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A huge comeback in the second half by the young Twinsburg High football team against a state playoff club like Copley in the season opener was the spark that head coach Mike Bell was looking for.
Copley survived a late scare in a wild 35-28 opener at Tiger Stadium Aug. 26.
Fueled by a 21-7 second half, Twinsburg stormed back in the Suburban League crossover clash.
This was a Copley unit that went 9-2 a year ago and shared the American Division title last fall in the Suburban League. Twinsburg competes in the SL National.
"We had a rough start against a good team, but the guys regrouped and had new energy in the second half and we crawled back into it," noted Bell. "We're very disappointed that we didn't win -- we had three possessions to try and get into the end zone -- but we are excited about the positive things we did."
Some minor adjustments helped the Tigers in the second half and the defense tightened up, but it was all about the hosts' increased energy.
"Our defense settled down and continued to play well in the second half as our offense came alive, but Copley just made the plays," said Bell, who is one win away from his 100th career victory.
Twinsburg plays against its arch rival Solon (1-0) Sept. 2 on the road in a difficult non-league test.
Bell is hoping for his defense to play like it did in the second half against Copley.
However, there's a few reasons why Copley exploded for 332 rushing yards, 508 total yards and 23 firsts downs.
Copley's tailback is Weston Bridges, a 6-foot, 204-pound speedster who is headed to Michigan State University.
Bridges had 27 rushes at Twinsburg for 208 yards and four touchdowns. He had TD runs of 35 yards and nine yards to vault Copley ahead 21-0 in the first stanza.
"He [Bridges] is obviously an incredible high school player and he is hard to stop," said Bell. "We wanted to limit him and I think for the most part, we did that."
All-district Copley quarterback Austin Brenner (6-1, 184) had 1,962 yards passing and 20 touchdowns last fall, plus he had one of his finest games ever against Twinsburg. He was 16-of-25 passing.
Twinsburg's defense did somewhat limit Brenner this time around although he had 246 total yards. Through the air, Brenner was 11-26 for 176 yards and he added 70 yards rushing, including a 13-yard TD run to make it 14-0.
"Brenner threw the ball all over us last year," Bell said.
"We changed some things up this year against Brenner," added the mentor. "Up front, we got some rush on Brenner this time. We also mixed up coverages pretty well."
Twinsburg, thanks to senior quarterback Jalen Tucker and some gifted young receivers, did not give up.
Tucker had a 52-yard TD pass to sophomore wide out Tre Radford to cut the lead to 21-7 in the second period, but a Bridges 7-yard TD run made it 28-7 in the second quarter.
With a pair of huge scoring passes in the third quarter, Tucker helped fuel the Tigers out of the locker room. On the game, he was 12-22 for 259 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception.
An 18-yard TD strike from Tucker to sophomore James Besett followed by an 83-yard catch and run by junior wide receiver Christian Edgerson, who had a career game.
Edgerson's long score cut the lead to one possession at 28-21 in the third period, but Bridges would score again -- on a 37-yard run in the fourth to make it 35-21.
However, Edgerson was at it again as he returned a kickoff for a 94-yard TD to cut it to 35-28 in the fourth period.
"We had three possessions in a possession game to try and get into the end zone, but Copley made the plays," said Bell.
Tucker led Twinsburg in rushing with 22 yards on nine carries as Copley's tested linemen halted the ground game. Junior back Cam'Ron McClain had five rushes for 13 yards.
"The team has talked a lot about getting our running game going and we are still looking to develop and improve," said Bell, who faces three straight playoff teams to start the year.
"I think as a result of Jalen's experience, he is beginning to be a good leader," he added. "He [Tucker] will help determine our outcomes and there's no substitution for experience."
Edgerson (6-1, 165) exploded for 265 all-purpose yards with five catches for 152 yards and a TD -- all career highs. He had the 94-yard kickoff return and ran three times for 19 yards.
"Christian is a track standout, who stands out with his athletic ability and should be a playmaker for us," said Bell.
Radford (6-3, 155) and Besett (6-2, 155) are rangy wide outs with solid speed.
Also posting a career game was Radford, who had five catches for 93 yards and a score.
Linebacker James Grammens excelled from his linebacker post on defense. The junior had nine tackles and two for a loss.
Defensive back Brendan Little played well as the senior had five stops while senior Josh Flask also played well.
Senior placekicker Casey McCarthy was perfect on all four extra-point kicks for Twinsburg. Sophomore QB Adam Van de Motter also completed his only pass attempt for 10 yards.