Nobody told Hunter Merritt that Conneaut-Meadville isn’t a rivalry yet.
In the second installment of the Crawford County neighbors, the Eagles walked away with their second straight win over Meadville during a 46-26 drubbing at Bender Field Friday night.
Leading up to the game, both head coaches downplayed the game as a rivalry, citing that with just one game between the two schools prior to last night, it’s too soon to make the claim.
Merritt respectfully disagrees.
“That was an amazing game. Everybody played their hearts out,” Merritt said following his 238-yard rushing performance. “We won the county, that’s the big thing. Big rivalry. It’s bragging rights. And that’s big around here, I guess.”
The dynamic combo of Merritt and running back Elijah Anderton set the tone early, despite the Bulldogs keeping the game within reach during the first half. Meadville traded scores with Conneaut during the first quarter and early in the second, but the Eagles slowly began to pull away, putting a nice cap on a 7-3 regular season that started with three losses.
“This is the way to end the regular season,” Conneaut head coach Pat Gould said. “The goal before the General McLane game was to win out and make the playoffs and see what happens. That’s what we were telling them all week, this was a county championship for us. That was a big deal, and it worked out for us.”
The Bulldogs, a team that rarely throws the ball more than 10 times a game, opened up the contest with back-to-back completions for 30 yards to spark the opening drive of the game. But four plays later, fullback Caleb Bish fumbled and the Eagles recovered, allowing Conneaut to take advantage of the turnover.
The Eagles marched down the field on eight runs before Elijah Anderton scored on a bruising 19-yard touchdown run in which the junior broke multiple tackles to make it 6-0 after a missed extra point.
The Bulldogs responded with a long drive of their own, with Bish making up for the fumble by plowing in from seven yards out to tie the game at 6-6.
Bish, coming off a huge performance a week ago against DuBois, ran well for the second game in a row, once again taking advantage of solid blocking up front. As a team, Meadville found success on the ground, something that made head coach Mike Feleppa happy.
“The backs ran the ball well. The offensive line blocked well for them,” Feleppa said.
Conneaut proved it could run with plenty of success as well, with Anderton punching in his second touchdown of the game from five yards out early in the second quarter to push the Eagles ahead 13-6. Meadville came right back with an impressive drive of its own, as quarterback Kirk Mumau snuck the ball in from the 2-yard line with 6:58 left in the first half to once again even the game at 13.
With the game still in the balance, Conneaut began flexing its collective muscles on the field when Brennon Miller scored on a 1-yard touchdown run on the ensuing drive. A quick 3-and-out by the Eagles’ defense gave Conneaut the ball back late in the half, when Merritt found Taylor Williams on a 10-yard touchdown pass to quickly give Conneaut a 26-13 halftime lead.
Any thought of a Meadville comeback was immediately erased on the first possession of the second half, Merritt broke open an 83-yard touchdown run on the third play from scrimmage to make it 33-13. Merritt’s run was a perfect example of just how explosive Conneaut can be at any given time on the field.
It doesn’t hurt when you have a sophomore as talented as Merritt touching the ball on every snap either.
“That was just a read-option. (Meadville’s defense) all flowed out,” Merritt said. “I cut back against the grain and it was off to the races from there.”
Meadville did score on a 17-play drive following Merritt’s touchdown, as Bish ran it in on a 5-yard run, but by that point, it just wasn’t enough.
Conneaut’s rushing attack became overwhelming, and following an injury to Anderton late in the second quarter, it was Miller who stepped up and didn’t allow the Eagles’ offense to miss a beat.
“The offensive line was outstanding at opening up seams,” Miller said, who finished with 109 yards on just eight carries. “I probably could have drove a car through a few of them.”
Also turning in a big game for Conneaut was Williams, who finished with two touchdown receptions in the win.
Anderton, who rolled his ankle and sat out the remainder of the game, should be fine moving forward, according to Gould. Prior to the injury, Anderton had 77 yards on the ground and a pair of scores.
“I think (Anderton) is fine. I think he’ll be fine next week,” Gould said. “He twisted his ankle a little bit. I think next week he’ll be fine.”
Meadville was led by Bish’s 97 yards rushing, followed by Nathan Martin at 86. Freshman Journey Brown, who had 15 carries, totaled 80 yards, and looks strong carrying the ball.
Conneaut’s season continues next week when it takes on Oil City at Franklin High School. In a year that started off in a hole, the Eagles have dug their way out and appear to be a team that can keep pace with anyone.
For Meadville, a disappointing season finally comes to a close, ending on a note that Feleppa wish would have been much different.
“I told them that I was proud of them. They battled hard all year,” Feleppa said. “They have nothing to be ashamed of. Even though the record doesn’t show it, we played a lot of good football.”
Nobody told Hunter Merritt that Conneaut-Meadville isn’t a rivalry yet.
Breese closes career with second straight title
Sam Breese now knows how it feels to be perfect.
Breese finished with an undefeated season record of 35-0, with win No. 35 being the sweetest one of all.
The Lakeview senior stared into the face of the pressure that comes with defending a title, and made the Giant Center in Hershey feel like home. Undeniable talent and an incredible determination are the hallmarks of Breese’s approach to wrestling, and for the second straight year, he can call himself a champion.
McLane’s Wheeling comes up short in final
On a night when six wrestlers repeated as PIAA Class AAA champions, Chance Marsteller and Thomas Haines stole the show.
Marsteller, of Kennard-Dale, and Haines, of Solanco, became the 11th and 12th four-time gold-medal winners in Pennsylvania history. Marsteller (166-0) also is the first four-time champion to complete his career without a loss since Cary Kolat (1989-92) and the fourth overall.
Serra outlasts Cardinals
For the second time in as many days a basketball team from Cochranton High School played a private school from the WPIAL, put forth a valiant fight, but ultimately had its heart broken.
On Friday, it was the Cochranton boys team, which fell to Vincentian Academy 95-85.
Breese lone local to reach Class AA finals
A busy and entertaining Day 2 of wrestling at the PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships in Hershey came and went, as did the dreams of a gold medal for a handful of local wrestlers.
The one local wrestler that doesn’t apply to is Lakeview’s Sam Breese, who had the Giant Center crowd in aw during his two matches Friday. The two bouts equated to two wins, which means a shot a defending his championship.
Lee, Wheeling survive Day 2 in Hershey
Ehrin Lee’s smile following his quarterfinal win Friday at the PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships told the whole story.
Lee has had his eyes on the state championships all season long, and just getting there wasn’t enough. The Titusville 160-pounder has wrestled like one of the best grapplers in the state during the tournament thus far, and his 3-2 overtime win over Northampton’s Bobby Fehr proved that if nothing else, he’s one of the four best wrestlers in his weight class.
Cards can’t slow Vincentian
The starters on the Cochranton boys basketball team probably slept like logs on Friday night.
They left every ounce on the hardwood of Meadville High School’s House of Thrills, going up against the high-intensity attack of Vincentian Academy in the opening round of the PIAA Class A playoffs.
McLane rolls past Neshannock
Sarah Jay has made a habit of presenting her players with in depth scouting reports prior to each and every game.
But the report she handed them on Neshannock, the Lady Lancers’ first round opponent in the PIAA Class AA playoffs, was nothing like they had seen before.
Class AA first round filled with highs, lows for locals
It was a day full of highs and lows for the 11 local Class AA wrestlers on the opening day of the PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships in Hershey.
For some, it was business as usual, and for others, the atmosphere of a crowded Giant Center proved to be a little much. By the time the preliminary and Round 1 consolation rounds were finished, eight wrestlers are still alive, with state wrestling experience proving to be invaluable Thursday morning.
Lee, Wheeling stay in hunt for Class AAA state title
A win is a win, and when it comes to the PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships, as long as your score reads higher in the end, it really doesn’t matter how you get there.
During the preliminary round of the tournament Thursday afternoon at the Giant Center in Hershey, the six local qualifiers certainly had mixed results, but in the end, two wrestlers are still in the championship bracket, exactly where they want to be.
Cards look to slow down Vincentian
“The best way to sum it up is,” said Cochranton head coach Scott McCurdy, “it’s like they’re down five and there are 30 seconds to go. Only, they play like that for the entire 32 minutes.”
McCurdy is talking about the Vincentian Academy boys basketball team, which employs a style that’s ... well ... calling it up-tempo just doesn’t seem to suffice.
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