When it comes to the final two games, the message is simple.
"You have eight quarters left to play with your best friends," Tallmadge first-year head football coach Mike Hay recently said to his players.
Such a positive message is certainly comforting, but not much has gone right for the Blue Devils this fall.
Tallmadge lost its sixth consecutive game after falling to host Copley 35-7 last Friday. With the loss, the Blue Devils dropped to 1-7 overall and 0-4 in the Suburban League American Conference.
The Indians (2-6, 1-3), who ended a five-game losing streak, had a 21-7 lead at halftime. Copley put it away with 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.
The Indians set the tone for what was to come on the first possession of the game.
The Blue Devils had a promising drive until a negative play put the brakes on the possession. Thus, Tallmadge had to punt and the Indians took advantage by returning the punt for a touchdown.
"I want to say they [the Indians] had the ball on our side of the 50 eight or nine times," Hay said. "If you give up touchdowns on defense and special teams, you don’t win a lot. They [the Indians] had a bunch of big returns all night. We didn’t stay in our lanes and we missed tackles."
Tallmadge got its lone touchdown with less than three minutes left in the first half. Quarterback Ty Hurst completed a 67-yard scoring pass to Evan Teeling. Hurst finished with 151 yards passing, but he also threw two interceptions.
"I thought Ty did a good job," Hay said. "He faced a lot of pressure. Even though he took a few shots, he still delivered the ball downfield."
Teeling, who caught his school-record eighth touchdown pass, finished with five receptions for 129 yards. On defense, he also had an interception that took place at his own 1-yard line with Copley up 21-7 in the third quarter.
"Evan has had a very good attitude and he played very, very well," Hay said.
The Blue Devils finished with just 24 yards in 22 rushing attempts.
Hay had high praise for Drew Cross, who once was the team’s starting quarterback. Due to some missing bodies, Tallmadge was undermanned on the offensive line. Cross, who never played in the trenches, decided to give it a go at center.
"I’m proud of Drew’s attitude, sacrifice and selflessness to the team," Hay said.
Tallmadge is scheduled to host American Conference rival Barberton this Friday at Blue Devils Stadium. The Blue Devils are set to conclude their season against Highland Nov. 1 at North Gateway Tire Field in Granger Township.
"It’s not easy to stay motivated in these situations," Hay said. "The majority of kids have a very positive outlook. You just have to throw the record out the window and play these last two games with effort and attitude. I expect the kids to do that. We had a good practice [Tuesday]. The kids are engaged. They want to leave a positive stamp on the season."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.