Meadville simply couldn’t put the breaks on Central Tech’s fleet-footed duo of quarterback Paul Kafando and skill back Eugene Husband.
Husband rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries. Kafando had 143 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries. And combined, the two amassed more than 92 percent of the Falcons’ total offense during the Erie squad’s 30-21 win over the Bulldogs during homecoming night at Bender Field Friday.
“(Kafando) was playing with a little chip on his shoulder,” said Central Tech head coach Rob Matz. “Tonight I sat him out a play. Nothing major, but they know the rules. And he didn’t pout. He didn’t cry. He worked hard. And he carried this team on his back, him and ‘Geno’ (Husband).”
With the win, Central snaps a three-game losing streak and improves to 2-3 on the year.
On the other side of the field, Meadville lost its second straight and drops to 2-3.
“You have to rebound, you have no choice,” said Feleppa. “It’s a 10-game season. And if you don’t rebound, you just keep losing. So we have no choice but to rebound.”
MASH started the game with an epic scoring drive. It ate up the first 7:52 of the first quarter, included 16 plays and traveled 74 yards. It ended with a five-yard plow up the middle by Bulldogs’ fullback Ryan Harkness.
Central went three-and-out on its next possession. And Meadville got off to a good start on its next series, but ran out of downs in Falcons territory.
Central then came up with an answer early in the second quarter thanks to a pair of big runs by their speedy duo. On the second play from scrimmage, Kafando took off on a 34-yard keeper to move the ball into Meadville’s turf. And two plays later, Husband broke through the left side of the line and zoomed 38 yards for the score.
Kafando then rushed for the 2-pointer, and Central led 8-7.
Two plays into Meadville’s next drive, Husband pulled a pass by Tyler Minnis out of the air to give the ball back to the Falcons. It was the first of three interceptions by Central, and the first of two for Husband.
The drive born out of that turnover lasted nine plays, but needed a little help from the Bulldogs to stay alive. Three plays in, the Falcons were looking at a fourth-and-three situation. Kafando gave the ’Dogs a hard count and the Meadville line jumped, giving Central a first down.
Later in the drive, Central was faced with a third-and-18 on Meadville’s 40. Kafando dropped back to pass and didn’t find anybody open, so he tucked the ball and took off. He shook off a couple tackles on his way, blazing 40 yards into the end zone. He tacked on the 2-pointer with another carry, and Central extended its lead to 16-7.
“When you miss tackles, and you have them tackled in the backfield and they’re not wrapped up and they squirt out, it’s not a good thing,” said Feleppa. “It’s been our Achilles heel all year, that we haven’t tackled very well. Evidently I haven’t figured out how to fix it.”
Meadville worked a little magic before halftime to make it a two-point game. The ’Dogs were looking at a fourth-and-goal from the 14 and trotted out kicker Patrick Adams for a field goal attempt.
Instead, Minnis, acting as holder, took the snap and rolled to his right. He sighted Trevor Martin heading towards the goal line and slung the ball his way. The ball was grazed by a Central defender, but Martin laid out for it, got his hands around the ball, and landed in the end zone for a touchdown.
“We shot ourselves in the foot with that fake field goal,” said Matz. “We had everybody in prevent before that. And when they were going for the field goal, our guys got sucked up. That was a bad one on me. I should have called a timeout. I take the blame for that.”
MASH’s 2-point try fell short, and the two teams went into the locker rooms with Central leading 16-13.
To start the third quarter, Meadville got a huge boost of momentum. On Central’s first play of the game, Kafando lost his grip on the ball and it landed right in the hands of MASH linebacker Jake Jageman.
Jageman had nothing but field in front of him, and he returned it 38 yards for the score. And Minnis again connected with Martin for the PAT to make it 21-16 ’Dogs.
“That was a killer,” said Matz. “But I didn’t want to get into panic mode. The way we were moving the ball all night, just looking at the halftime stats, I felt we could continue to move the ball. So I felt okay about it. We didn’t want to panic.”
Indeed, Central grabbed the lead right back, going on an eight-play, 67-yard drive that concluded with a one-inch dive by Falcons fullback Eli Rydzewski. Central didn’t convert on a PAT rush, but still held the lead, 22-21.
Meadville had two opportunities to take that lead back. But they were forced to punt the first away. And the second ventured all the way to Central’s 29 before running out of downs.
Central then got the ball back, and on its first play of the fourth, Husband swept around the left side and streaked down the sideline 71 yards for the touchdown. Kafando busted in the 2-pointer to make it a two-possession game with 6:16 to play.
“We’ve been trying to get Eugene to run full speed all year long,” said Matz. “We’re like, ‘If you run full speed, you can get to the corner and nobody can stay with you.’ And he finally showed it tonight.”
Meadville had little time to answer, but its next two possessions ended in interceptions.
Notes: Meadville running back Artrel Foster, in his first game playing offense since getting injured in Week 1, ended up leading the Bulldogs with 144 rushing yards on 25 carries. Harkness followed with 57 yards on 17 carries. ... The Bulldogs return to action Friday at Oil City.