Gahanna building strong bonds
The memories senior nose guard Granyl Smith of the Gahanna Lincoln High School football team has of the 2010 season aren’t something he’s forgotten, although in some ways he’d like to.
That season, even closing on a three-game winning streak wasn’t enough to salvage a winning record.
For Smith, the personality of the Lions’ current defensive unit doesn’t resemble the one that struggled two years ago – on the field or in the locker room.
“My sophomore year, we still had some bad apples who didn’t really care that much about the team, and our 5-5 record showed it,” Smith said. “Last year, we came together like we are now.”
Smith and senior middle linebacker Mitchell Rowell, both of whom have started every game since week one of the 2010 season, led a defense that helped Gahanna beat DeSales 13-10 in three overtimes in the opener Aug. 24.
The Lions travel Friday, Aug. 31, to Strongsville for a rematch of a game they won 31-0 a year ago.
“We just have more of a brotherhood together,” Smith said. “We actually bonded together more at the end (of the DeSales game). There were times when Mitchell Rowell and I would talk and one of us would go for the quarterback and the other would go for their running back.”
Gahanna, which opened last season with a 31-14 win over DeSales and went on to finish 8-3 and make its first Division I playoff appearance since 2007, limited the Stallions’ option offense to 108 total yards.
Stallions quarterback Alex Perrine was 8-for-13 passing for 71 yards and a first-quarter touchdown, but he rushed for just 3 yards on 25 attempts. Running back J.T. Blubaugh was held to 36 yards on 17 carries. DeSales’ longest run from scrimmage was 10 yards.
Rowell had 19 tackles, five tackles for losses and two sacks. Smith added 12 tackles, five tackles for losses, three sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Among other standouts on defense for Gahanna in the opener, according to coach John Snoad, were senior end Colin Blaney and seniors Malon Smith and Parker Cavendish in the secondary.
“Granyl Smith really was all over the place, and Mitchell Rowell was amazing,” Snoad said. “I thought our secondary played pretty well overall. Offensively, we did move the ball, but we turned the ball over five times and they turned it over two times. Our defense absolutely carried us.
“(Rowell) read everything really well and was physical. He just played a great football game. I thought they all really played up to their potential.”
Rowell agreed that the Lions’ physical play got the better of the Stallions.
That’s a characteristic that could help Gahanna against Strongsville, which according to Snoad has an offensive line that averages more than 240 pounds.
Another player for the Mustangs who impresses Snoad is tight end and defensive end Tony Kapferer.
Strongsville finished 1-9 a year ago and lost 49-21 to Mentor Lake Catholic in its opener Aug. 24.
With the Mustangs losing 28-0 in the second quarter, senior Ryland Puzzitiello was replaced at quarterback by sophomore Bobby Cole, who completed 15 of 24 passes for 223 yards and one touchdown.
Running back Dustin Stout rushed for 64 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries.
“They’re a really dangerous team,” Snoad said. “They’re a pretty aggressive team, so we’ve got to get better to win this game. We’ve got to focus and handle the trip. They’re very big and they’re huge up front. They have a lot of new faces since we played them last year. Last year we played pretty well and kept them pretty much in check defensively. They’re very, very multiple on offense.”
Gahanna finished with 281 total yards against DeSales as quarterback Alec Tuohy rushed 21 times for 84 yards and was 18-for-27 passing for 150 yards. He connected with Cavendish for a 20-yard touchdown in the third overtime to help his team escape with the victory.
“The big thing (against DeSales) was that we were aggressive in the box,” Rowell said. “We were just a lot more physical than them. I think we were all just happy and exhausted when it was over because we’d tied up the series 2-2 (over the last four seasons).”