Dominant second half sends Dragons past North East
NORTH EAST, Pa. – A team that has big-play ability is able to play through a lot of mistakes.
Such is the case with the 2019 Warren Dragons, who overcame five turnovers and a sluggish first half to improve to 3-1 with a 41-14 rout at North East Saturday night.
The Dragon defense sacked Pickers’ (0-4) quarterback Keyen Skrekla nine times (6 in the second half) and scored a defensive touchdown courtesy of Donovan Fiscus’ 42-yard interception return. Ethan Benedict had his first-career 100-yard game and Ryan Arnold showed why he is District 10’s most exciting player with three more touchdowns.
“Their turnovers and mistakes allowed us to take the lead going into halftime,” said Warren head coach Mark Morelli. “It was a sleep-walking type of a first half. We didn’t have a good week of practice. We’ve been telling the kids all week, this isn’t your normal routine, you aren’t used to playing on Saturday. You have to learn to adjust and adapt.”
North East took an early 7-0 lead on a 5-yard touchdown run by Aiden Kemp, but the Warren special teams showed why they are special and took the momentum right back.
Arnold, who has scored a touchdown in five different ways through four games (rushing, receiving, punt return, kickoff return, interception return) took the ensuing kickoff 88 yards. That, coupled with Sawyer Mohney’s extra point, tied the game, 7-7.
“When they kick the ball to me, it’s over,” Arnold said. “I’ve been told every week that they’re not going to kick to me and when they do I make the best out of it.”
Mohney’s ensuing kickoff landed in no man’s land, and Ethan Wilson was able to pounce on it at the North East 18. It was part of a big day for Mohney, who was perfect on extra points. She also helped a key a critical 4-0 win for the Lady Dragon soccer team against Bradford earlier in the afternoon.
Warren took advantage of the short-field, as Micah Passmore scrambled around on fourth down from the 15 and found Arnold in the end zone.
“Our special teams bailed us out twice in the first half – Arnie on that kickoff return and we recovered the ball on the kickoff,” noted Morelli.
With North East at it’s own 36 early in the second quarter, it was Fiscus who stepped in front of Skrekla’s pass and took it to the house for a 21-7 lead.
But Skrekla responded after the Pickers intercepted Passmore, connecting with Dylan Sayers on a 40-yard score that made it 21-14 going into halftime.
“We did some reflecting and were able to get back on track in the second half,” Morelli said.
That might be an understatement, as the Dragons seemed to take the sloppy first half personally.
A Jamo Douvlos sack forced North East three-and-out on their opening possession of the second half, and the Dragons promptly marched 56 yards for a touchdown, courtesy of a 4-yard run by Benedict, who accounted for 39 yards on the drive.
“The thing about Ethan is that he has such an unorthodox running style,” noted Morelli. “He just has his own unique style of running. We know what he’s capable of doing, it’s just getting him the opportunities and getting him a chance to shine. Tonight was his night. He’s going to be a major contributor moving forward.”
A turnover on downs after North East was unable to get a first down set up another short field. From the Pickers 30, Passmore found Arnold on the right side and the senior did the rest, alluding several defenders and finding pay dirt for the third time.
“I just like getting in the end zone,” he said. “All my guys are out there blocking and we’re just trying to make big plays.”
A Blake Arnold sack on North East’s ensuing possession set up a third and long, and Fiscus capitalized with his second interception of the game to set the Dragons up at midfield.
“We made some adjustments,” Ryan Arnold said. “We put Alex Anderson on 16 (Sayers) because he was doing good against us and had Blake blitzing and they couldn’t really stop the blitz.”
A 28-yard pass from Passmore to Anderson put the Dragons in business at the 15, where Passmore called his own number and raced untouched into the end zone.
With a 27-point lead, the Dragons were able to pin their ears back even more and tee off on Skrekla, who was under duress the entire second half.
It was Alex Zariczny’s turn to get to the North East quarterback on the next drive, forcing yet another three and out.
“We pinned our ears back and started getting after him (in the second half),” Morelli noted. “We made some adjustments because what we were doing wasn’t working. North East was well-prepared for the schemes that we had on defense.
“We gave them some different looks and our kids love pinning their ears back and coming after the quarterback. You can see that. They love being aggressive, coming after people and making things happen. When you play passing teams, you have to do that. You can’t play passive. You have to come after them.”
With another convincing win and a 3-1 start to the season in the books, the Dragons now turn their attention to a critical 3-game stretch in Region 7, beginning this Friday when Meadville comes to town.
And while they’ve been good, everyone knows they need to step it up another notch.
“They beat LeBoeuf and we lost to LeBoeuf, so we have to go out and play hard,” Arnold said.
Added Morelli: “Next week we have a chance to earn some respect. Meadville is going to come to Warren, they’re still smarting over that loss from last year. There’s a lot riding on the line next week and we have to play better.”
– – –
Warren 14 7 20 0–41
North East 7 7 0 0–14
N – Aiden Kemp 5 run ( 6:09
W – Ryan Arnold 88 kickoff return (Sawyer Mohney kick) 5:51
W – Arnold 15 pass from Micah Passmore (Mohney kick) 4:31
W – Donovan Fiscus 42 interception return (Mohney kick
N – Dylan Sayers 40 pass from Keyen Skrekla ( 3:05
W – Ethan Benedict 4 run (Mohney kick)
W – Arnold 30 pass from Passmore (Bad Snap)
W – Passmore 15 run (Mohney kick)
First downs 14 12
Total Net Yards 290 181
Rushes-yards 32-207 34-80
Passing 83 101
Comp-Att-Int 8-18-3 8-25-4
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 2-2
Penalties-Yards 8-75 1-5
RUSHING–Warren, Benedict 18-125, Douvlos 8-57, Arnold 2-12, Passmore 3-11, Pascuzzi 1-4, Senz 1-(minus)2; North East, Sayers 15-39, Wittman 4-17, Kemp 3-16, Skrekla 12-8
PASSING – Warren, Passmore 7-17, 2 TD, 3 INT; North East, Skrekla 8-25, 1 TD, 4 INT
RECEIVING – Warren, Arnold 5-48, Anderson 1-28, Benedict 1-4, White 1-4; Norht East, Sayers 5-70, Burch 2-27, Craig 1-