Farrell was used to the District 10 title game. After all, the Steelers have celebrated with the plaque for four straight seasons and were looking for a fifth. Meanwhile Maplewood’s players weren’t born the last time the Tigers had this opportunity.
While the Tigers didn’t have the experience, they played like they had been there before and nearly dethroned the District 10 powerhouse.
On Friday night at Meadville’s Bender Field, Farrell escaped with a 35-20 win over Maplewood to win its fifth straight District 10 title.
“The goal going into this year was that you wanted to play Farrell. We knew Farrell would be here and we thought we had the kids and the scheme to give them a game and we did,” said Maplewood head coach Bryan Borkovich. “So we felt good about that.
“It means a lot to the program. It shows that we belong this year and that this group was better than what people gave them credit for and that’s what I’m proud of.”
The first play showed just how capable Maplewood was. Clay Cox hit the seam on the opening kickoff and ran all the way down to the Farrell 26.
However a fumble shut down the Tigers. Farrell wasted no time getting on the board with a Jaden Harrison 52-yard scamper for the 7-0 lead.
Most of this season, that would be it for Farrell. The Steelers hadn’t allowed a point since August 30.
Streaks are meant to end. J.D. McFadden hit his brother Jesse McFadden for a 48-yard pass, setting up a Kaleb Donor touchdown run to make it 7-6.
“Once they got that first one, it was kind of a relief,” said Farrell head coach Anthony Pegues. “So we don’t have to try to figure out how to stop teams from scoring. We can just come out and play.”
Farrell responded in the second quarter when Raymond Raver Jr. scored on a quarterback keeper to make it 13-6.
However late in the half, the McFadden brother connection was back in full force. On a 3rd-and-15, J.D. found Jesse deep for a 39-yard gain. He then went right back to his brother for 30 more, this time Jesse made the grab off a deflection.
The Tigers punched in the score when J.D. found Jesse at the goal line to make it 13-12 at the break.
“That’s just kind of them doing their own thing, but I’m okay with it,” said Borkovich. “They know where I want guys to be.
“When it breaks down. J.D. trusts Jesse to get it done.”
At the start of the second half, Maplewood forced a stop on the Steelers to get the ball back.
The Tigers then marched down the field for a 13-play drive that ate up most of the third quarter.
McFadden hit both Clay Cox and Jason McFadden to get down to the goal line where Kaleb Donor was ready to punch it in. A two-point conversion made it 20-13 Tigers.
Farrell responded quick with a Raver touchdown run late in the third, but Maplewood’s upset remained very much alive with a 20-19 lead going to the fourth.
In the fourth, Anthony Stallworth took over for the Steelers racking up 187 yards in the quarter.
“Once again credit to these seniors. They buckled down when times were tough and had some adversity,” Pegues said. “And how about that young guy Stallworth. Guys up front opened up holes and he just ran through them.”
After a fumble halted Maplewood’s drive, Stallworth broke free down the sideline for 30 yards and he tacked on an 8-yard score to give his Steelers the lead.
He needed just one play on the next drive to get the insurance score from 59 yards out.
Stallworth closed the game with 251 yards and two touchdowns after being held to just 28 yards in the first half.
“It all starts up front with the big guys and we knew if they get it going and start chewing things up these guys can run behind them,” added Pegues.
Raver added 124 yards on the ground and two scores. Harrison tallied 99 yards and a touchdown.
Raver went 5 for 9 for 41 yards.
For Maplewood, its the end of the J.D. McFadden era. The senior capped off his career going 13 for 20 for 277 yards with a touchdown pass.
“It’s crazy thinking it’s over,” Borkovich said. “I trust him. He’s a gamer, he’s going to get after it.”
“McFadden, he’s the real deal,” added Pegues. “The kid threw from all angles. He moved well, accurate kid. he’s just the real deal.”
Jesse hauled in eight of his brother’s passes for 190 yards and a touchdown.
Donor had 65 rushing yards and 51 receiving yards with two touchdown runs.
“Hats off to Maplewood, good opponent. They played well and they’re just a really good team,” Pegues said.