ROCKY RIVER — If you yearn for spiritual satisfaction, the No. 3 may represent divine wholeness, completeness and perfection.
Pardon the members of the Tallmadge football team if they vehemently disagree.
The Blue Devils fell to 1-5 in 2019 after losing to host Rocky River 33-22 Friday.
Three turned out to be a ghastly number for Tallmadge, which entered the game with … three straight losses.
Not only did the Blue Devils give up 33 points, they had passes intercepted on their — wait for it — first three possessions.
As a result, Tallmadge found itself down 23-0 before its players even got their feet wet.
Thus, the Blue Devils, who had their best rushing performance of the season, couldn’t overcome a … three-score deficit.
"Interceptions killed us," Hay said. "The game plan was to run the ball. We had four offensive-line penalties on the first three possessions. All of a sudden you’re throwing the ball … and it’s to the wrong team."
Tallmadge had — you guessed it — three false-start penalties that put the ball well behind the yard-marker sticks. The Blue Devils also lost 15 yards, thanks to a costly chop block.
Therefore, Tallmadge was forced to launch the pigskin rather than carry it. The results proved to be disastrous.
Charlie Hudson got the first of his two picks for Rocky River on the opening drive of the game and Cristain Dean intercepted two passes on back-to-back possessions.
Once those turnovers took place, the Blue Devils might have been better off conceding the first 23 points.
That’s because the Pirates made quick work once their offense got the ball.
After Hudson’s first interception, Rocky River quarterback Braedon Spies completed a 25-yard touchdown pass to Cristain.
It was Cristain’s turn to raise havoc on Tallmadge’s next possession.
Cristain intercepted a pass and then had his named called on the next play as he caught a 64-yard TD pass from Spies.
Cristain did the honors himself on his next touch.
Once again, the senior standout picked off another pass and turned it into six points with a 46-yard return.
Just like that, the Pirates had a 23-0 lead. Amazingly, though, the Blue Devils scratched and clawed their way back into the game.
Tallmadge stayed away from risky tosses in the middle of the field and eventually got on the board with a 13-play, 64-yard scoring drive.
The Blue Devils converted two fourth downs during the possession. The first was a 26-yard run on a fake punt by Brandon Heigelmann. The next one was a 13-yard pass from backup quarterback Ty Hurst to Nate Amato on fourth-and-4. That put the ball at Rocky River’s 1-yard line and tailback Jesse Kanatzar took charge from there as he plunged into the end zone on the next play. Kanatzar, who gained a season-high 148 yards on 32 carries, also ran in the 2-point conversion.
"Coming in, we challenged our offensive line," Hay said. "We were going to run the ball. I thought we did. It’s a testament to their work ethic and their attitudes."
Unfortunately for Hay and Co., another big play by the Pirates crushed Tallmadge’s newfound momentum.
Rocky River struck again on the next possession, thanks to two fourth-down conversions, including a 45-yard TD run by Tony Bebie on fourth-and-5.
However, Tallmadge got a critical score late in the half. The possession should have ended before the Blue Devils reached the end zone.
That’s because Hudson got his second pick of the game on a fourth-down pass. However, Hudson lost the ball as he tried to gain extra yardage and Tallmadge got the ball back at the Pirates’ 23.
The Blue Devils took advantage of their golden opportunity and Kanatzar punched it into the end zone from a yard away. Tallmadge had an incomplete pass on the 2-point conversion, but the margin was down to 16 (30-14) with 47 seconds left until halftime.
The Blue Devils got eight more points on their first possession of the second half. Tallmadge recovered its onside kick to open the second half and turned that into a six-play, 47-yard scoring drive.
Hurst put the finishing touches on the possession when he completed a 19-yard TD pass to Evan Teeling. Kanatzar ran in the 2-point conversion and the Blue Devils, whose hopes seemed crushed in the opening quarter, were down just eight (30-22).
However, Tallmadge couldn’t create any more magic the rest of the way. Rocky River made it a two-score game (33-22) when Owen Bebie gave his team — drumroll, please — three more points. His 30-yard field goal went through the uprights with a little less than, of course, three minutes left.
The Pirates then forced a turnover on downs that allowed them to run the clock out.
"These are never-say-die kids," Hay said. "Even after [the field goal], we still had a chance to come back and win this thing."
Although there were some costly infractions that moved the ball in the wrong direction, Hay had high praise for his offensive line. Thanks to Ben Blankenship, Eli Zander, Caiden McCullough, Jake Spataro, Joey Bowman and Nate Amato, whose touches were limited because of a ligament issue in his thumb, the Blue Devils ran for a season-high 184 yards.
Tallmadge actually outgained Rocky River (263-241) and had a nearly two-to-one advantage in time of possession. But the Blue Devils committed eight penalties for 75 yards. And of course, Tallmadge had four interceptions.
In other words, the Blue Devils struggled to execute in all phases of the game. By the way, there are … three of them.
"The plays were there to be made," Hay said. "We just didn’t make them. The defense didn’t do its job; the offense didn’t do its job. As it turned out, special teams didn’t do their job. It was a full team effort, coaches included."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, email@example.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.