There were plenty of coaching points for Cuyahoga Falls football in a 35-12 loss on the road at Twinsburg to kick off the league campaign, but there were also some bright spots.
Both teams featured injured quarterbacks and each of the new signal callers held their own for the most part in the Suburban League National Conference opener Sept. 14.
Falls showed some fight and resiliency in the loss to a Tiger club that has talent from a 4-6 club in 2017. The locals also made some costly errors in a game that featured some big plays.
"The scoreboard did not turn out well for us, but there were some positives and I was proud of the kids’ resiliency," pointed out head coach Shane Parker.
"Our guys rolled with the punches and kept competing," added the coach.
Max Brazie made his first varsity start at quarterback for Twinsburg and helped the Tigers with 9-of-19 passing for 116 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He also had 34 yards rushing and one TD.
"They scored on two blown coverages and there were a few missed executions that could have made things close," said Parker.
With nagging injuries for senior QB Tyler Vassalotti (hamstring, groin), rangy junior Braunavan Arsenault made his second career varsity start and had his moments.
Arsenault tossed two touchdown passes and was intercepted three times while rushing for 31 yards.
Junior tailback Robert Graves also shined as he led Falls with 137 yards rushing on 23 totes, and had a 65-yard TD run negated due to a penalty.
"They both showed moments of greatness," said Parker. "I was happy with the way we played in the trenches because we wanted to take some pressure off of our young quarterback (Arsenault)."
"Tyler is a competitor and he wants to be out there – he just has a lot of heart and desire, but it is nice to have two quarterbacks," the coach added.
Led by a monster performance by bookend senior defensive ends Aiden Malenchek and Rashad Jonesland, Twinsburg’s defense created turnovers.
"Jonesland is a player and we knew their ends were strong, but overall, I was very pleased with our line play.
Falls’ defense held Twinsburg to just 258 yards and 12 first downs.
After the teams traded interceptions, including a pick by Tiger corner Emile Levert, Malenchek sacked Arsenault at the Twinsburg 45 to thwart a drive.
Sophomore Isaiah Campbell picked off Brazie at the Falls 25 to stop the Tigers, but the Falls drive saw Graves explode for a 65-yard TD run, but it was called back due to a holding penalty.
Twinsburg (2-2) responded with a 14-play, 80-yard scoring drive as Marvahun Johnson scored up the middle on 15-yard TD burst.
Brazie started on a short field and made it 14-0 with a 5-yard bootleg left as he was untouched at the 6:10 mark.
After Twinsburg fumbled on a punt return, Black Tiger senior Eric Rosiak recovered at the 45 and did manage a drive to the Tiger 35 in the second period, but a low snap to Arsenault led to a 12-yard loss on fourth-and-2 with 1:43 left.
Senior Jordan Williams had a huge sack for Parker to stop a Tiger drive, but another mistake and turnover gave the ball right back on the next play.
Malenchek, 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, recovered a fumbled exchange by Falls at the 27-yard line, which led to a 22-yard TD pass from Brazie to Jameel Banks with 10:23 left to make it 21-0.
Falls later answered with a 4-plus minute, 75-yard scoring drive when Daizhaun Brazile snagged a tipped pass from Arsenault on a 4-yard touchdown.
Twinsburg blocked the PAT attempt as it was 21-6 with 2:41 left, but the Falls was offense moved the ball well thanks to big runs by Graves (27 yards) and Arsenault (21 yards). Rosiak also had a nice 7-yard catch.
Then Twinsburg alertly recovered the football on a short, squib kick on the ensuing kickoff.
Three plays later, Brazie connected with Banks on a 44-yard TD pass play up the middle of the field to make it 28-6 with 1:21 left.
Tiger safety Gilbert Campbell then struck with a 52-yard interception return for Twinsburg to make it 35-6 to start the fourth quarter, but the Black Tigers continued to fight.
Brazile caught a 17-yard TD strike from Arsenault to cut the lead to 35-12 with 9:56 left. The drive was keyed by some nifty running by Graves. A 2-point pass failed for Falls.
"Our kids battled back, we just made plays that came too late," said the coach. "We had some things to celebrate and we just need to keep working."
Junior Hunter Stanley then recovered the Falls onside kick to give the Black Tigers some momentum with 9:53 remaining.
The Black Tigers moved into Tiger territory, but a sack by Malenchek was followed by an interception by safety James Besett near the sideline with 8:11 left.
Brazile finished with four catches for 38 yards and two TD’s while sophomore Christian Casto added four catches for 11 yards. Junior Alex Rowan had two receptions for 20 yards.
Parker is looking for even more strides in the home league test against Brecksville (0-4) Sept. 21.