By Pete Chiodo
The Meadville football team has itself a pretty high-maintenance date for homecoming.
The Bulldogs welcome Oil City today at 7 p.m. at Bender Field.
“They’re very good,” said Meadville head coach Mike Feleppa. “They’ve got a very good senior group. (Kevin) Daly is a great back, he’s a hard runner. (Logan) Way is a very good wide receiver. They have some other good guys there too. And their quarterbacks manage the game. ... They’re very sound and well-coached.”
Oil City enters the game with a record of 3-2 and a 2-1 mark in Region 5.
Among the losses for the Oilers was a 31-21 loss to General McLane in Week 3, and a forfeit loss to Bradford.
Oil City had outscored Bradford 49-0 in their Week 2 meeting. However, in that game, after the Oilers had a blowout on their hands, head coach Matt LaVerde began sending in bench players. And among them was a ineligible player from one of the program’s co-op schools.
“He was in for two plays,” said LaVerde. “Afterwards, one of my coaches said to me, ‘Isn’t he ineligible?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ I didn’t have a report on him.”
It turned out that the player was ineligible. And LaVerde dropped the dime on himself.
“I know it’s against the rules,” he said. “It’s a loss. Everyone knows we beat them 49-0. The kid had no bearing on the game. But, it’s the law. We preach character and we preach integrity big time. So, I had to report it.”
That decision could end up costing Oil City a region championship by the end of the season. But, LaVerde said, his Oilers will still have a chance as long as they “just keep taking care of business the way we’re supposed to.”
So far, so good. After the two losses, Oil City has posted two huge wins over DuBois (48-41 two weeks ago) and Warren (41-28 last week).
The Oilers will attempt to make it three in a row against Meadville.
The Bulldogs, coming in with a record of 1-4 (0-2 Region 5), do not plan on making it easy for them.
“Oil City-Meadville, historically, has always been a heavyweight fight,” said Feleppa. “The rivalry goes back a long way. It’s homecoming. So, the kids should be ready to roll. We’ve been playing Oil City for a long time now. It’s a good matchup. And I expect our kids to come out and execute and play a good game.”
Defensively, the Bulldogs face a challenge in the air and on the ground from Oil City.
The Oilers possess one of the top running backs in District 10 in senior Kevin Daly, who has 103 carries for 633 yards and 10 touchdowns through five games.
Meadville’s got running backs as well. Fullback Ryan Harkness, for example, is eighth in the district in rush yards with 674, carrying the ball 126 times and scoring five TDs.
“They run the Wing-T, which presents some challenges with the misdirection,” said LaVerde. “They have a solid power running game with the fullback.”
What Oil City has that Meadville doesn’t have, however, is a sharp passing attack. The Oilers have used two quarterbacks this season. Sophomore Jackson McFall will get the start today (the other, senior Trent Zdarko, will start at running back). McFall, who LaVerde identifies as the better passer of the two, has completed 31 of 57 attempts for 633 yards, five TDs and five interceptions.
He’s got a nice compliment of pass-catchers to throw to as well. Senior Logan Way leads the team in receptions with 20 for 264 yards and five touchdowns. And fellow senior Jesse Rice has 18 grabs for 292 yards and one score.