PARMA – When it gets to be late November, the margin for error shrinks like the temperature. The Brunswick Blue Devils learned that the hard way Saturday night.
Four second-half turnovers and a botched punt snap turned a tight game into a rout. Mentor, which played nearly mistake-free football, took advantage of Brunswick's miscues to beat the Blue Devils 39-14 in a Division I semifinal game played before about 11,000 in sold-out Byers Field.
“They didn't make mistakes and we did,” said Brunswick coach Rich Nowak, whose team finished 13-1. “Our quarterback threw three interceptions in 13 games and tonight he threw three.”
Senior Sean Bedevelsky indeed doubled his interception total and did it in a span of eight second-half throws. A completion during that same span ended with the ball being fumbled away. That's the way things went for the Blue Devils.
“We came out and cost ourselves the game,” said Bedevelsky, who threw for 257 yards and a pair of touchdowns. “We took ourselves out of it in the second half.”
Mentor (11-2) had a lot to do with that. Which is why Mentor (11-2) will play Cincinnati St. Xavier for the state championship next Saturday.
Senior quarterback Bart Tanski threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns on 27-of-40 passing to put his team into the state title game for the second consecutive year. It took him a little time to get going, but once he did, there was no stopping him.
“I have faith in my offense that we can put up points any time,” Tanski said. “I knew in the second half we could put points up.”
Brunswick, behind the running and passing of Bedevelsky, led 14-10 at halftime, but then imploded. Mentor, meanwhile, got its offense untracked.
The Cardinals took the second-half kickoff and drove 65 yards to take a 17-14 lead when Tanski connected with Mike Popelas from 7 yards out.
Brunswick went three-and-out on its ensuing possession and with Bedevelsky in punt formation, the meltdown started. Garret Mack's snap out sailed over Bedevelsky's head and into the end zone, where Bedevelsky was forced to kneel on it for a safety.
“I don't even know what happened,” Mack said. “It's the first time it's happened all season.”
The Cardinals took the free kick and drove for another score, this a 9-yard pass from Tanski to Cory Zikesch and a 25-14 lead.
Brunswick's next four possessions resulted in three interceptions and a lost fumble. Mentor capitalized on two with touchdowns. A third touchdown, on an interception return, was lost to a penalty.
“I really thought defensively we were tough in the second half,” Mentor coach Steve Trivisonno said. “We played well and held them to nothing. It was just outstanding.”
While Brunswick was coughing up the ball, the Cardinals were rolled up 306 second-half yards and scoring at will. Tom Worden and Michael Pearce ran for fourth-quarter touchdowns for the Cardinals. Worden finished with 64 yards on 14 carries. Pearce ran 11 times for 74 yards.
Tanski added 45 yards on 10 carries, including a pair of big third-down scrambles that kept second-half drives alive.
Five Mentor receivers had at least four receptions, led by Popelas' seven for 79 yards. Steve Orkis had six receptions for 98 yards.
Brunswick took a 7-0 lead on a 16-yard TD pass from Bedevelsky to Jordan Gribble. It was Gribble's 20th touchdown of the season, 19th
via pass reception.
Mentor scored the game's next 10 points – a 23-yard Kevin Harper field goal and a 45-yard pass from Tanski to Steve Orkis – to lead 10-7.
Brunswick answered with a 54-yard bomb from Bedevelsky to Ben Karaba on a beautifully thrown ball that hit the receiver in stride. It was Bedevelsky's 32nd and last touchdown pass of the year.
“I hope they take a lot out of this,” Nowak said. “It's one of the greatest seasons in Brunswick history. The sting is always the last loss, but only one team ends it with a win.”