By Frank Foreman
Winning a game through the air is a lost art form in football at the high school level.
Oil City is bringing back the air assault in style.
Oilers sophomore quarterback Jackson McFall torched the Bulldogs secondary for 301 yards and four touchdowns and scored one on the ground en route to a 42-13 Region 5 win at Bender Field Friday on Meadville’s homecoming night.
Perhaps Meadville head coach Mike Feleppa said it best following the one-sided loss: “You can’t stop a quarterback like that, you can only contain him.”
Though McFall had a massive night passing the ball, the Meadville defense broke up plenty of passes as well, keeping a 301-yard passing game from what could have been near the 400 mark.
“I thought we contained him until the end,” Feleppa said in reference to McFall. “I thought our kids were in position to make plays and break up passes. Some interceptions would have been nice, but I though we did a good job.”
The Oilers (4-2, 3-1 Region 5) are well aware of their strength as a football team, and Oil City head coach Matt LaVerde wasted little time getting to it.
“We thought we had to get (Meadville) into pass coverage, which is the weakness of their team and our strength,” LaVerde said. “We had some mismatches there.”
The Bulldogs (1-5, 0-3 Region 5) opened the game with possession and looked fantastic running the ball on the opening drive. Meadville pieced together a 12-play drive that started at its own 21-yard line. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, it ended at Oil City’s 4-yard line.
On 4th-and-goal from the 4-yard line, Meadville’s Nathan Martin was stuffed trying to find the end zone, turning the ball over on downs, and putting an end to an impressive drive that could have easily changed the complexion of the game.
“It was a big stand. Not getting behind early is important,” LaVerde said.
For Feleppa, it was a missed opportunity.
“It would have been a great momentum thing to drive it down there and punch it in. That’s why I went for it,” Feleppa said. “It was a great drive, but I thought we overcame it. I didn’t think it was demoralizing or backbreaking. We just had to move on.”
Both teams traded possessions before Oil City got on the board first, by way of a beautifully drawn up screen pass from McFall to Kevin Daly that went 57 yards for the touchdown. It was 3rd-and-11 as McFall scrambled right and brought the entire defense with him. A quick toss to the left found Daly wide open, allowing him to scamper down the field for the easy score.
Looking to bounce back, Meadville did the exact opposite on the ensuing drive when on the first play the Bulldogs fumbled, setting the Oilers up at the Meadville 34-yard line.
Oil City cashed in six plays later when McFall ran in a quarterback sneak from two yards out to make it 14-0.
The Bulldogs had to make something happen before the contest got out of hand, and promptly answered on the next possession, putting together a nine-play, 75-yard drive, culminating in a 24-yard touchdown run by Martin to cut the Oil City lead to 14-6 following a failed extra point.
But just when Meadville found itself back in the game, McFall took it away from them, throwing a 9-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Goodman to push the lead to 21-6. Just before halftime, Oil City found the end zone again, this time via a 1-yard touchdown toss to Logan way to give the Oilers a 28-6 halftime advantage.
After a scoreless third quarter, McFall scored on a fake option run from 55 yards away on the first play of the fourth quarter to put Oil City ahead 35-6.
With the game out of reach, the Oilers put the finishing touches on an impressive victory, with McFall throwing a 50-yard touchdown pass to Way.
Meadville found the end zone one more time in the final minute of play thanks to a Ryan Harkness 4-yard touchdown run.
While Oil City threw for over 300 yards, Meadville failed to record any yards through the air, attempting just two passes. On the ground, the Bulldogs were led by Martin, who finished with 134 yards on 17 carries. Harkness followed with 122 yards on 23 carries.
For Oil City, McFall led the team with 93 rushing yards.
“We just have to keep moving forward,” Feleppa said. “We can’t focus on the big picture, just on next week and the next practice. We still have to prepare and focus on the positive things.”