By Pete Chiodo
GUYS MILLS —
In its 44 seasons of existence, the Cochranton football program had never made it to the playoffs two consecutive years, breaching the postseason in 1991, 2003 and then last season.
Well, this year’s Cardinals likely made a little bit of history on Friday night, solidifying a third-place finish in Region 2 with a well-executed 48-6 victory over Maplewood.
“We played well tonight,” said Cochranton head coach Nathan Liberty. “All we’ve looked forward to was the playoffs. That was our key. We want to build this program. Two years in a row in the playoffs is huge for the Cochranton Cardinals. I’m proud of the boys. I’m excited. And I’m proud to be their coach right now.”
The Cardinals head into a bye week with a record of 6-3 overall and 5-2 in the league, trailing Region 2 champion Eisenhower and second-place Cambridge Springs. That should be plenty to get into the District 10 Class A bracket.
Maplewood, meanwhile, is still a pretty good bet for the postseason too. The Tigers finish 3-4 in the region, tied for fourth with Mercyhurst Prep, which got beat by Cambridge Springs last night. However, the best Mercyhurst can finish is 4-6, and to do that it’s going to have to defeat Region 4 co-champion Northwestern next week.
Maplewood has a game against winless Kennedy Catholic a week from today. If the Tigers can pull off a win there, they will be 5-5 overall and will be the only .500 team remaining in Class A outside of Region 2’s top three and Region 1’s top four. Farrell, which would be the No. 5 Class A team out of Region 1, also has a bye in Week 10. And with last night’s loss to Mercer, the Steelers end the year at 4-5 overall.
So, that’s good news for Maplewood.
Yet, head coach Bryan Borkovich wasn’t feeling all that positive after last night’s lackluster performance against the Cardinals.
“I told the kids, I didn’t recognize our team tonight,” Borkovich said. “That’s not the team that’s been here the last couple weeks. That’s not the team that was here a week ago. We have to handle adversity a little better. ... I don’t take anything away from Cochranton. They’re a physical team. They’re well coached. And they have good athletes.”
It was basically all Cochranton from the start of the game to the end of the night.
The Cardinals had nine possessions in the game. One ended with an interception. The other was a couple runs by the JV before the clock ran out in the fourth. The other seven possessions? Those were all touchdowns.
The Cards gained 491 yards of offense on the night, including 344 on the ground and 147 through the air.
It all started up front.
“Our line has been incredible this year,” said Cardinals quarterback Chad Eisenhooth. “Alex Custead has been leading the line all year and they’ve just been putting people on their backs.”
And Cochranton’s defense was equally as sharp, holding an improved Maplewood squad to just 166 yards of total offense, a third of which came on Maplewood’s final drive of the night, which netted the Tigers their lone score of the game — a 19-yard touchdown pass from Dane Barker to receiver Wyatt Wright.
“Our defensive line showed up,” said Cardinals senior Jesse Staudt. “Our whole defense showed up. It was a sound defensive game.”
It didn’t help that Maplewood was without one of its top weapons, Miller Peters, who missed the game with an ankle injury.
“It hurt them without Miller Peters in there,” said Liberty. “I know how they feel. We had Chad out for three games.”
Cochranton, on the other hand, had all of its skill players in uniform. And all of them came up big last night.
Eisenhooth, for instance, rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown and completed 9-of-14 passes for 147 yards and two more touchdowns.
“We can throw to anyone out there,” said Eisenhooth. “We have so many good skill players. It’s just unlimited possibilities.”
He opened the game with a 57-yard touchdown run up the middle on Cochranton’s second play from scrimmage. He later connected with Staudt on a 22-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter that made it 24-0. And he completed a 15-yard touchdown strike in the third quarter, which made it a 36-0 ball game. He also threw for a two-point conversion to Garrett Adams.
Staudt had a big game as well, running the ball five times for 59 yards and a touchdown while catching three passes for 44 yards and another score.
In the first quarter, Staudt finally got his hands around a bobbled give from Eisenhooth and then bolted around the left side of the line 45 yards for a touchdown.
He later added the 22-yard touchdown catch from Eisenhooth, and also rushed in a two-point conversion.
Staudt watched disaster turn into opportunity in the third quarter. Eisenhooth completed a pass to Staudt that went 12 yards. But as Staudt was being tackled, the ball popped out and landed on the 20.
Fortunately for the Cardinals, Tyler Buchan was right there. He scooped it up and had nothing in between himself and the end zone, so he completed the play for six points.
Another skill played to have a big night for was Jamar Moody. Along with a two-point conversion in the second, he caught the 15-yard touchdown pass from Eisenhooth. And then in the fourth, as the Cardinals faced a first-and-10 from their own 18, Moody rocketed through Maplewood defense for an 82-yard score, making it a 42-0 ball game.
One other player had a big night for Cochranton. It was in the fourth quarter. Cochranton was well ahead, and was facing a second-and-25 from the 30. So they decided to try something different and hand-off the ball to freshman lineman Alex Johnston.
Last week in the Cardinals’ rout of Youngsville, the Cards put its entire bench in, but the soft spoken Johnston was overlooked. So to make up for it, they were going to give him a carry in an otherwise hopeless situation.
Instead, Johnston made a cut through the line and went all 30 yards into the house for the TD.
“I couldn’t believe what was going on,” said Staudt.