By Pete Chiodo
Central Tech’s Calvin Franklin took a pitch up the right sideline and into the end zone to break a 21-21 tie in the fourth quarter. And Meadville’s would-be answer stalled at midfield as the Falcons came away with a 27-21 victory over the Bulldogs in a non-region football game on Friday at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Central improves to 2-3 on the season with the win. Meadville falls to 1-4.
“They left it all out on the field,” said Meadville head coach Mike Feleppa. “And I tell them every time, ‘As long as you leave everything out on the field and you can look yourself in the mirror and know you gave everything you had, then that’s all you can do.’
“They should be proud of the way they fought. I’m not saying we’re going to accept the loss. We’re not happy we lost. But we fought hard and I’m proud of them.”
The game started out rather disastrously for Meadville. Central Tech opened the game with a successful onside kick to set up its offense on Meadville’s 42. And on the first play from scrimmage, the Falcons’ Eric Mitchell zoomed around the left side of the line, cut back across the field and gobbled up all 42 yards for a touchdown.
Meadville’s opening drive was short lived. And Central went right back to work on offense, driving 55 yards on nine plays to score another TD. On third-and-13, a tipped pass by Central quarterback Josh Wells fell into the hands of receiver Albert Jones, giving the Falcons a first down on the 5. Then Wells barreled up the middle into the end zone for the score. The ensuing kick by Sam Duncan was low and into the line, making it 13-0 Falcons.
The Bulldogs found an answer, though. Their next series lasted 12 plays, including two fourth-down conversions, and covered 50 yards, ending with a seven-yard up-the-gut rush by Ryan Harkness, cutting Central’s lead to 13-7.
Central Tech looked to deliver a couple devastating blows to start the second quarter. The first came after a Bulldogs fumble that was scooped up by Jones at the 20 and returned all the way into the end zone. However, the play was called back by an illegal block.
Then on the Falcons’ first play from scrimmage, Mitchell took a handoff 49 yards up the right sideline and into the end zone. However, that play was also called back due to an illegal block.
Central ended the half with 80 yards on nine penalties, and had 14 penalties for 115 yards for the game.
“We had two back-to-back touchdowns called back,” said Matz. “In all my years here I’d never seen nothing like that. We had over 100 yards in penalties. I was very upset. But we went in at halftime and I said we’re not going to let Meadville take the game away from us, and we’re not going to let the officials take the game away from us. We’re going to make our own destiny.”
Before that, however, Meadville got the ball back on its own 36 with 4:30 to play in the half. The Bulldogs commenced another impressive series. This one lasted a dozen plays and ate up all 64 yards, coming to a close with a 1-yard lean-in by quarterback Tanner Frye. Patrick Adams’ kick gave the ’Dogs a 14-13 lead at the break.
Harkness had a big half for the Bulldogs, carrying the ball 16 times for 105 yards.
“I can’t tell you the respect I have for that Harkness kid,” said Matz. “That is a tough, tough running back. I’d take him on my team any day.”
The third quarter was relatively uneventful. Early on, the Bulldogs and the Falcons traded fumbles on consecutive plays. But neither team could turn that into points.
Late in the period, however, Central started a drive on its own 10. Meadville had the Falcons stopped on their own 35 yard line when Wells was stuffed at the line of scrimmage by the Meadville defense on a fourth-and-1. However, the ’Dogs were charged with an incidental facemask penalty, handing the Falcons a first down.
The drive resumed. And a handful of plays later, Wells found receiver Eddie Tate open on the goal line and delivered the pass for a touchdown. A two-point conversion by Dimitri Allison made it a 21-14 ball game.
“Usually I harp on the kids when they call a play or yell stuff from the sidelines,” said Matz. “But Eddie Tate is a senior, he’s a captain. And he looked at me and he said that our one boot pass was there. And I went with it. And that’s when we scored that touchdown.”
MASH answered right back, however. The Bulldogs embarked on an eight-play, 63-yard drive highlighted by a 10-yard touchdown run by Nathan Martin.
Meadville was called for unsportsmanlike conduct at the end of the play, moving the team back 15 yards for the extra point. Adams kicked from the 25 and drove it low and in between the uprights to tie the game at 21-21.
Meadville’s kickoff was short, setting up the Falcons on their own 41. Three plays later, Franklin broke away for the 35-yard touchdown.
Meadville’s Andrew Bosco batted down the extra point attempt making it a 27-21 game and leaving a window open for Meadville to steal it away.
However, the Bulldogs’ drive traveled 15 yards on seven plays and ran out of steam at the 50. Central Tech needed just one first down to run out the clock and got it on a third-and-3 to end the game.
“After that touchdown, we told our defense that they had to stiffen up,” said Matz. “We just preached to these kids to never give up. And we showed that tonight. The defense stepped up when we needed it to.”
Mitchell ended up leading Central with 126 yards on seven carries. Wells completed 4-of-8 passes for 51 yards and rushed for 74 on a team-high 18 carries. Franklin added 63 yards on eight carries.
Harkness finished the night leading Meadville with 170 yards on 29 carries. Martin followed with nine carries for 55 yards.