to dismantle Archbold, 45-7, on a rain soaked field in Archbold on Friday night as both teams opened up NWOAL play.
The victory allowed the Bulldogs to remain undefeated at 4-0 on the year and prompted a memory challenging question from Swanton head coach Mike Vicars. “Who knows the last time Swanton was 4-0?” he asked. “Tim (Spiess) thinks it was somewhere in the nineties, maybe even the eighties.”
Regardless of the answer, this win was important for the Bulldogs in terms of both league standings and computer poll points with Archbold having won two of their three non-league games.
It was an anxious start for the visiting Bulldogs, being flagged for an offsides penalty on the opening kickoff and again on the Streaks’ second play from scrimmage. Archbold took advantage, picking up two first downs, the second on a Bryce Williams to Isaiah Esquibel 16 yard pass completion. But the drive came to a sudden halt when Robbie Gilsdorf intercepted a Williams pass and set the Bulldogs up with a first down at the Swanton 38 yard line.
Tim Rankin broke off a 13 yard run into Archbold territory on the Dogs’ first play and later in the drive, facing a third and 11, Bryce McComb hit Gunnar Oakes with a 14 yard pass for a key first down. Two plays later, McComb got a big block from Gilsdorf and scored from 15 yards out, splitting two defenders to penetrate the end zone. Nick Koback tacked on the extra point and the Bulldogs led 7-0 with 4:20 to go in the first quarter.
Following the kickoff the Streaks’ next possession went just three plays for negative yardage, punctuated by Dean Sego’s 14 yard sack of Archbold quarterback Gabe Petersen. The ensuing punt from the three yard line put Swanton in business with a first down at the Archbold 30. A five yard Rankin run up the middle and an 11 yard McComb to Gilsdorf pass play had the Dogs knocking on the door again but the Dogs fumbled on the next play and the Streaks recovered on their 12 yard line.
“We still showed that we’re young in the backfield with the fumbles,” said Vicars explaining the two turnovers in the game, one each by a freshman and a sophomore. “But they were the first ones we’ve had in a while.”
Two short Archbold runs ended the first quarter but on the first play of the second, Isaac Petersen broke out to the right sideline and went 82 yards past a stunned Swanton bench to the end zone, breaking several tackles along the way. Seth Mayer kicked the extra point and suddenly the game was tied 7-7.
The big play served as a wakeup call for the Bulldogs and they responded with an 11 play drive, using a punishing ground attack, running the ball on 10 of the plays with Lawniczak carrying seven of those. Gilsdorf finished the drive with an 11 yard scamper down the left side and Koback’s boot made the score 14-7.
Despite the close seven point margin and two and a half quarters still to play, the game began to unravel at this point for the Blue Streaks. On their next offensive series, a miscommunication on the snap resulted in a fumble that Swanton pounced on at the Archbold 16.
Less than two minutes later, McComb threw a short pass to Oakes on the right side and he took it in from seven yards out for the touchdown. Koback split the uprights with the PAT and Swanton led 21-7 with 4:35 remaining in the half.
By now the Bulldogs were in complete control, dominating both sides of the line of scrimmage. Archbold went three-and-out after the kickoff and Swanton took the ball at the Streaks’ 48 following a short punt. Displaying their quick strike capability, the Dogs scored on the very next play when Gilsdorf fought off a defender, hauled in a deep pass from McComb and ran across the goal line for his second score of the night. The PAT pushed the score to 28-7 with 3:25 to go.
“We’re blocking well up front. And when we need plays our receivers, Robbie and Gunnar, are making them and Bryce keeps things alive.” remarked Vicars on his team’s unstoppable offensive performance. “With kids like this you just don’t worry when things are going along.”
Just before the end of the half, Gilsdorf returned a punt 38 yards to set up a 31 yard field goal by Koback and the teams headed to the locker room with Swanton ahead 31-7.
Archbold kicked off to start the second half, then watched the Bulldogs manufacture a drive of 11 plays that ended with Gilsdorf dashing 25 yards for the touchdown that virtually sealed the outcome. The score, with the PAT added, extended the margin to 31 at 38-7 and triggered the OHSAA running clock rule for the fourth time in Swanton’s four games.
“That running clock,” said Vicars in an exasperated tone. “It costs us 30 plays a game. Not that we want to run up the score, we just want to get the other kids in.”
The rest of the game went by very quickly and Swanton added one more score on a Zack Leahey 15 yard run to make the final 45-7.
“We knew coming in they were a good team,” remarked Blue Streak coach David Dominique. “They proved they have a good defense, a good offense and a lot of tough kids. We made a lot of mistakes (five turnovers), and you can’t do that against a good team. That’s the biggest thing.”
Offensively, the Bulldogs racked up 378 yards, mostly on the ground, with McComb leading a balanced running attack with 68 yards on seven carries. Leahey followed with 65 on six and Lawniczak added 55 on 14 totes. Overall, Gilsdorf had the biggest night with 66 receiving yards, 54 rushing yards, three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions on defense.
Isaac Petersen had 84 yards on three carries and a TD for Archbold.
Both teams go on the road next week as Swanton takes on Bryan and Archbold, now 2-2, goes up against Wauseon.
Bill O’Connell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org