By ZACH McFARREN
FORT FRYE When it’s win or go home, every snap, every play, every possession is amplified and must be valued.
An admirable effort by the Bulldogs fell just short Friday night when they visited Beverly to take on the Fort Frye Cadets. Dalton went blow to blow with the Cadets but uncharacteristic turnovers ended up costing the Bulldogs as their season came to an end in the first round of the OHSAA playoffs.
“We played well tonight and went toe to toe with a team that went to the final four last season,” Dalton coach Broc Dial lamented after the game. “We’ve typically done a good job protecting the ball, [but] the first-half turnovers hurt.”
And what a first half it was. Both teams lit up the scoreboard to the tune of 55 total points and endless entertainment.
Dalton opened up the scoring 32 seconds into the game when quarterback Adam Bidlack (33-of-45 passing for 474 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions) hit Jaiden Malone with a 32-yard bomb, giving the Dawgs an early 7-0 lead. That lead was short-lived, however, as Fort Frye needed just two plays and 30 seconds to tie the game when Zane Wallace scored from eight yards out.
Undaunted, Dalton took their next possession 63 yards and retook the lead when Bidlack found Adam Jarrett for a 15-yard scoring strike.
Dalton stuffed the Cadets on a fourth down try and looked to take a two touchdown lead when Bidlack found Jarrett again streaking into the endzone. A Fort Frye defender knocked the ball loose however, and the Cadets recovered the ball on their own two yard line. On the first play of their possession, Fort Frye running back Tyler Fisher broke through the line and raced 98 yards to tie the game at 14.
Dalton executed an eight-play drive just before the end of the first quarter that culminated in Bidlack calling his number and scoring from five yards out. After just 12 minutes of play, Dalton held a 21-14 lead, and neither team was ready to slow down.
Mere seconds into the second quarter, Fort Frye tied the game once more when Fisher broke loose again and ran for a 56-yard touchdown.
Jarrett gave Dalton a 27-21 lead when he muscled his way into the endzone from the one yard line.
Things seemed to be settling down after both defenses forced punts on successive possessions. The Cadets eventually took their first lead when receiver Eric Isner caught a 19-yard touchdown from quarterback Ian Ellis.
A second Bulldog drive was thwarted when Dalton fumbled the ball away again, but the Bulldog defense stood tall and forced a Cadet punt. An eventful first half came to an end as Fort Frye was unable to score after intercepting a Bidlack pass deep in their own territory.
Offense was the name of the game in the first half. Bidlack went into intermission with 300 yards passing. “He is a great young man,” Dial said of Bidlack. “He allows us to really expand our offense because of his decision-making and preparation.”
The second half was much like the first, with the offenses racing up and down the field. The Cadets extended their lead to 35-27 on the first possession of the second half when Ellis hit Adkins for a 16-yard scoring strike.
Dalton turned the ball over on downs on their opening possession of the half, but the defense held again, giving the Dawgs the ball back on their own 14 yard line following a Fort Frye punt. An 86-yard, Bidlack to Malone connection brought the Bulldogs within two, 35-33. Malone finished the game with nine receptions for 239 yards and two TDs.
After forcing Fort Frye to punt on their next possession, Dalton looked to take the lead as they started a drive from their own 26. The Cadets took the ball and the momentum back, however, when a Bidlack interception was returned to the Dalton five yard line. Fisher scored from a yard out to give Fort Frye a 42-33 lead just seconds into the fourth quarter.
Dalton once again turned the ball over on downs, this time deep in their own territory. Fort Frye went up 48-33 when Ellis hit Brad Schilling with a 20-yard touchdown strike.
Dalton receiver Dillon Horst brought Dalton closer when he took a Bidlack pass 35 yards for the Dawgs’ final score of the contest.
Fort Frye sealed the game when they intercepted Bidlack for a third time. The Cadets ran out the clock and ended the Bulldogs’ season.
Losing is never easy. However, throughout the fall, the 2019 Dalton football team has given its faithful reason to be proud. A WCAL championship. A 9-2 record with an unblemished run through the league. A trip to the playoffs. The future is bright here in Dalton, and we can all look forward to what’s to come.