Perfect Start: Kupchella, McMeans connect for 3 touchdowns; Mohney makes history as Dragons rout Fairview
“Back to normal.”
Those were the words of Aidan Morrison, one of four Warren football captains, following the Dragons’ 31-7 victory over Fairview in their season opener on Friday night at War Memorial Field.
If this is the new normal for the Dragons, then fans are in for a treat.
Quarterback Jake Kupchella and receiver Devin McMeans connected for three touchdowns and the Dragons scored three times in less than two minutes later in the second quarter to take control.
And then there was the matter of Sawyer Mohney, the Dragons’ first female kicker, who made history late in the third quarter with an extra point that turned out to be the final points of the night.
“It was as close to a complete game for an opener as you can get,” said head coach Mark Morelli.
It certainly was.
The Dragon defense, which struggled a season ago, was stingy, Kupchella and McMeans were unstoppable, and the offensive line physically wore down the Tigers.
“We strive to be better than we were last year,” said fellow captain Justin Eck, who is a key part of that offensive line that not only gave Kupchella plenty of time to throw, but opened some big holes in the second half for Marvin Bryant and the running game.
While the passing game took center stage, it was the aforementioned running back Bryant that got things going, scoring on a 5-yard touchdown run for the Dragons’ first points of the season to make it 6-0.
And in what was maybe the first sign of the defense’s improvement from last season, Fairview drove the ball down to the Warren 10 on its ensuing drive, only to watch as the Dragons kept limited them to a 35-yard field goal attempt, which sailed wide right.
“Aidan Morrison has really stepped up and become a leader on defense,” Morelli said. “It was his responsibility to get our defense in the right alignments. It paid off. We executed just the way we talked about all week in practice.”
There was 5:38 left before half, and that’s when the Dragons’ offensive fireworks show began.
Kupchella connected with Morrison on the first play of the ensuing drive, and he was off to the races, finally getting dragged down at the 15-yard line 65 yards later.
After a negative run, Kupchella looked McMeans’ way on third down and hit him in stride for a 22-yard score.
“In this offense we have six or seven guys we can turn to,” Morelli said. “If teams double Devin, we have other weapons.”
Fairview wasted no time getting on the board, as Mohra broke free on the first play of the next drive for a 56-yard score. Morelli put that score on himself for calling a safety blitz.
No matter, as that was the only time the 1,000-yard back from 2017 was really able to break free.
And the Dragon offense wasn’t even close to being done.
Back-to-back penalties had Warren backed up with a third-and-20 from their own 28.
Piece of cake.
Kupchella saw McMeans had 1-on-1 coverage on the outside and lofted a perfectly thrown deep ball to his No. 1 target, who didn’t have to break stride on his way to the end zone – 72 yards.
“They get bigger than the moon,” Kupchella said about his eyes when they see McMeans singled up. ” I know he can beat the guy across from him every single time.”
At that point there was still 3:17 left in the half, and Eck pounced on a loose ball at the Fairview 35 on the first snap of Fairview’s next possession.
The Dragons needed just two plays to score. Kupchella hit Micah Passmore for a 25-yard gain and Bryant plowed through the middle from 10 yards out on the next play.
Just like that, in the blink of an eye, it was 24-7 going into the locker room.
“We were up 19-7 at halftime last year against Fairview and couldn’t finish,” Morelli said. “That was the message to the kids at halftime. Finish.”
They certainly did that.
The teams traded punts to start the half and Warren took over near midfield with 4:48 to go in the third.
What followed was an 8-play drive that ended with Kupchella finding McMeans one more time, this one a 16-yard score on third-and-13.
For McMeans, who missed most of the season last year due to injury, this was a long time coming.
“It feels great,” he said. “It’s been awhile. It’s just a great experience to get back on the field.”
His quarterback is happy as well.
“He’s definitely a top receiver and always there when I need him,” Kupchella said.
And that score was followed by the history-maker – Mohney, who became the first female player in program history to enter the scoring column
“I begged our kids to find somebody. We must have tried half our team out. Ryan Arnold and coach (Shawn) Wilson said we think we have a kicker,” Morelli said. “Wow. Sawyer put a show on for us Monday and we were convinced that she was our kicker. I think the first extra point she missed tonight was just a case of nerves. She has range. I’m sure as the year goes on, she’s going to keep getting better and better.”
And when the fireworks were done, the Warren offensive line simply imposed its will.
Bryant, who didn’t see a lot of action running the ball because of the success through the air, had runs of 9, 11 and 16 yards on the final drive in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t really run the ball until the second half when we had the big lead, but Marvin showed what he can do. It’s a diverse offense. We can hurt people in a number of different ways, Morelli said.
And as for the offensive line – his tackles Eck and Collin Salapek, guards Jamo Douvlos and Jake Hayes and center Alex Ziegler?
“We have those two bookend tackles, and those guys on the interior did a nice, solid job tonight in protection and opening up holes in the running game in the second half,” Morelli said.
The Dragons were primed to score again deep in Fairview territory, but, with time running out, they decided to take a knee.
Kupchella finished 10-for-13 for 273 yards and the three touchdowns to McMeans, who had four catches for 121 yards. Morrison and Passmore had 73 and 71 yards each receiving and Bryant 69 yards on the ground.
The Dragons outgained the Tigers 370-184.
When all was said and done, it was the most complete performance from a Warren football team in quite some time.
“Probably two things that need to be said here. Item number one, I’m really happy for the kids. You can see the joy, the jubilation,” Morelli said. “They realized the work and the effort they’ve put in during the spring and summer is paying off. Item number two, our coaching staff did one heck of a job with the game plan coming into tonight’s game and the kids executed that game plan. When those two things work together, those results show on the scoreboard.”
And they’ll get a chance to do it again next week, with Fort LeBoeuf coming to town.
“We have a brotherhood,” Eck said.
Added Morrison: “We’re more together this year – it’s not even a comparison. We’re going to start watching film tomorrow and get ready (for LeBoeuf).”
– – –
Fairview 0 6 0 0–7
Warren 6 18 7 0–31
W – Marvin Bryant 10 run (2-point conversion failed) 2:!4
W – Devin McMeans 22 pass from Jake Kupchella (2-point conversion failed) 3:59
F – Chris Mohra 56 run (Zach Brown PAT) 3:49
W – McMeans 72 pass from Kupchella (2-point conversion failed) 3:17
W – Bryant 10 run (PAT failed) 2:30
W – McMeans 16 pass from Kupchella (Sawyer Mohney PAT) :7
– – –
First downs 12 17
Total Net Yards 184 370
Rushes-yards 34-175 29-97
Passing 9 273
Comp-Att-Int 2-5-0 10-13-0
Punts 2-33.5 2-43.5
Fumbles-Lost 4-2 2-0
Penalties-Yards 4-45 3-15
RUSHING– Fairview: Mohra 16-135, Larson 6-36, Bender 10-28, Team 2-(minus)24; Warren: Bryant 11-69, Kupchella 10-17, Swanson 3-15, Morrison 2-6, Benedict 1-(minus)3, Team 3-(minus)7
PASSING–Fairview: Bender 2-of-5, 9 yards; Warren: Kupchella 10-of-13, 273 yards, 3 TDs
RECEIVING–Fairview: Mohra 2-9; Warren: McMeans 4-121, Morrison 2-73, Passmore 2-71, Swanson 1-5, Anderson 1-3
FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Warren: Eck, Bryant