A Closer Look: One Play Can Change a Playoff Game

Playoffs – what fun! Of course we cheer for all our local teams to do well which allows us to be biased (usually a big no-no for radio broadcasters), unless two local teams are playing each other. Then, unfortunately, one has to lose. As usual, we were blessed to have many area teams make the playoffs and still have many playing in round two this Friday.
The WHBC radio crew was at Fairless for the Pac 7 rematch with Orrville. In the regular season Fairless won big but we all new this one would not be that easy for the Falcons. Indeed, they were down 22-12 at halftime. Whatever Head Coach AJ Sarbaugh and the other coaches said at halftime worked in a big way! The Falcons came out and played really well in all phases and won going away by outscoring Orrville 35-0 in the 2 nd half.
Several plays helped turn the tide but one in particular caught my eye. In the 3 rd quarter with Fairless nursing a small lead, Coach AJ called a halfback pass. This is how it went. The ball was on Orrville’s 24 yard line and I believe it was 2 nd down and 10. Taking the snap from center, QB Carson Colucci gave the ball to Brody Pumneo on a sweep around the right end. Brody tucked the ball under his right arm and began to run hard as his teammates blocked, even Luke Yoder, the wide receiver, (hold that thought) so
he could gain yards. All of this made complete sense – Pumneo running the ball in the red zone on 2 nd – 10, his teammates blocking hard – and the defense reacted to get to Pumneo and tackle him. What happened next surprised the defense and everyone in the stadium except the Falcon coaches and players. Yoder, after blocking his man, released and ran toward the endzone. Pumneo, after looking every bit the runner, pulled up and threw a pass to Yoder who ran into the endzone completely untouched for a TD. That put Fairless up by more than one score and the route was on. Keys to this play being successful are many. One, the element of surprise – when and where the play was called made the appearance of a running play very believable. Two, the players “selling” the run and not tipping off it was a trick play. Three, execution – the players did just what they were taught and how they practiced it. The players that were asked to block did, the throw was on target and the receiver caught it – Touchdown!

Some call these type of plays “trick plays”, or “flea flickers”. Teams I played and coached usually called them “deceptives” because they are solid, well-practiced plays that are designed to making the defense think one thing is happening when actually something very different occurs – meant to ‘deceive’ the defense. This play may not have won the game but after it occurred, everyone in the stadium knew Fairless was going to win their very first home playoff game ever. Congrats to the Falcons and especially to AJ Sarbaugh who tied Ron Rankin and Don Wilson as the winningest coach ever at Fairless with 31 wins in just 4 years. Also, congrats to Massillon’s Nate Moore who with the Tigers’ win over Perry tied Paul Brown with 80 wins.
Now it’s on to round #2!