On Saturday, Oct. 26, the Glenville State Pioneers headed North to South Euclid, OH (just outside of Cleveland) to take on MEC opponent the Falcons of Notre Dame of Cleveland.
While the Pioneers were coming off of a win against UVA-Wise at home, GSC was still struggling to gain a road win this season, and it was not going to be easy in Ohio.
In the week preceding the game, the Notre Dame of Cleveland campus had experienced a large amount of snow, and the morning before the game, the snow had to be shoveled off the field.
"We knew the weather was going to be bad," admitted freshman quarterback Sean Steele. "We prepared in it [the cold] all week."
While the Pioneers could prepare for their opponent and the cold, there were some things they could not duplicate at practice. For the Pioneers, they were about to battle the Falcons, the cold, and some crazy winds!
The Pioneers won the toss and elected to defer to the second half. Thus, making the Falcon offense challenge the elements first.
After holding ND to short yardage on their first two plays, the Falcons attempted a lateral pass that went highly wrong. As the Falcon rusher dropped the ball, the Pioneers jumped on top of the fumble way behind the line of scrimmage to force a turnover and place the GSC offense in great field position!
Steele led the offense onto the field with the ball on the ND 14 yard line.
Steele handed the ball off to fellow freshman Seth Jordan who cut the distance in half for the Pioneers with a gain of seven yards.
While the offense lost a yard on the second down, leading rusher Rahmann Lee entered the game on the third down of the drive. Steele handed him the ball, and with ease, he carried it the eight yards for the score!
Josh Brown put the kick up into the wind and barely made it through for the extra-point, and the Pioneers took the early lead, 7-0.
The Falcons answered with a field goal scoring drive set-up by solid field placement on the kick-off. While the score put ND on the board, the Pioneers still had a slight lead, 7-3. That lead did not last long as the Pioneer defense gave up a score early in the second half, and the Falcons took over, 7-10.
As the offense continued to struggle with completion against the elements, they were set-up with perfect field positioning again midway through the second quarter.
"Our defense protected the offense, as they always do," Steele admitted.
The Notre Dame offense was preparing to again pass into Glenville territory when linebacker transfer Elijah Sala jumped into the midst of a Falcon pass for an interception.
Sala returned the interception 34 yards to the Notre Dame 13 yard line.
With Steele and the offense back on the field, they converted a quick first down with a 12-yard pass from Steele to Jordan, but Jordan was stopped short on the one yard line.
Lee made three attempts to push through that line, but all were unsuccessful. With the ball still on the one yard line, the Pioneers made the decision to go for all-or-nothing and try one more time for the touchdown on the fourth down.
This time, Steele kept a hold of the ball and pushed into the midst of the lines piled up on the endzone line. As the linemen began unpeeling and athletes started pushing, the Pioneers and their fans began celebrating. Steele had made it in, and the Pioneers had taken the lead 14-10, that score would hold through the half.
In the middle of the third quarter, the Pioneer offense scored one final time on a long 84 yard drive. The drive was rounded out by a strong 44-yard run by Lee for the score. Late in the game, the offensive line really shined for the Pioneers as they provided them the room to run!
"The O-Line was strong up front and gave the running backs time to run, which we needed in those conditions," explained Steele.
While the Pioneer kick was blocked, the Pioneers held a ten point lead, 20-10. For many this seemed like a comfortable lead, but the Pioneers almost gave the game away in the fourth quarter.
Ten minutes in to that final quarter, the Pioneer defense allowed the Falcons to use a series of small gains for the score. However, as ND went for the extra point, linemen Gary Henderson got some air and blocked the extra-point.
"Every play counts because when it comes down to it, Gary's [Henderson] block was one of the most pivotal plays in the game," explained linebacker Devin Cain." Without it, the game could have had a different ending."
With a score of 20-16, the Falcons were forced to go for the TD, a field goal was not enough. In those final moments, the Falcons took their final drive to the GSC 13 yard line, but they had to get the touchdown. The defense stepped up, and they held on for the Pioneer victory, 20-16!
"It was definitely a hard fought win," admitted Cain. "It shows why we have to finish every game.
Offensively, the Pioneers struggled in OH, but they did have some standouts.
Lee had 25 carries for 88 yards and a pair of touchdowns. In an atmosphere like ND, the offensive line really had to step up, and they have many reasons to be proud of that win.
"It was great to get a conference road win in a tough environment where there was snow on the ground with bad winds," explained senior center Jon Rasnick.
Quin Thornton, DeShaun Sands and Seth Jordan all put up 10 + yards on a few carries each, and each gain counted in those conditions.
Steele struggled with the wind as he was six-for-15 for only 66 yards, but as the play caller, he still managed to lead his offense to the victory!
The defense really shined in this match-up as safety Keith Mayes, a D-I transfer from UT-Chattanooga, took on the challenge of a rough attack on his side of the field.
Mayes led the Pioneers with 11 tackles, including eight solo stops! Corner Darren Elliott felt the pressure on their side of the field also as he had five solo stops and an interception.
"It was a battle," admits Mayes. "It took the whole team to get this one!"
He was accurate with that as linebacker James Johnson added 10.5 tackles, including six solo stops. Sala added 7.5 tackles (five solo) and the 34-yard interception return, and the rest of the defense put in some series work!
The victory made the Pioneers, 4-4, on the season and, 4-3, in the MEC. They prepare to face their toughest opponent of the season this Saturday.
On Saturday, Nov. 2, the Shepherd University Rams will make their way to Glenville. Shepherd is undefeated on the season and leading the MEC. However, a series of close loses from the Pioneers gives a solid reason not to count them out.
The Glenville vs. Shepherd rivalry is historically one of the best around. Year after year, these two teams look for ways to trip up their opponent and ruin potentially perfect seasons! Will this year be Glenville's turn to do it to the Rams?
Shepherd has won in the last two meetings between the two teams, but the Pioneer seniors want to make it 500 with a win this Saturday!
"We have a big week with a good opponent coming into town," explained Rasnick. "We will go out and have a great week of practice, and be ready for Saturday."
Come out Saturday to catch what could be the game of the year for the Pioneers at Morris Stadium! Kick-off is set for 1:00 p.m.