COCHRANTON — In football, one play can change the momentum of an entire game.
So it was Friday night as Maplewood defensive lineman Bryan Kelly woke up his team following a so-so first drive. And the end result was a 47-0 victory for the Tigers over Region 2 rival Cochranton.
“We were in a funk,” said Maplewood head coach Bryan Borkovich. “I’m glad (Kelly) was able to make a play and get us going.”
Maplewood had the ball first, but that is not when Kelly made his early adrenaline-pumping effort.
The Tigers started at their own 45 and moved the ball well ... at first. But a sack set the Tigers up with a third-and-15 and the drive stalled. Maplewood had to punt and Cochranton took over on their own 19-yard-line.
That’s when Kelly stepped in.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior got a good jump on Cochranton’s drive-opening snap. As he pushed his way toward the quarterback, he noticed a brown, oblong item on the ground. Kelly picked up the football and rumbled 19 yards into the end zone for the opening score. Connor Palmiero made the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
“I was just doing my job,” said Kelly. “I broke through the line and (the quarterback) was trying to hand off the ball. So I just grabbed it and slowly ran into the end zone. That is the peak of my life ... it’s all down hill from here.”
The Tigers were obviously pumped.
Cochranton’s next drive stalled and they punted again. Maplewood rusher Kaleb Donor wasted no time. He took the very next handoff up the middle, cut left and galloped all the way for a 53-yard score. The lead was 13-0 after a failed kick.
Following a four-and-out for the Cardinals, Tigers quarterback J.D. McFadden stepped to the line to get the snap. He stepped back and lofted a beautiful pass down the middle to his brother, Jesse McFadden. Jesse turned up the field and outran the defense for a 68-yard TD. Donor ran in the 2-point conversion and the Tigers led 21-0.
Cochranton went four-and-out again and this time Maplewood took its time, so to speak. This time it took four plays before Jesse McFadden waltzed in for a 12-yard rushing TD. A failed point after kept the lead 27-0 after one.
“We knew before the season we were going to be good,” said J.D. McFadden. “We had everybody coming back. But we are still not sure where we are yet. We’ll see where we are at next week (against West Middlesex).”
The Tigers kept the on pressure in the second half.
On the team’s next drive, J.D. McFadden found Levi Butryn for a 52-yard touchdown catch and run. And after another four-and-out by Cochranton, Donor took it home from 21-yards to cap an 11-play drive and make it a 40-0 advantage at the half.
Included in that 11-play drive was a big 44-yard pass play from J.D. McFadden to Jesse McFadden on third-and-21. Not only did it keep the drive alive, it put J.D. McFadden atop the Crawford County record book. McFadden entered last night’s game with 3,881 career passing yards, just 146 yards behind the Crawford County mark of 4,025 yards set by 2015 Conneaut Area graduate Hunter Merritt. The pass to Jesse McFadden put J.D. over the top as he finished the half — and the game — completing 4-of-8 passes for 184 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He now has 4,065 yards for his career.
“(Throwing to Jesse) is where it all started,” said J.D. McFadden. “I guess (throwing to Jesse) is probably how it will all end.”
At that point, Maplewood was ready to make wholesale substitutions.
There was one small number to take care of. Donor ran for 82 yards in the first half, and the team wanted to get him 100. It didn’t take long. On Maplewood’s first drive of the second half, Donor took a pitch up the middle, cut left and was gone. Sixty-five yards later he had his third touchdown of the game and 147 yards on just six carries.
The win was nice, but the Tigers are not satisfied with a win over their rival.
“We have West Middlesex next week,” said Borkovich. “That’s what we have to get ready for. They are a well coached team from Mercer County and we will know where we are after them.”
Both teams went to their benches from there.
Cochranton showed heart, continuing to fight despite being outmuscled most of the game. They put together a couple nice plays, but couldn’t sustain the momentum
“I’m proud of how my kids played,” said Cochranton head coach Joel Murray. “This team doesn’t give up and it is not going to give up. But we knew what we were getting into (Friday night). That team might be the best team we play all year, and we have Farrell on the schedule.”
Jesse McFadden ended the contest with two catches for 112 yards, while Butryn added a pair of grabs for 72.
Jon Gallo paced the Cardinals, picking up 47 hard-earned rushing yards.