Wadsworth quarterback Trey Shaffer (7) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown against Medina during the first quarter. (RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE)
WADSWORTH — The Wadsworth football team won’t face another Medina County school in the regular season, but the Grizzlies staked a very strong claim to being the best squad in the area Friday night at Art Wright Memorial Stadium.
Behind a phenomenal defensive effort led by linebacker Mason McMillen and an opportunistic passing game spearheaded by quarterback Trey Shaffer, the Grizzlies led from start to finish in downing Medina 28-7 in non-league play.
“I’ve never been more prepared for a game in my life,” said the 6-foot, 206-pound McMillen, who had a sack among his 4ﾽ tackles for loss. “All week our coaches had us going over the stuff they ran.
“We knew how big of a game this was. We wanted to run the county. We were saying in here (in the locker room) that this is Wadsworth County.”
Given that Highland already has beat Brunswick, Medina beat Highland and Wadsworth (3-0) beat the Bees (2-1) convincingly, there can’t be much argument that the Grizzlies are the top team in the county right now.
Coach Justin Todd’s troops controlled play by holding Medina to 84 yards on 50 plays, including minus-22 yards rushing on 23 attempts. Bees quarterback Ryan Fischer was 9-for-27 passing for 106 yards and was intercepted by Noah Alic and Jack Grice.
“Going into this, we knew how much this game meant,” said Grizzlies defensive end Beau Casey, who had two sacks. “They’re our biggest rival. We had to stay strong on defense.”
Wadsworth wasn’t lights out offensively, finishing with 277 yards on 65 plays, but Shaffer made every important play while completing 20-of-29 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for another score.
The junior’s 1-yard run after a great fake to running back Brock Snowball (15 carries, 57 yards) opened the scoring with 1:39 left in the opening period, and his 17-yard pass to a wide-open Carson Risher (6 catches, 54 yards) put the Grizzlies up 14-0 at the 7:52 mark of the second.
After Medina made it 14-7 on a beautiful 22-yard pass down the right sideline from Fischer to Chris Kelly (6 catches, 79 yards), Shaffer again hit a wide-open Risher, this time from 15 yards, to make it 21-7 at halftime. That score came one play after a questionable fourth-and-2 pass interference call on Medina.
“They came ready to play and we didn’t,” Bees coach Larry Laird said. “That’s what it comes down to, and that’s on me.”
Medina, which punted eight times on the night and gave Wadsworth the ball in Bees territory four times in the first half, continually faced second-and-long and third-and-a-mile because of its inability to catch shotgun snaps from center (though at least one was high) in a game that featured light rain for the final three quarters.
Despite all that, the Bees had three chances to make things very interesting in the third period.
The first was set up by a great 46-yard kickoff return by Nick Yanky to start the second half. Starting at the Wadsworth 39-yard line, Medina had first-and-goal at the 9 and second-and-goal at the 2, but Kaedin Andrasik moved to quarterback in a stack-I formation on third down, tried to run left and was tackled for a 2-yard loss. On fourth down, Fischer’s pass was tipped and intercepted by Alic.
“It was the biggest point of the game,” McMillen said. “They came out firing. We knew if we stopped them, the momentum would be on our side.”
The Grizzlies went three-and-out and Medina got the ball back at the Wadsworth 44, but Fischer was intercepted two plays later.
Later in the quarter, Wadsworth’s Barret Labus muffed a punt and Andrasik recovered, giving the Bees a first down at the Grizzlies 32. Medina lost 5 yards on first down when it fumbled — one of six times the Bees put the ball on the ground — then threw an incompletion and suffered a 10-yard loss on a sack.
“We didn’t win on first down,” Laird said. “It came down to execution. Even in the first half, we didn’t execute.”
Wadsworth never was threatened in the fourth period, and the Grizzlies put the game out of reach when Shaffer hit Tyler Montgomery for a 37-yard TD on fourth-and-2 with 6:29 left.
The Bees got an interception from Ethan Johnson and standout defensive play from end Noah Nunn and linebackers Seth DiCola and Nathan Spatny, but their offense didn’t have much of a chance.
In addition to McMillen, Casey, Alic and Grice, the Grizzlies got a bone-crushing hit from defensive back Alec Miller that forced an incompletion and solid play from defensive back Brett Randolph. Actually, everyone on the defense played well as Medina had 37 plays go for zero or negative yardage.
“I’m loving it,” said the 6-3, 200-pound Casey, a senior playing his first year of football at any level. “It’s so much better than I could have imagined.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.
Wadsworth 28, Medina 7
MEDINA 0 7 0 0 — 7
WADSWORTH 7 14 0 7 — 28
W — Trey Shaffer 1 run (Blake Turano kick), 1:39.
W — Carson Risher 17 pass from Shaffer (Turano kick), 7:52.
M — Chris Kelly 22 pass from Ryan Fischer (Jake Vogrin kick), 5:47.
W — Risher 15 pass from Shaffer (Turano kick), 1:04.
W — Tyler Montgomery 37 pass from Shaffer (Turano kick), 6:29.