by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Barberton -- Playing in the very talented Suburban League American Conference, the Tallmadge football team knew it would have its hands full.
It has been a brutal process thus far.
The Blue Devils dropped to 2-5 overall and 0-3 in the American Conference after falling to Barberton 37-6 Oct. 7 at Barberton High School's Rudy Sharkey Stadium.
It was Tallmadge's fourth straight loss. The Magics, who were 10th in the Division II, Region 5 computer ratings as of press time, improved to 5-2 overall and 1-2 in the conference.
Things didn't get out of hand until the second half. And such a fact did not go unnoticed after the game.
At the same time, though, the Blue Devils certainly don't want their downslide to continue.
"I'm proud of them," Tallmadge head coach Alan Vanderink said. "They didn't quit. They fought hard. They're good-character kids.
"We don't want moral victories. That's not what I'm here for. We have to get over that phase and know we can compete against good teams."
Barberton stormed out to a 24-0 lead at halftime.
After having their first two drives end on turnover on downs inside the Blue Devils' 30-yard line, the Magics scored 21 points in a span of 3 minutes, 49 seconds early in the second quarter.
Before getting its first score, Barberton had to overcome some adversity.
The Magics lost yardage on a running play and faced a fourth-and-11 situation at Tallmadge's 16.
This time, though, Barberton delivered on fourth down.
Junior quarterback Zane Ries completed a 15-yard pass to senior wide receiver Tamarion Jennings to the Blue Devils' 1. Senior tight end Kobie Booker then plunged into the end zone for the Magics' first score.
Sophomore kicker Griffin Brown converted the first of his four point after tries to make it 7-0 with 11:49 left in the half.
That was just the beginning.
After junior linebacker Christian McCarroll picked off a Tallmadge pass, Ries completed a 60-yard touchdown pass to junior running back Keye Thompson.
The Blue Devils went three and out on their next possession and Barberton needed just one play to reach the end zone again.
Junior wide receiver Garrett Turnbaugh made it 21-0 with a 50-yard punt return for a score.
After another Tallmadge punt, the Magics put together another impressive drive.
Starting from its own 15, Barberton marched down to the red zone once again.
But the possession stalled at the 13 and Brown converted a 22-yard field goal as time expired to give the Magics a 24-0 advantage at halftime.
It looked like Barberton was going to invoke the running-clock rule when it got near the goal line midway through the fourth quarter.
Once again, though, the Blue Devils' defense forced the Magics to go to their special teams on Tallmadge's 2.
That defensive stop proved vital.
That's because Barberton got zero points on the possession after missing a 19-yard field goal.
"Our defense has been good," Vanderink said. "It has been good against every team.
"It's our offense that is putting our defense in bad situations and that starts with me. We have to get better."
The Blue Devils took advantage of the Magics' missed opportunity.
On the very next possession, Tallmadge put together its only scoring drive of the game.
The Blue Devils reached the end zone from 80 yards in seven plays.
The bulk of the work was done by junior running back Ty Shannon who ran for 42 yards and caught a 20-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Sam Seeker.
Seeker, who missed the last three games with a back injury, completed the drive with an 18-yard TD pass to sophomore running back Rich Eyre. Tallmadge was unable to deliver on the 2-point conversion.
But the Magics, who are led by former Blue Devils assistant coach Tony Gotto, answered.
Barberton's final two scores came from Booker, who also lined up as a linebacker on defense.
He made an acrobatic 28-yard TD catch to make it 30-6 and then stymied a promising Tallmadge drive with an 100-yard interception return for a score late in the fourth quarter.
Prior to Seeker's return, the Blue Devils used two other quaterbacks during his absence.
"With the quarterback situation, we haven't had any continuity or rhythm," Vanderink said. "We have three quarterbacks with three different skill sets. We've been doing different things with each of them."
Tallmadge finished with 141 yards passing and 61 yards rushing.
Ries completed 25-of-38 passes for 325 yards. Barberton had a 14-7 edge in first downs.
The Blue Devils were scheduled to host American Conference rival Highland Oct. 14 at Thomas Rossiaky Stadium. Results were not available at press time.
Tallmadge is set to entertain American Conference foe Revere Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.