By Jim Hunter
One play can change a football game dramatically.
Just ask the Bulldogs.
A few minutes after MASH’s punishing fullback Jarrid Miller scored on an emotional 22-yard run to get the Bulldogs within 14-7 with 4:18 left in the third quarter, Northwestern halfback Austin Miczo popped the Bulldogs’ momentum bubble on the Wildcats’ enusing first play.
Breaking loose around the right end, Miczo scored on a 77-yard scamper to defuse the Bulldogs’ short-lived mojo as the Wildcats went on to a 31-7 victory in non-region action Friday night.
The big-play Wildcats avenged last season’s 38-36 loss to the Bulldogs.
A dejected Meadville coach Mike Feleppa had few words afterwards: “Northwestern was the better team. They have a great team.”
When asked if Meadville’s inexperience — sophomore quarterback Tanner Frye and Miller were making their first career varsity starts — were a factor, Feleppa said, “I am not going to use our inexperience as an excuse. You still have to play football. They beat us.”
Although on the losing end, Frye and Miller had solid performances in their debuts.
Managing the game with senior-like coolness, Frye completed 3-of-10 passes for 31 yards and only had one turnover.
Punishing the Northwestern defenders on a few occasions, Miller rushed for 87 yards on 17 carries before leaving the game early in the fourth quarter with cramp-like symptoms.
After scoring MASH’s touchdown, a fired-up Feleppa greeted Miller on the field with a high-five and a few words, “That’s my fullback.”
On the Bulldogs’ 67-yard, 12-play scoring drive, Miller rushed for 55 yards on six hauls.
“We played some ball on that first drive,” said Feleppa.
The Bulldogs didn’t smell paydirt again.
After Miczo’s run, Northwestern kicker Nathan Tewell booted a 23-yard field goal and Brandon Rieser iced the game with a 32-yard touchdown run with 7:06 left in the game.
Rieser started the game with big-play heroics. Picking up Meadville’s punt at the Bulldogs’ 46, Rieser dodged a few tacklers and scooted down the left sideline for a touchdown with :02 left in the first period.
‘Dog Bites: Meadville senior running back Ryan Harkness — who got stronger as the game went on — broke the 100-yard mark with 113 yards rushing on 23 carries ... The Bulldogs outrushed the Wildcats, 248-200 and had more first downs (16-11) ... Feleppa gambled early and won three times. Despite being in their own 30- and 40-yard area, Feleppa went for it on fourth down three times and won on the Bulldogs’ opening two possessions ... Senior Caleb Schweter recorded his first career varsity interception. He also caught two passes for 16 yards.