Football is a game of inches, but it is also a game of momentum.

When Friday’s Meadville-Titusville showdown began, everything was even-Steven.

But when Rocket QB Andrew Clark rolled left and tossed a ball into the waiting hands of Meadville defensive back Toney Phillips, things changed.

From there, the Bulldogs played with a chip on their shoulder and momentum at their side.

Jon Roncolato poked into the end zone for the game’s first score on the ’Dogs’ third possession.

The defense repeatedly stuffed the Rockets’ run game, holding it to just 77 yards in the first half and no points.

Meadville clearly held serve for the opening 24 minutes.

One of the biggest factors in keeping the team’s hopes so high was Meadville fullback and captain Mike Prystaloski, who finished the game with 14 carries and 103 yards.

“I just kept telling them, ‘Let’s hit them, let’s hit them. We’ve got to just keep moving the ball, keep driving the ball,’” Prystaloski said.

“I’ve got to thank the line and the coaches. The line was everything for me. Without them, the backs would have nothing.”

Meadville’s line, though smaller than Titusville’s, did a great job getting a quick push on most every snap in the opening half.

Unfortunately, the ball had to stop rolling at the half.

In the third quarter, Titusville stuffed Meadville and forced a three-and-out punt to start.

Then the Rockets moved the ball 45 yards and scored but missed the extra point.

At that moment, it seemed Titusville may have taken something away, but the ’Dogs responded.

After a long drive, they punched it in to go up 13-6.

But Titusville blocked the extra point to keep its edge.

For the remainder, the Titusville line, and its backs, imposed their will on Meadville and tipped the momentum scale.

“In high school ball, a momentum shift can boost a team right quick,” Meadville head coach Mike Pendolino said. “They turned us three-and-out on that first series ... I think that’s what picked them up.”

Titusville head coach Scott Salvo agreed that the third quarter made a big difference in elevating his team’s confidence.

“The first half, (Meadville) had the momentum,” he said. “They really took it to us. Fundamentally, they handled us up front on both sides of the ball.

“In the second half, we called our linemen out. We said, ‘Win, lose or draw, it’s up to you guys now to perform.’”

The line performed, and it showed as the Rocket runners racked up 175 yards on the ground in the second half.

After the third-quarter swing, Titusville put up 16 points in the fourth.

Up 14-13 with just over three minutes to go, even Salvo’s confidence was charged.

On a 4th-and-goal at the Meadville 3-yard line, he went for it. And he got it.

Then he went for it again on a two-point conversion and got it to put the game out of reach.

“It’s the confidence I have in these guys,” he said. “There was no doubt in my mind that we were gonna score.

“We had the momentum; we were running the ball hard. It was a gutsy call, but it was confidence.”

Titusville running back Tyler Clark plunged up the middle for the final touch, and Andrew Clark carried a naked bootleg in to make it a two-score difference.

“The linemen said they could do it, and I trusted the linemen,” Tyler Clark said. “They did all the work.”

Titusville, ranked ninth in the state by Harrisburg’s Patriot News, looked confused and upset during the first half.

It just goes to show, momentum is a powerful thing.

“(At halftime, the coaches) just said we need to step it up and play like we have all season,” Clark said. “We did the rest by motivating ourselves and picking ourselves up. We had to stop getting down on ourselves.

“We just didn’t come out as strong as we normally do.”



T.J. Turissi can be reached at 724-6370, ext. 276 or by e-mail at tjturissi@meadvilletribune.com.

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