Dylan Gilsdorf rolled left, threw back to the middle of the field and found Josh Vance for the game winning score in the thrilling season opener. The 12-yard touchdown with just three seconds remaining gave Swanton a 34-29 victory over Rossford at David Hansbarger Stadium Friday.
“Actually, that wasn’t the play design at all,” said Swanton coach Randy Kerns. “That route was designed to get Michael (Lawniczak) the ball in the flat – if he makes a move and scores, great, but if not, we were very comfortable setting up a winning field goal from a short distance. That play completely turned into Dylan and Josh being the athletes they are and making a heck of a play.”
Swanton led most of the second half, but Rossford came back and a late score left the home Bulldogs in danger of dropping the opener.
Trailing 27-17 early in the fourth quarter, Rossford faced a third and goal from the 16-yard line. Quarterback Kyle Kromenacker found Cam Reynolds for a touchdown. Lawniczak blocked the extra point try but Rossford cut the lead to 27-23 with 11:06 to play.
After a few punts, Rossford took possession at their own 39 with under four minutes to play. Kromenacker led Rossford with his arm and feet down to the Swanton 9-yard line with under two minutes left.
A sack forced Rossford into a second and goal from the 19-yard line but Kromenacker found Reynolds for their fourth touchdown of the game. The extra point was no good but Rossford led 29-27 with just 1:19 to play.
Hunter Mix returned a squib kick to the Swanton 43, where they started the game winning drive. Two Gilsdorf runs helped Swanton get to the Rossford 37 before a pass interference call moved the ball inside the 25 with under 20 seconds remaining.
Another Gilsdorf run put the ball at the 12-yard line and set up the winning score.
“Overall, I’m happy with a win. Our kids were resilient, and left it all out there,” said Kerns. “I was disappointed with our physicality in the second half, I thought we ‘caught’ things on both sides of the ball and lost our edge and aggressiveness from the first half. We also lost discipline in many of our assignments at times. But give all credit to Rossford – that’s an explosive team with great coaches and a QB and WR that are as good or better than any we’ll face all season. A win over a quality team like that, I’ll take it any way we can.”
Swanton trailed 7-3 after one quarter, but stormed back to take the lead behind the running of Tyler Gowing. In a two play drive early in the second, Gowing had a run of 27 yards and a 20-yard touchdown run up the middle to put Swanton ahead.
Rossford responded with a field goal to tie the game, but on the first play of Swanton’s next drive Gowing exploded for 39 yards. He eventually finished the drive with a four-yard score, giving Swanton a 17-10 lead.
Rossford drove down to the 14-yard line before a big play by Xavier Williams stopped the drive. He stripped the ball and returned it into Rossford territory.
However, Williams was injured on the play and missed the remainder of the game.
“Xavier going down hurt us exponentially on both sides of the ball. His leadership and experience on this team is invaluable, so when he went out, it really hurt,” said Kerns. “However, nothing is broken. He has a shoulder injury and we’re hoping to get him back in a few weeks.”
Swanton did take advantage of the turnover, as Riley Hensley kicked his second field goal of the game, giving the home Bulldogs a 20-10 halftime lead.
Reynolds and Lawniczak traded third quarter touchdowns to set up the exciting fourth quarter.
Lawniczak and Gowing each eclipsed 100 yards rushing for Swanton.
Kromenacker passed for 234 yards and ran for 109 for Rossford.
Swanton will host Division I Start from the Toledo City League on Friday and should have a lot to work on this week in practice.
”We have a ton to improve upon. Not having a jamboree, and being off for two weeks, really showed I thought,” said Kerns. “We have to do a better job playing our keys and getting our eyes where they need to be defensively, and we have to play with more physicality for a full game. We also must tackle better in the open field, which is a chore against a team like Rossford and this week’s opponent.”
Reach Drew Stambaugh at 419-335-2010