by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
New Philadelphia -- They lost their starting quarterback in the first quarter.
And then they lost the game.
As a result, the Blue Devils had some work to do entering conference play.
The Tallmadge football team fell to 2-2 overall after losing to host New Philadelphia 31-10 Sept. 16 at Woody Hayes Quaker Stadium.
Blue Devils' sophomore quarterback Sam Seeker left the game with an injury on the opening possession. His status for the next game was unknown as of press time.
Despite Seeker's injury, Tallmadge stayed with the Quakers (3-1) in the first half.
In fact, it was tied at 10 when both teams went to the locker rooms.
But New Philadelphia dominated the second half.
"New Philadelphia is a really good football team," Blue Devils head coach Alan Vanderink said. "We just have to get better and stick together."
The Quakers took the lead for good with a nine-play, 73-yard drive that ate up 3 minutes, 34 seconds off the clock in the third quarter.
New Philadelphia junior running back Kye Crowthers did most of the work during the possession.
He had seven carries for 52 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown run on the final play of the drive.
Senior kicker Logan Morehead added the first of his four extra points to give the Quakers a 17-10 advantage with 2:38 left in the third.
It was only the beginning for Crowthers, who led all rushers with 183 yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries, and New Philadelphia.
The Quakers forced Tallmadge to punt on its next possession and Crowthers went back to work.
This time, New Philadelphia had a much shorter field to work with as the possession started at the Blue Devils' 34-yard line.
Crowthers accounted for all 34 of those yards, including a 12-yard TD run to make it 24-10.
Things only got worse for Tallmadge.
Senior linebacker Cullen Brogan intercepted Blue Devils' senior backup quarterback Derek Teeling's pass and the Quakers were back in business at Tallmadge's 23.
Not surprisingly, Crowthers carried the ball four more times and made it 31-10 with a 5-yard TD run with 8:47 left.
Prior to Crowthers' heroics in the second half, it was a defensive struggle.
New Philadelphia got inside the red zone on its first possession of the game, but the Quakers could only get three points on a Morehead 36-yard field goal.
The Blue Devils stormed back and got inside the red zone on their next possession.
Unfortunately for Tallmadge, the drive came to an abrupt end with a fumble at New Philadelphia's 11.
But the Quakers let their golden opportunity slip through their fingertips.
On the very next play, New Philadelphia fumbled and Blue Devils' senior linebacker Josh Todd recovered at the Quakers' 20.
Teeling then moved Tallmadge to the 7 after completing a 13-yard pass to sophomore tight end Jason Grassie, but the drive stalled after that.
Sophomore kicker Garrett Ansley tied the game at three with a 26-yard field goal with 52 seconds left in the first quarter.
New Philadelphia regained the lead on the very next possession.
The Quakers went on an 11-play, 71-yard drive that ate up less than three minutes off the clock to take a 10-3 advantage.
Senior quarterback Logan Bitikofer, who recently made a verbal commitment to continue his academic and football careers at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., completed 3-of-4 passes for 43 yards during the drive and -- who else -- Crowthers capped the possession with a 7-yard TD run.
Nonetheless, the Blue Devils refused to back down.
Tallmadge countered with a 10-play, 72-yard drive of its own to tie the game with 5:14 remaining in the first half.
The Blue Devils used mostly running plays out of the shotgun to move down the field.
Teeling ended the possession with a 3-yard TD run on a quarterback draw.
New Philadelphia tried to add to its lead late in the half, but junior defensive back Ty Shannon picked off Bitikofer's pass with a little more than two minutes left at the Tallmadge 25.
Shannon also had kickoff returns of 69 and 56 yards, respectively.
Alas, the Blue Devils' offense blew a gasket the rest of the way.
"They attacked us on certain plays," Vanderink said. "We had some penalties that hurt us.
"We have to make the necessary adjustments. I take responsibility. We have to coach harder."
Bitikofer completed 11-of-18 passes for 160 yards.
His favorite receiver was Speicher, who had four catches for 95 yards.
Tallmadge outrushed the Quakers 233-204. Teeling ran for 121 yards on 20 carries and Shannon had 66 yards in 19 attempts.
Senior defensive back Hunter Sally had 9.5 tackles and Shannon and Todd added nine and eight tackles, respectively, for the Blue Devils.
Tallmadge was scheduled to make its Suburban League American Conference debut Sept. 23 at Kent Roosevelt. Results were not available at press time.
The Blue Devils are set to entertain American Conference rival Copley Sept. 30 at 7 p.m.