Ethan Walllace

Lucas senior fullback Ethan Wallace rumbles 25 yards for a TD against Cuyahoga Heights at Bob Wine Field on Friday night.

LUCAS -- Lucas was finally at home against someone their own size Friday night at Bob Wine Field.

The Cubs, after playing six regular-season road games against almost all larger schools, got their first home game of the season, winning 35-0, against Cuyahoga Heights in the second-round of the Division VII, Region 25 football playoffs.

"It's finally nice to get back on this field," said Lucas coach Scott Spitler, who has his Cubs (5-2) in the playoffs for the seventh-straight season. "I don't know who was more geeked up to start the day when we woke up this morning ... me or the kids."

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic that wrecked high school football schedules in 2020, independent Lucas played a regular-season at primarily Division IV Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference opponents Shelby, Galion, Clear Fork, Ontario and Division V Marion Pleasant.

The only Division VII school the Cubs faced was Troy Christian, which 2019 state finalist Lucas destroyed, 42-0. The Cubs played well enough to earn the region's No. 3 seed, a bye in the first round and home-field advantage for at least its first two playoff games.

"It was a long haul, you know, six weeks playing up ... playing on the road every week," Spitler said. "That six weeks was tasking, especially the last two, Shelby and Galion, back-to-back.

"The bye week was just what we needed. We got our juice back, playing at home and got healthier," he said. "We hurt ourselves tonight with some penalties, but I couldn't be more proud of our guys."

BIG PLAY: Lucas led just 7-0 late in the first half and faced a second-and-16 at its own 43-yard line. After a timeout, Spitler called a reverse to wide receiver Connor Harper, who eluded tacklers and raced down the left sideline on a 57-yard TD run.

"I thought defensively, we did a nice job in the first half," veteran Cuyahoga Heights coach Al Martin said. "We held them to one score, until again, we couldn't move the ball offensively and they hit us on that long run and put them up 13 at the half.

"Lucas is really physical and their kids play really hard. They will wear you out if you don't score with them a little bit and keep it a tight game. Eventually, they are gonna start rolling. I thought in the second half we got a little tired," said Martin, whose Redskins were in the playoffs for the sixth straight season.

Cuyahoga Heights, which lost to Lucas last year in the regional finals, graduated starters at 19 of 22 positions and fell to 2-5 in what Martin described as a learning season.

"We're inexperienced. Without having a real summer and two-a-days where you can gain some experience, we were a little bit behind the eight ball. Our kids are starting to play better. It was good for us to get an opportunity to get a (opening-round playoff) win last week against Mapleton and then to play a team like Lucas so we could really see where we are at," Martin said. "I thought we competed hard."

SECOND-HALF DOMINATION: The late score in the first half gave the Cubs all the momentum they needed in the second, outscoring the visitors, 22-0.

As expected, Lucas pounded the ball on the ground, rushing for 365 yards, compared to 31 passing.

The Cubs were led by senior Ethan Sauder, who finished with 155 yards on 19 carries, including a 20-yard TD run. Junior Grant Barrett celebrated his 17th birthday with 74 yards on 10 carries.

Senior fullback Ethan Wallace, normally a blocking back, had 63 yards on just seven carries, including a pair of 25-yard TD runs. He also caught a two-point conversion pass from sophomore QB Andrew Smollen.

"I am just hoping the line upfront gets a great push and I can see where it splits and take off," Wallace said. "They were playing everyone up so I knew if I could get through the second level, I could take it."

Like his coach, the 5-11, 195-pound Wallace said there was no place like home.

"It was great," Wallace said. "We haven't played here all year and we just got the new field so to be back home was great. Having our home fans and not having to ride the bus everywhere was awesome."

Spitler was pleased to see his unsung hero get a chance to make some music of his own.

"The nice thing is, he is deceptively athletic," Spitler said with a laugh. "I couldn't be happier for him because he does all the dirty work. When teams want to overload the edges like they did tonight to try and stop our power and our sweep, they better watch out because he proved he can split you and hurt you.

"We have been working him in at some wing because of what he is able to do for us. He is so unselfish and it is nice to see him have the night like he did tonight," Spitler said.

The Cubs, who outscored opponents 143-118 during the regular season, have now outscored their two Division VII foes this year by a combined 75-0. Spitler said he knew the Redskins would be a challenge, despite their losing record this season.

"They are so well-coached," Spitler said. "You don't have 25-straight playoff appearances and the success that Coach Martin has enjoyed, if he isn't already, he will be a Hall of Famer. Their option game made our guys unable to take a play off and had to stay super disciplined and play assignment football. We challenged our kids all week and they answered the call," Spitler said.

NEXT UP: Lucas hosts No. 10-seed Independence next Friday at 7 p.m. in the regional semifinals. Independence (6-1), which beat Cuyahoga Heights, 35-0, in its season opener, rallied to win at Monroeville, 28-20, in its second-round game.

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SCORING SUMMARY

1st quarter

Lucas -- Ethan Wallace 25-yard run (PAT Aiden Culler kick) 7-0

2nd quarter

Lucas -- Connor Harper 57-yard run (PAT kick blocked) 13-0

3rd quarter

Lucas -- Ethan Sauder 20-yard run (PAT Wallace pass from Andrew Smollern) 21-0

Lucas -- Wallace 25-yard run (PAT Culler kick) 28-0

4th quarter

Lucas -- Andrew Fanello 12-yard run (PAT Culler kick) 35-0

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"

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