October 24th 2020
Bob Wine Field
D7 Region 25
Lucas pounds McDonald to reach Elite Eight
By Larry Phillips of Richland Source
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LUCAS -- The Lucas Cubs are headed for the Division VII regional championship football game for a third straight season. But that barely passes for news these days with this traditional powerhouse.
How they did it was the story, and this time the Cubs authored a unique tale while crafting a 27-14 victory over McDonald on Friday night. The ground-and-pound menu coach Scott Spitler usually orders from yielded to a surprisingly electric air attack that was too much for the sixth-seeded Blue Devils to handle.
Sophomore quarterback Andrew Smollen connected on 6-of-10 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns to shock the visitors and send Lucas to its fourth Elite Eight in six years.
"They were packing the box and we have really good athletes," Smollen said. "It started with the offensive line. They gave me plenty of time and I just got (our guys) the ball and they did the rest."
Lucas took the opening kick and drove inside the McDonald 5 before getting turned away on downs.
're going to have to have a great week of practice," Smollen said.
Pumped by that momentum, the Blue Devils (7-2) moved off their own goal line and running back Nathan Gilligan streaked away for a 73-yard touchdown bolt with 5:56 showing in the first period. But that 7-0 advantage was the only time McDonald would be on top all night.
The Cubs (7-2) immediately responded on the ensuing drive, keyed by a 3rd-and-15 screen pass that went for 55 yards to Ethan Wallace. Andrew Fanello blasted over from 2 yards away and Aidan Culler's PAT tied the game at 7-7 with 3:32 showing in the first period.
The Lucas defense looked dominant the rest of the half, while Smollen and the passing game (yes, the passing game) took over from there.
First the poised sophomore looped a 20-yard TD pass to Ethan Sauder with 3:42 to play in the half and Culler's extra point gave the Cubs their first lead at 14-7.
"I saw Sauder breaking and I knew he had a little bit of space on (the defender)," Smollen said. "I just threw it up and I knew he was going to make a play because he's a great athlete."
McDonald was quickly forced to punt and the hosts took over at their own 34. Two completions later the ball was at the 49 when Smollen spotted Connor Harper racing down the middle of the field on a post pattern, leaving a defender in his wake. Smollen rifled a spiral that Harper speared by his fingertips and flew all the way home for a score that gutted the Blue Devils' spirit.
"Teams aren't expecting us to throw on them, so when we throw a long pass for a touchdown, it's kind of heartbreaking," Smollen said. "They're used to Lucas going three yards a play and going right down your throat -- and we got a touchdown on one play. I think it was heartbreaking for them."
McDonald opened the second half with another long drive, but got turned away on a tipped pass that Logan Toms' intercepted at the Lucas 10.
The second-seeded Cubs clinched the game on Ethan Sauder's 29-yard TD dash early in the fourth period for a 27-7 bulge.
Logan Hawk's 6-yard touchdown run with 3:41 remaining was too little, too late for the Blue Devils.
"Obviously we're pretty happy," Smollen said. (McDonald is) a good team and that's a good win for us."
McDonald quarterback Dominic Schadl ran 32 times for 77 yards and completed 5-of-7 passes for 64 yards. Gilligan racked up 81 yards rushing on 5 carries. But that was the extent of the Blue Devils' attack.
Typically, Lucas imposes its will on the ground. But with Harper's three catches for 56 yards, and Sauder's two grabs for 31 yards combining with the big play early by Wallace, the Cubs were too quick-strike to bother with the methodical approach.
This marked the second year in a row Lucas ended McDonald's playoff hopes. The Cubs dismissed the Blue Devils 21-20 in overtime last fall by breaking up a would-be game-winning two-point conversion pass in overtime.
This victory was nowhere near that dramatic, but no less sweet.
Lucas hits the road next week to face top-seeded Warren JFK (7-2). The Eagles beat fourth-seeded Dalton 28-18 on Friday night.
"I know they're a good team and we