By Pete Chiodo
It’s hard to say which East team will show up when the Warriors go head-to-head with the Meadville Bulldogs today at 7 p.m. at Bender Field.
Will it be the team that gave highly- regarded Warren a run for its money in Week 1, during which the Dragons escaped with a narrow 21-20 win?
Or will it be the team that netted less than 50 total yards in a 35-0 loss to Central Tech the following week?
Looking to claim its first victory of the season, Meadville may hope for the latter but must plan for the former.
The Warriors can be tricky.
“East is a multiple formation offense,” said Bulldogs head coach Mike Feleppa. “They give you a lot of formations to defend. So, you’ve got to be able to recognize what they’re coming out in. And then they like to run the ball on the perimeter and they like to take their shots in the air.”
East seems to be the most effective when it can get its running game going. Central held East to negative yards on the ground and the Warriors couldn’t sniff the end zone all game.
However, Warren gave East a little wiggle room and the Warriors used it to rack up 121 yards and three rushing TDs.
The Warriors’ most effective rusher this season has been senior Dairus Davis who leads the team with 63 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries.
However, coach Feleppa said the best athlete in East’s backfield is actually senior Anthony Gates, who has 11 carries for 32 yards and has also caught two passes for 20 yards.
“Their quarterback is a good athlete as well, decent arm, fast,” he said.
That quarterback is senior Jarel Nelson. He’s attempted 29 passes this season, completing 11 while throwing two picks.
His favorite target so far this year has been senior Eddie Williams who has seven catches for 92 yards.
So, while Meadville has to shut down the Warriors’ run game, the Bulldogs’ “D” also has to be careful about the passing game. East has a lot of nice athletes that can be trouble should they get behind the secondary.
Meadville hasn’t faced a truly big test in the air this season. Northwestern tried a little bit in week one, with quarterback Jay Clingler completing 4-of-9 attempts for 87 yards. He was picked off once by Caleb Schweter.
Where MASH’s first two opponents have done the damage is on the ground. Northwestern rushed for 200 yards and four TDs in week one, averaging 8.7 yards per carry.
And last week, Slippery Rock recorded 377 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, averaging 9.4 yards per carry.
Yet, defense is not the only area in which Meadville needs to step up in Week 3, according to coach Feleppa.
“I think we need to get more consistent in all three phases of the game,” he said, “offensively, defensively and on special teams.”
Meadville’s offense has moved the ball okay, averaging 264 yards per game. But those yards haven’t translated into very many points. They had a single TD in a 31-7 loss to Northwestern, and didn’t score until the fourth quarter of last week’s 49-16 loss to Slippery Rock.
Senior fullback Ryan Harkness has been the ’Dogs most potent weapon this season, gaining 210 yards on 42 carries. Junior Jarrid Miller is the team’s second-leading rusher with 87 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Yet, today he’ll miss his second straight game with an unspecified injury.
Harkness will be joined in the backfield by halfbacks Nathan Martin (16 carries, 65 yards) and Caleb Schweter (eight carries, 19 yards, one TD).