Harbor Creek 34, Meadville 6
It was a tough start to a season filled with promise. But as bad as the score might look, there was plenty of positives for the Bulldogs to take away from the loss.
Most, if not all of them, came in the second half.
In the second half, MASH allowed just one TD and posted its only points of the game. But the contest was lost in the first half, thanks to turnovers and penalties. Mental mistakes that head coach Mike Pendolino addressed all week in practice.
“Obviously the mistakes hurt,” said the fifth-year mentor. “Penalties, giving up the ball ... fumbles. Just fundamental things ... keeping your head clear and focusing. It’s pretty easy stuff.”
It didn’t appear so in the first half against the Huskies.
And the task today when the Bulldogs host longtime rival Warren isn’t going to be any easier. The Dragons beat Meadville last year 48-12. But getting prepared for a team MASH has faced 64 times previously has some advantages.
“They do a lot of the same things they did last year,” said Pendolino. “The spread, option. They put the ball up a little more last week (against General McLane) because they fell behind, but I don’t think they are uncomfortable with that.
“They still run the 4-4 defense. They like to play with your head by moving the linebackers all around pre-snap, and then jumping out. Sometimes they will come and bring pressure off the edge.”
Defensively, Meadville will have to keep its eyes on quarterback Jeff Eaton.
The Warren field general passed for 151 yards against the defending Class AAA state champion Lancers. He is also the key to making Warren’s option work. If there is one thing that Meadville can point to from Warren’s game last week, it’s that Eaton does make mistakes. He only completed just 8-of-23 passes and threw three interceptions.
“We are going to play our defense and make (Eaton) work,” said Pendolino. “I think if our front people get a push ... the thing is we have to be disciplined up front because they run the option off that. If we get too big a push too soon, we will leave creases.
“So we have to be disciplined to play the option game and the pass rush.”
Offensively, Meadville will have to pick up the Warren blitzes, if they are going to end a 15-game losing streak that dates back to Oct. 1, 2006 when the Bulldogs beat Erie Central, 35-20.
It will not only be key for the passing game, but also the running game. If the blitzes and stunts are picked up, holes will open for quarterback Jon Roncolato and a running back corps that includes last week’s leading rusher, Mike Prystaloski (55 yards on 11 carries). Luckily, the Dragons are very similar to Harbor Creek.
“I don’t think Warren is quite as active as Harbor Creek,” said Pendolino. “But I do think they are going to move around quite a bit before the snap.”
That puts a lot of pressure on the offensive line. Last week, the Huskies controlled the trenches early. But MASH’s front five did a great job of picking things up in the second half.
“(The line) got off to rocky start,” said Pendolino. “When we started picking up the blitzes and stunts, it was too late.”
Pendolino said there are no changes to the starting lineup, though that could change after Thursday’s practice.
“We put the best 11 players on the field each game, regardless,” said Pendolino.
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Harbor Creek 34, Meadville 6