It seemed inevitable that all the fumbles were going to haunt the Tallmadge football team.
Unfortunately for Ravenna, its one mishandling of the pigskin may haunt the Ravens for several days.
The Blue Devils earned a hard-fought 31-20 victory over host Ravenna Aug. 29 at Portage Community Bank Stadium.
Although it coughed up the ball four times, Tallmadge recovered three of those fumbles.
The Ravens, who had two passes picked off, lost their only fumble in the fourth quarter.
On third and one from Tallmadge’s 31-yard line, quarterback Joseph Vassalotti picked up a crucial first down with an eight-yard run.
But there was a small problem.
Ravenna’s Dejuan Barfield had the ball when the play ended.
The Ravens, who rallied from a 17-7 halftime deficit, took their first lead of the game with a six-play, 39-yard scoring drive after the turnover.
Running back Warren Bradley, who was a workhorse for Ravenna with 142 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries, found the end zone on a 22-yard run.
Kicker Brady Starkey added the all-important extra point and the Ravens suddenly had a 20-17 lead with 11:52 remaining in the game.
But such momentum turned out to be short-lived.
Less than a minute later, the Blue Devils found themselves near the red zone when Vassalotti connected with wide receiver Joe Siesel on a 38-yard pass. Siesel nearly scored, but Ravenna defensive back Tony Lewis made an ankle tackle to stop Siesel’s momentum at the Ravens’ 22.
Five plays later, fullback Steve Taylor scored on a two-yard plunge to give Tallmadge the lead for good. Kicker Justin Brown added the third of his four point after tries to give the Blue Devils a 24-20 advantage with 8:48 left.
It got worse for Ravenna.
On the enusing kickoff, linebacker Dylan Conner recovered a fumble and Tallmadge put it away with a six-play, 43-yard drive to take a 31-20 lead.
Running back CJ Berg put the icing on the cake with a nine-yard TD run with 6:10 remaining.
Tallmadge opened the game with an impressive 69-yard scoring drive.
Using a combination of misdirection plays, the Blue Devils got on the board when Berg found the end zone on a 17-yard run on a second-and-15 play.
The Blue Devils’ defense also made a strong impression early.
Although Ravenna, which had its drive extended after a running-into-the-kicker penalty on fourth and six, got inside the red zone, the Blue Devils defense delivered.
Defensive back Latrele Moore broke up a pass on second down and the possession ended when Ravens quarterback Derek Cross’ pass into the end zone fell incomplete on fourth down.
Tallmadge’s next drive featured another three points and a couple of lucky bounces.
The Blue Devils put together an 11-play, 80-yard drive that ate up nearly seven minutes off the clock.
The big play was a 32-yard completion from Joseph Vassalotti to Joe Siesel that moved Tallmadge from its own 39 to Ravenna’s 29.
But the Blue Devils couldn’t get the ball in the end zone despite having three tries from the 5-yard line.
Actually, Tallmadge is lucky it got any points at all.
On two consecutive running plays, Joseph Vassalotti and Connor lost the ball on running plays. Both players recovered their fumbles and Brown booted a 19-yard field goal. That kick give the Blue Devils a 10-0 lead with 7:59 remaining the half.
The Ravens responded.
Ravenna got good field position after a short kick and then got on the board with an eight-play, 56-yard scoring drive.
Bradley got his number called on the last four plays and responded with 30 tough yards for the score.
His final run was a four-yard TD run on quick hitter. Brady Starkey added the extra point to cut Tallmadge’s lead to 10-7 with 4:28 left in the half.
The Blue Devils’ appeared to have all of the momentum late in the half.
Joseph Vassalotti completed a 32-yard TD pass to Moore with 50 seconds left to give Tallmadge a 17-7 advantage.
Ravenna made it 17-13 on its first drive of the second half when Cross reached the end zone on an 11-yard run.
Cross completed 12 of 25 passes for 165 yards and two interceptions. His favorite receiver was Rylan Notch, who had four catches for 102 yards.
Joseph Vassalotti completed 12 of 15 passes for 162 yards. Berg led the Blue Devils’ ground attack with 80 yards on 16 carries.