By Jim Hunter
The Tigers had a better idea than watching the Pirates, Penguins and/or Browns on television Thursday night.
Pound Mercyhurst Prep.
Punishing the Lakers with a four-headed rushing attack, Maplewood posted its biggest win in recent history with a dominating 35-14 victory in Region 2 action at Erie Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The “W” moved the Tigers into sole possession of third place in the region with a 3-2 record. Mercyhurst Prep dropped to 2-3.
“This win is huge for our program,” said an elated Maplewood coach Bryan Borkovich. “We are moving in the right direction. I told the boys afterwards this is just one win ... we have more to get.”
Borkovich’s game plan against MP worked to near perfection: run, run and run some more. Racking up 405 yards rushing, the Tigers nearly had four 100-yard runners.
Junior Miller Peters led the way with 130 yards on nine carries and two touchdowns. Junior quarterback Dane Barker (18 hauls) and junior tailback Tyshaun Johnson (12 hauls) gained 98 yards apiece and freshman tailback Brandon Bishop rushed for 79 on 10 hauls.
Barker would have had 100 yards, but he kneeled down on the Tigers’ last two plays.
“I thought we could run the ball against (them),” said Borkovich. “Our front line did a fantastic job in pushing them back. I was extremely pleased with how we executed on offense.”
Maplewood’s front five plowers: left tackle Marcus Hays, left guard Cody Bryan, center Dustin Delo, right guard Luke McPherson and right tackle Austin Binkert.
After failing on their first series, the Tigers scored on their next three possessions to take a commanding 21-0 halftime lead.
Peters didn’t waste any time going over the 100-yard mark as he broke loose for a 94-yard touchdown romp for the Tigers’ first TD with :21 remaining in the first quarter.
After an interception by Tigers’ defensive back Jeremy Dahl at Mercyhurst’s 35, Maplewood increased its lead to 14-0 three minutes later as Bishop crossed the goal line on a 23-yard run.
On Maplewood’s third touchdown, Barker did the damage. Rushing for 34 yards on three totes and completing a 12-yard pass to Bishop, Barker led the Tigers on a 71-yard, seven-play drive — capped off by his 24-yard touchdown scamper.
On Mercyhurst’s ensuing possession, the Lakers were driving in to score, but the ’Wood laid the wood. On the Tigers’ 5, Lakers’ running back Joe Swanson caught a 2-yard pass, but was hammered by the ’Wood and lost the ball — into the hands of MHS lineman Hays.
“That defensive stand was huge ... right before half,” said Borkovich.
The Tigers stayed on the offensive on their opening series in the second half. Breaking several tackles, Johnson broke free and scored on a 19-yard run to give the Black & Gold a 28-0 lead with 8:57 left in the third quarter.
In other words, the ’Wood delivered its KO punch.
On the opening play in the fourth quarter, Bishop scored Maplewood’s fifth touchdown on a 2-yard run.