By Pete Chiodo
It took three games and then some, but the Meadville football team finally shook the monkey off its back and put a victory on the board with last week’s thrilling 12-6 victory over East.
“It’s always a good feeling when you get that first win of the year,” said Meadville head coach Mike Feleppa. “The guys fought hard for four quarters plus. They believed in themselves. They believed in the game plan. And they really turned it on in overtime and came out on top.”
Now the Bulldogs (1-2, 0-1 Region 5) will try to make it two in a row. But it won’t come easy as they face undefeated Warren (3-0, 1-0 Region 5) today at 7 p.m. at Bender Field.
“I think they’re pretty good,” Feleppa said. “They’re 3-0. They’re really big up front. They come off the ball. So, it will be a challenge.”
Warren, helmed by first-year head coach Greg Latimer, enters the game on the heels of 32-14 win over Bradford.
Typically, the Dragons do most of their damage with their passing attack, led by junior quarterback D.J. Fehlman.
However, Warren showed against Bradford that it can rush the ball too. Junior running back Kyle Kulka toted the ball 30 times for 198 yards and carried in three touchdowns, including touchdown runs of 30 and 70 yards in the third quarter.
“They’re a zone-read team,” said Feleppa. They’ll spread you out. They’ve also got some two-tight sets. They like to run the ball. They have a zone-read running game attack. Their running backs run hard. They’re a well-balanced team.”
Fehlman was by no means silent during the Bradford game. He completed two touchdown passes, giving him nine for the season. He’s completed 26 of 41 attempts for 405 yards on the year and has been picked off three times.
“Their quarterback is a good athlete,” said Feleppa. “He’s got great poise. He never gives up on a play. He scrambles around and makes things happen when it seems like there’s nothing there.”
Fehlman’s top target this year has been junior Tanner Stanz, who has eight receptions for 127 yards and has scored six TDs. And Ryan Shattuck, another junior, has four catches for 117 yards and has scored twice.
“We faced a zone-spread team last week,” said Feleppa. “We’ve seen the spread for two straight weeks now, even though Slippery Rock is a spread-option team they still line up in the spread. So it’s nothing we haven’t seen already. It’s a different running style that Warren poses. So we just have to trust the scheme defensively. And we’ve got to become better tacklers again this week, because if they make you miss in the open they’ll make you pay for it.”
East out-gained Meadville last week 284-200. But the Bulldogs defense made stops at crucial moments to keep the game in hand, holding East to one second-quarter touchdown.
“They moved the ball on us between the 20s,” said Feleppa. “It was a bend-but-don’t-break defense. We made a lot of key stops when we had to. We need to do a better job of creating some turnovers. We’re not getting as many turnovers as I’d like. We caused three fumbles last week, but East was able to pounce on the ball every time. When the ball’s in the air, we’ve got to go get it. And when the ball’s on the ground, we’ve got to go get it and create some breaks for ourselves.”
Meadville fullback Ryan Harkness rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries to lead Meadville last week. He’s four-yard run in overtime won the game for the ’Dogs.
He comes into today’s game as MASH’s leading rusher with 315 yards and two TDs on 59 carries. Halfback Nathan Martin follows with 26 carries for 135 yards.