Dragons score slew of unanswered points, Salapek honors brother in win over Corry
CORRY, Pa. – On paper, Warren looked to have a strong advantage over Corry heading into their matchup at Corry Friday.
Through the first quarter, the Beavers were in control of the game and had a 13-0 lead over the Dragons. Warren had Corry pinned deep in its own territory and facing third-and-eight, Beavers quarterback Nathan Shreffler dropped back to pass.
He tried to find Elijah Eckonen, but Warren’s Micah Passmore stepped in front and picked it off. Passmore walked into the end zone from three yards out to start a string of 52 unanswered points as the Dragons rolled to a 52-19 victory.
“In the first quarter, we were sleeping,” Warren coach Mark Morelli said. “That interception by Micah woke us up.”
Still, it took nearly half the quarter for the Dragons to cross the goalline again. The Dragons forced a turnover on downs and took over at their own 34. Marvin Bryant busted through the defense for a 36-yard gain to set Warren up at the Corry 30. Quarterback Jake Kupchella took a shot at the end zone in the direction of Alex Anderson, but Gavin Graves stepped in front and picked off the pass at the goalline. Graves started to turn upfield, but Anderson came up from behind and poked the ball away. Aidan Morrison jumped on it to give Warren a first-and-goal at the 8.
An offsides penalty moved the ball up four yards and Bryant took it in on the next play. The conversion attempt failed and Warren still trailed, 13-12 with 5:37 to go in the half.
On Corry’s second play, the ball sailed through Shreffler’s hands on the snap. The ball was kicked, batted and bounced down the field and into the end zone before Morrison was able to jump on it to give Warren the lead for the first time.
“From the second quarter on, our defense picked up,” Morelli said.
Warren forced a three-and-out, then marched down the field to the Corry 2. The next play had special meaning for both the player, and the team.
Kupchella handed the ball to Collin Salapek, making his return to the team following an absence to grieve the death of his brother Hayden in an ATV accident two weeks ago. Salapek, wearing Hayden’s No. 70 jersey, plowed into the end zone and was mobbed by his teammates on the field, and his coaches as he came to the sideline. All jubilant they were able to help their teammate have a special moment.
“We planned all week, if we had a chance to get him to score we would,” Morelli said. “That’s moment he’s going to savor, and a memory he’ll have for a lifetime.”
That made the score 25-13. On the ensuing kickoff, Corry mysteriously decided not to touch the ball, perhaps thinking it would roll out of bounds. The Dragons pounced on it at the Beavers 30. On the next play, Kupchella found Devin McMeans on a corner route to put Warren up 32-13 at the half.
Salapek was able to add to his special night just before the team went into the locker room for halftime. He called his dad, Matt, over to the fence and gave him the ball he scored with.
“It meant the world to me that my team was there for me,” Salapek said. “We’re all brothers.”
Warren picked up right where it left off to start the second half. Bryant took the second play from scrimmage 31 yards to push the lead to 38-13.
On the ensuing possession, Corry drove down to the Warren 13. Eckonen couldn’t get a clean handoff and dropped the ball on the 15. Jamo Douvlos scooped it up and raced 85 yards for the touchdown and a 45-13 lead with just over seven minutes to go in the quarter.
“We scored three defensive touchdowns tonight,” Morelli said.
The Dragons forced a turnover on downs on their own 23 and marched to the Corry 23 in just four plays. Kupchella dumped a pass off to Bryant and the speedy back made a couple defenders miss and carried another across the line for his third score of the night-and the final Dragons points.
Landen Weis tacked on his second score of the game with 2:15 to go as Warren had its junior varsity players on the field to close out the game.
Bryant finished with 209 total yards of offense and three touchdowns. Kupchella finished 8-12 for 121 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Defensively, the Dragons forced five turnovers.
Morelli knows his team will have to be equally as sharp next week as the Dragons welcome Franklin and standout quarterback Ian Haynes to War Memorial Field.
“It’s going to be a good old shootout,” he said. “The key will be the team that makes the least amount of mistakes and holds on to the ball.”
“We know they pass a lot,” Salapek added. “But our backfield is good. We should be alright.”