Dragons host North East
The first-game success for the Warren Dragons has faded after two-straight losses, but optimism remains and all the goals they want to accomplish are still in front of them as they get set to host North East tonight in a non-league tilt (7 p.m., War Memorial Field).
Here’s some things to look for when the two teams kick it off.
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The Dragon offense was limited to just eight points last week, a far cry from what they were able to accomplish against Fairview and Fort LeBoeuf.
That being said, they played pretty much even with DuBois in total yardage, they just weren’t able to consistently find the end zone.
That’s something they will look to change that this week.
Quarterback Jake Kupchella is tops in District 10 and third in Pennsylvania in passing yards with 935 (7 TDs, 2 INTs), with his leading targets Devin McMeans (12 receptions, 284 yards, 4 TDs), Marvin Bryant (10-195), Aidan Morrison (5-146-1) and Ryan Arnold (6-127-2).
This week, the Dragons aim to get the running game going behind a physical offensive line led by senior Justin Eck and Bryant, who is averaging 6.9 yards per carry.
“Honestly, I do not think we expected to struggle like we did, so yes, we need to reestablish the fundamental areas that we were strong in the first two games this week,” Morelli said. “So much of this game called football is played between the ears. We have to get tuned into what is going on a lot better this week. We have seen Jake Kupchella put up some gaudy numbers so far, but we need more balance; that means the running game has to start contributing to our offense to set up our passing game.
“A lot of our game plan will depend on what we see and do on the first series of the game. North East has given up a lot of points (136) in their first three games but they have scored a lot too (76).”
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Slowing down Furmanek and North East
Pickers running back Alex Furmanek is second in District 10 with 565 yards (10.9 YPC) in games against Franklin (34-21 loss), Titusville (55-21 win) and Conneaut (60-25 loss).
NE will go to the passing game at times. QB Keyen Skrekla has completed 27-of-43 passes for 334 yards, 4 TDs and 3 INTs.
His top target is Lucas Russell (12-172-1).
Morrison (MLB) is the Dragons’ top tackler with 47, while James Swanson (OLB) , McMeans (S) and Bryant (MLB) all have 22 and Eck (DT) 21.
“Our mental approach will be similar to what we did against Chris Mohra and Fairview – we have to recognize their formations and what they like to run; we are certainly capable of slowing him down,” Morelli said. “He is a multi-talented athlete and they move him around a lot. Lucas Russell and Brock Conn are two other players we have to keep an eye on. Our physical play on defense last week was much better, now we have to be consistent.”
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Mixed results on special teams
Morelli has praised the work of placekicker Sawyer Mohney, the first female kicker in program history, as well as Morrison handling punts, but admits that the coverage teams must be better.
“Our punting game has been very good. Aidan Morrison has knocked off the rust and is back to being the All-State punter he was as a sophomore. Sawyer Mohney filled a huge void for us with kicking extra points. Unfortunately we did not get a chance to use her last week,” Morelli said.
“But our coverage has been inconsistent and our blocking on returns has not been where we’d like it to be. We do spend a lot of time of special teams and stress the importance of it, hopefully this is the week we come up with a big play or two.”
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Keys to victory
The coaching staff has stressed the importance of minimizing mistakes, most importantly those of the mental variety.
That, as much as anything else, will go a long way toward determining the outcome.
“We have to stay away from self inflicting periods. Last week we had one drive down to the 14 yard line, we get hit with illegal procedure, then a holding penalty then a sack,” Morelli noted. “Those are scoring opportunity killers. We cannot win games doing that and it happened two or three times last week.”