Dragons start strong, fade in second half in District 10 semifinal loss to Meadville
EDINBORO, Pa. – For one half of football, Warren put some serious fear into heavily favored Meadville in the District 10 Class 5A semifinal at Edinboro University’s Sox Harrison Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
But in the end, the Bulldogs simply wore the Dragons down.
In a game that Warren led at the end of the first quarter and trailed by just one score at halftime, the Bulldogs rolled in the second half en route to a 49-7 win.
“That first 20 minutes in the first half was probably the best football we’ve played all year,” said Warren coach Mark Morelli. “The kids played an inspired game in the first half.”
Indeed they did.
In the first meeting of the season, the Dragons provided little resistance to the Meadville running game, specifically senior fullback Aryan Cotterman (280 rushing yards). This time around was different, however, as Cotterman wasn’t really able to get going in the first half.
Alex Zeigler, Jamo Douvlos and Easton Hultbeg all made big stops in the first quarter on third and fourth downs to keep the high-powered Bulldog rushing attack in check.
In fact, it was Zeigler who set up the Dragons’ first score, as he smothered a fake punt attempt by the Bulldogs at the 31-yard line.
“The big thing we wanted to do early is getting into the gaps,” Morelli said. “We did that well in the first half.”
The Dragons, who have attempted just four passes in the last two games, and seemed to catch the Bulldogs off guard. On second-and-11, quarterback Micah Passmore rolled out and found a wide-open Donovan Fiscus, who did the rest, scampering into the end zone. Sawyer Mohney’s extra point made it 7-0 with 5:55 to go in the first quarter.
The message was sent right away that the Dragons weren’t simply going to roll over and provide a red carpet to the D-10 title game for the Bulldogs.
“Our coaches saw something we thought would work and we decided to take a chance with it,” Morelli said. “Fortunately it was there and at the time gave us a 7-0 lead. I think we surprised them a little bit. That gave us that momentum in the first half to play as well as we did.”
The Dragon defense allowed just two Meadville first downs in the first quarter, but the Bulldog defense stiffened as well.
After the two teams traded punts, Meadville was able to find its first sustained success of the game on the ground, as Hayden Parks scored the first of his four touchdowns, a 6-yard run to cap a 9-play, 72-yard drive, tying the game at 7 with 10:32 left in the first half.
On the ensuing Warren possession, the Dragons marched the ball from their own 13 to the Meadville 43, as Passmore connected with Alex Anderson and Ryan Arnold broke off a 12-yard run.
The drive stalled, however, forcing a punt.
The two teams again traded punts, and it looked as if it would be 7-7 going into halftime, but Parks broke free for a 38-yard score with 2:28 to go in the half, sending Meadville into the locker room up 7.
“The kids were excited at halftime. They realized they could play with them,” Morelli said. “But when you get to this level you can’t make the mistakes that we made, especially in the second half with missed tackles and things like that and expect to beat a good team like Meadville.”
The Dragons continued to play with the Bulldogs early in the third quarter. Meadville chewed four minutes off the clock, but the Dragons got them into a 4th-and-14 situation 20 yards away from the end zone. Beck dropped back and threw a ball up for grabs off his back foot that somehow Parks was able to come down with for a touchdown.
And just like that, the momentum was sucked away from the Warren sideline.
“The 4th-and-14 play got the ball rolling the opposite way,” Morelli said. “Again, it’s got to come down to understanding situational football. That was a 4th-and-14 play that ends up being a big turning point in the game. We couldn’t seem to get anything going after that. That took the wind out of our sails.”
It certainly did, as Warren (6-4) couldn’t get anything going offensively.
Conversely, the Meadville offensive line took over the game from that point forward. Cotterman and Chandler Edwards found the end zone to turn what was a close game into a 35-7 Meadville lead going into the fourth quarter.
“They started wearing us down,” Morelli said. “Quite honestly, they just had too much firepower for us to keep up. They’re a good solid, football team and they’re in the finals for a reason. You saw today their offensive line just pounds you and pounds you and pounds you and we didn’t have an answer for them in the second half despite how well we played in the first half.”
Meadville advances to play Oil City, a 42-7 winner over General McLane, for the District 10 title. The two teams met back on Oct. 4, a narrow 34-33 win for the Oilers.
For Warren meanwhile, they polished off back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2012-13. Clearly, things are trending in the right direction for the Dragons.
“We lost, but that won’t ruin the season that we had,” Morelli said. “It’s something to build on for next year because we have a lot of kids coming back. We’ve got to emulate Meadville in the weight room. We have to get bigger and stronger if we want to take the next step in the playoffs.”
For the senior class, it’s been quite a run. A group that won just one game in junior high will now be etched in Dragon lore as major cogs in winning 12 games over a 2-year span.
“I can’t say enough about our seniors,” Morelli said. “I think they’ve seen what hard work does. As long as that hard work continues, we’ll continue to grow and get better and they have been a major part of that.”
– – –
Warren 7 0 0 0 – 7
Meadville 0 14 21 14 – 49
W – Donovan Fiscus 32 pass from Micah Passmore (Sawyer Mohney kick) 5:55
M – Hayden Parks 6 run (Sam Burchard kick) 10:32
M – Parks 38 run (Burchard kick) 2:28
M – Parks 20 pass from Landon Beck (Kick Failed) 8:01
M – Chandler Edwards 1 run (Parks 2-point conversion run) 4:38
M – Parks 12 run (Burchard kick) 3:57
M – Aryan Cotterman 4 run (Burchard kick) 10:14
M – Austin Chess 6 pass from Beck (Burchard kick) 3:09
– – –
First Downs 6 20
Rushes-Yards 32-46 58-338
Passing Yards 65 58
Comp-Att-Int 4-6-1 3-4-0
Total Yards 111 396
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 1-0
Penalities-Yards 4-23 5-52
– – –
Warren: Arnold 14-41, Passmore 14-11, Benedict 3-3, Fiscus 1-(minus)9; Meadville: Cotterman 21-133, Parks 21-101, Edwards 10-84, Beck 5-13, Pollard 1-7
Warren: Passmore 4-of-6, 65 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; Meadville: Beck 3-of-4, 58 yards, 2 TDs
Warren: Anderson 3-33, Fiscus 1-32, TD; Meadville: Parks 2-51, TD; Chase 1-6, TD